By Karl Hayes
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The women’s field is headed by Julie Dibens, Leanda Cave and last year’s fastest runner Caroline Steffen. Steffen has been in Thailand for the last two weeks with Team TBB and coach Brett Sutton. â€œTraining has been going really well and in Thailand and in general. This race will show me my current race fitness and be an important measurement on the way to Ironman Australia.â€ Caroline ran a 1:16 last year in Abu Dhabi but was a bit off on the bike compared to the three women who finished in front of her. â€œThis year my bike is stronger and I will definitely be more competitive.â€
Caroline placed second in the 2010 Ford Hawaii Ironman World Championship. Her bike was strong and her run was strong. This year looks like it could be Carolines. â€œI am looking forward to Ironman Australia in May. Who do I think may win in Abu Dhabi? Definitely Julie Dibens and Leanda Cave. Although hopefully it will be me!â€
Australian Christie Sym is racing alongside fellow Aussies Belinda Granger and Rachael Paxton. Rachael had some podium finishes last year in 70.3 races and other short course triathlons. Belinda Granger won Rhoto 70.3 in Hawaii, Challenge Wanaka and Ironman Malaysia in 2010 along with other top finishes.
Christie Sym was 3rd in Challenge Wanaka in 2010 and 5th at Ironman Canada. Christie missed out on the Asia-Pacific 70.3 championship at the end of 2010 after coming off a motor scooter in Phuket and doing herself a fair bit of damage. She bounced back for Wanaka. Christie had been living and training in Christchurch and left just days before the earthquake. â€œI have had a bumpy ride (literally) since the end of last season. Things have finally settled down and for the last four weeks I have had some really good consistent training. I am feeling really strong and my body is in great shape. I’ve been surprising myself since being back in Sydney.
Christie will use Abu Dhabi as a good indication of her base. â€œWhilst I know I will only be getting fitter and faster as 2011 rolls on, I want to put on a good showing in Abu Dhabi and am going there to race hard. The bike is my strength so I am looking forward to the 200km ride. The 20km run is tricky because to have the speed at this stage of the season is a big ask. The great thing is that the recovery is going to be much quicker than if we were doing a full marathon. The middle distance swim could also throw a spanner in the works as you don’t want to â€œmiss the boatâ€ at the start of the bike.â€
Christie feels that Caroline Steffen will be the most dangerous this year in Abu Dhabi. â€œBoth the men’s and women’s fields are red smoking hot!! In the women’s side I would have to say Caroline Stefan is the most dangerous in my mind. I expect Julie Dibens, Leanda Cave and Rachel Joyce to set the pace early on out of the swim. The start list is pretty impressive but I’m hoping to move my name well up from where it is placed in the starting line up!!â€
After Abu Dhabi Christie is off to the USA. â€œI’m heading over to the USA again at the end of March for some 70.3 events, to get some racing under the belt and also for 70.3 World Ranking/Championship points. Challenge Cairns is the next big race and I am really looking forward to be joining Felix and the Challenge Family to race in my home country.â€