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The elite women’s long course at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is always hugely competitive and this year is no exception. With current champion, Australian Melissa Hauschildt, and 2013 runner up Caroline Steffen signed up to compete, as well as a whole host of international talent, spectators are in for a thrilling race at the world’s most glamorous triathlon on the 15th March.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s top female triathletes, Hauschildt is the one to watch this year following her outstanding performances last season. Despite being still relatively new to the long distance discipline, 2013 saw her secure an impressive 11 event wins, smashing course records at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, Ironman 70.3 Mandurah, the Koh Samui International Triathlon and the Australian Long Course Champs.
Hauschildt said “This will be my third time racing in Abu Dhabi and I'm really excited to be heading back there again this year. It's an amazingly unique race that attracts the best of the best. Being defending champ I know I'll have a target on my back and with a super strong field again it's going to be a tough race, but I'll be ready.”
Hoping to knock Hauschildt off the top of the women’s elite long course podium is Swiss professional triathlete Caroline Steffen who came a close second at last year’s event.
Two-time ITU Long Distance World Champion Steffen, a veteran of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, has secured podium places at the event on an impressive four occasions. Her knowledge of the course should hold her in good stead for the triathlon which includes a 3km swim, 200km bike ride and 20km run.
Steffen said: “This is the fifth time in a row I'm making my way to Abu Dhabi to race one of the toughest races on the triathlon circuit. After several podium places I'm still missing out on gold which I hope to secure in this year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. The heat and tough course certainly makes it a challenging triathlon but they’re also the reasons why I love to compete here. I'm looking forward to race against one of the strongest female professional fields ever.”
The high calibre of international elite triathletes taking part in this year’s event includes Canadian Heather Wurtele and the Netherlands’ Yvonne van Vlerken both confirmed to compete in the women’s long course discipline.
Securing fourth position in last year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon and with impressive 2013 wins under her belt at Ironman Coeur d'Alene, which saw her break a course record, Ironman 70.3 Panama Latin American Pro Championships, Rev3 Quassy and Ironman 70.3 Calgary, Wurtele will be looking for the win.
Wurtele said: “Last year was my first year finishing the race in Abu Dhabi (pulled out in 2012 due to illness) and so I’m confident I can beat my previous performance and secure a top three podium place. Finishing 2nd last year in the official end of year Ironman 70.3 world ranking was a great achievement for me and here’s hoping I can get this new season off to a great start with a win in Abu Dhabi.”
Yvonne van Vlerken, who finished just behind Wurtele last year had a similarly strong 2013 season, placing 4th at the Ironman World Championship Hawaii. As one of only a small group of female triathletes to have recorded three or more sub-nine hour times over the Ironman distance, it’s not hard to see why she’s often nicknamed “The Flying Dutchwoman”.
Overall female participation in the event has grown considerably since the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon began in 2010. With a 291% rise in the number of female participants from 2010 to 2013, and this year set to surpass all others in terms of the number of female entrants, it’s an extremely positive and exciting time for women in the sport.
The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is a key fixture in the triathlon season, attracting the world’s top triathletes and competitors from over 50 countries. Last year’s event saw a record breaking 2,000 contestants descend on the dazzling capital of the United Arab Emirates and, with 2014 marking its fifth year, its set to be the biggest event yet.
With a record number of entries to date, and 70% of places already snapped up for this year’s event, The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is now one of the UAE’s most illustrious and successful sporting fixtures and has a growing reputation for being the most glamorous on the global triathlon circuit.
The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon offers three course distances; the 223km ‘long course’ (3km swim, a 200km cycle and 20km run), the half-length ‘short’ course (1.5km swim, a 100km cycle and a 10 km run) and the sprint course (750m swim, a 50km bike and 5km run). Both the ‘short’ and the ‘sprint’ can be run as a team relay.
Organisers have frozen athlete registration fees for the fifth year in a row. Athletes interested in entering should visit www.abudhabitriathlon.com and, after clicking on the ENTER NOW link, simply follow the instructions. Entry fees for the long and short distances are US$190 (AED 695) and US $130 (AED 475) respectively, while Sprint course rates are US$75 (AED 275) for individuals and US $120 (AED440) for a team. The fee for the team relay is US$280 (AED1,022).