The field for this Saturday’s Abu Dhabi International triathlon is no doubt one of the best fields outside the Hawaii ironman. A field of this quality and depth is rarely seen and the roads of Abu Dhabi will come alight on 6.40am on Saturday (2.40pm est. time).This week I have been fortunate to be up close and personal with the best athletes in the world doing interviews and filming for the TV show for the race.
The men’s field see’s the return of defending champion Frederick Van Leirde who this year returns wearing the number one plate. Dirk Bockel (3 x top ten Hawaii Ironman, twice a podium finisher in Abu Dhabi) returns as a member of the Leopard Professional cycling Team. Dirk s a great bloke and man is looking mean and lean and I should also say confident of standing high on the podium this year. “It is my time” said Bockel. I looking forward to seeing the “fastest man on two wheels” in triathlon, Chris Lieto smoke it up. “This course is great for me with the 200km bike”. A danger man no doubt will be Spain’s Enecko Llanos, course record holder here in Abu Dhabi and 2010 Champion. He looks in amazing shape and after a disappointing race year, he has returned with one goal in mind, to claim back his title. Of course, Faris Al Sultan is a danger man racing for the local Abu Dhabi triathlon team. Another real contender would have to be Rasmus Henning from Denmark.
Other professional male athletes to look out for include Stephen Bayliss (UK), Andreas Boecherer Germany), Fraser Cartmell (Scotland), Bryan Rhodes (NZ) and Maik Twelsiek (Germany).
Then we have the Aussie’s. There has been a lot of talk about Clayton Fettel, especially as he is on a big roll after IMWA and Urban Hotel Long Course. I have been spending some time with Clayto and he is very confident of a great performance and I wouldn’t put it past him. He has been clocking up over 1000 km per week in the lead up to this race in preparation. It is a big call with this quality of athletes round him but you never know. Luke Bell returns again to Abu Dhabi after a strong finish last year in 7th. “Belly” is a seasoned campaigner and knows how to go through the pain to get to the finish line. Leon Griffin looks in great shape and could be a surprise packet as to Paul Ambrose who will be up with the leaders throughout the day.
Finally, if I was to pick a top five: Dirk Bockel is hard to go past for the win, Enecko Llanas is danger, Frederick Van Leirde, Clayton Fettell (surprise packet) and Rasmus Henning.
Wishful thinking bet: Fettell, Bell, Griffin, Ambrose 1,2,3,4 any order.