x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Athletes race to praise Abu Dhabi triathlon

800 take part in international event and are impressed by the organisation and the scenery as Corniche is mobbed by their supporters.

Contestants in the Men's Elite Class race to the finish of the swimming portion, of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
Contestants in the Men's Elite Class race to the finish of the swimming portion, of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

ABU DHABI // As the temperature hit around 30C yesterday, Ute Boost, from Germany, found a bit of shade on a bench and patiently waited for her husband to appear. Peter Boost, however, had other things on his mind. He was in the final leg of a gruelling 111.5km journey and as he ran by, with Mrs Boost happily capturing the moment by taking his picture, he barely looked over at his wife. He was too busy "celebrating" his 46th birthday, for which a place in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon was his gift.

The triathlon, which attracted more than 800 athletes from 30 countries, featured two courses. The one for the 700 amateur competitors included a 1.5km swim, a 100km bike ride and a 10km run. For the professionals, among them 75 world-class triathletes, the distances were doubled. Nearly half an hour after Boost had passed his wife, he crossed the finish line on the Corniche. His stopwatch had him finishing the event in four hours, one minute and 40 seconds.

Boost, from Berlin, where the temperature at the time of the triathlon was a frosty 3C, said: "I am happy about the result," as he held an ice pack and small bottle of water. "The swimming area, in front of Emirates Palace hotel, was impressive." Boost and the other athletes said they were happy with the organisation of the event, especially having the roads in the race closed to traffic, although that did cause jams in other parts of the city.

"It's fabulous," said Guy Westmacott, a legal councillor from Scotland who works at Mubadala, as he escaped the sunlight in a tent. "Impeccably organised, really impressed, absolutely no cars, loads of drinks." Westmacott, 32, only participated in the cycling, which took him about three hours to finish. His favourite part of the race was biking along Yas Marina Circuit. "The Formula One track was exciting" he said, in between deep breaths. "When I was pedalling, it felt like I was racing a car. I was a bit over-excited."

The Corniche was teeming with hundreds of spectators, many of them supporting friends and family members who were taking part. "It's wonderful to be here," said Livia Ailincai, 35, from Romania. She participated in the running leg of the race as part of a Dubai-based consultancy team. The three-member team finished in five hours and two minutes.

Ailincai, who has lived in Dubai for more than five years, said she would like to compete again next year. "Hopefully, I'll do the whole race next time, [but] I need to get fit enough." Spectators flocked to the finish line to cheer the winners just before Eneko Llanos, of Spain, won the professional race. As he crossed the finish, a breathless Llanos could be heard through the loudspeakers saying he would be coming back next year.

One criticism to come out of the event was from the participants who live in Abu Dhabi. In the capital, cyclists can only ride along the Corniche and many athletes said that was not enough for endurance training. "You have to drive outside the city and look for small roads [off the motorway]. It's an effort to find a track," said Olif Erndt, 50, a doctor from Germany. Emdt, who lives and works in Abu Dhabi, said he had taken part in 20 triathlons, but missed yesterday's event because he did not have enough time to train.

mhabboush@thenational.ae