The Abu Dhabi Press Conference was held at the official hotel , Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotanna. The amount of local and especially international media present was unbelievable. This race has received extensive media locally and it is great to see it being beamed around the world. As the emcee, it is always awesome to get up close and personal with the best in the world and hear their thoughts about training, preparation and most importantly racing.
On the men’s side we had defending champion Frederick Van Leirde, Chris Lieto, Faris Al Sultan, Dirk Bockel and Enecko Llanas. Federick Van Leirde knows the challenge a head of wearing the number one plate on the front and the target on his back. He is confident of a great race before heading to Australia for Ironman Melbourne.
A lot of press was for Chris Lieto, mainly due to cycling prowess. Coming off a top ten finish at Panama 70.3 two weeks ago where he set the pace on the bike with Tour de France legend, Lance Armstrong. This guy is one ‘cool cat’ and is looking to turn it up on Saturday. Dirk Bockel, came out swinging and was probably the most confident. He basically let everyone know that after a 2nd and 3rd place in Abu Dhabi, both podium finishes less than 20 seconds from the top position, he is ready to claim the title. A scary thought for the rest of the field.
Enecko Llanas is a man on the mission. He is in awesome shape and being the course record holder, he knows what it takes to be number 1 again. Finally, the local charge is headed by Faris Al Sultan who on his day can cause some serious havoc to the field. Faris also talked about the huge increase in local entries this year, especially with the first Arabic woman competing in the Long Course Triathlon for the very first time. Awesome to see!
The women were next to take to the stage. Julie Dibens, even though not racing, predicted a very tight race among the girls. She saw serious threats coming from Jodi Swallow, Angela Naeth, Rachael Joyce and Melissa Rollison. However, her money was on Caroline Steffen to take her crown, especially after a strong 2nd place last year. Jodi Swallow is ecstatic to be back in pro racing and has no real expectations but believes if things work according to plan, it could be interesting.
Leanda Cave knows the Abu Dhabi course and is expecting that to be an advantage over the field. She has experienced a podium finish in 2010 with a 2nd place, although she wouldn’t mind the step up to the top of the dais.
Mel Rollison sat there listening to the thoughts of the other girls before it was her turn. Mel came out basically letting everyone know that she is ready and prepared to step up to long course racing and if in the mix on the bike, let the girls know they would have to work hard for the $50,000 prize and the crown in Abu Dhabi.
I can’t wait to commentate all the action on Saturday Both races are going to be crackers, not forgetting about the world class age groupers who are padding up for their race.