Created On: 03 March 2012

Team Abu Dhabi captain Faris Al Sultan narrowly missed out on a famous home-town victory at the US$250,000 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on Saturday, overtaken in the dying moments by Denmark's Rasmus Henning who snatched the win in a spectacularly close race.

In a day of record-breaking performances, Henning claimed victory with a time of 06:21:44, smashing the current course record by 18 minutes. Abu Dhabi debutant, Australia's Nikki Butterfield, also broke the women's course record in a time of 07:00:22.

Such was the strength of the field, and the perfect race conditions in the United Arab Emirates capital, that all of the top ten male elites and top five females broke previous course records.

Five times World Cup winner Henning - whose Abu Dhabi dreams were crushed in 2011 after cramp forced him to retire in the early stages - got his revenge on the 223kms 'pure power' course this year, with an emphatic last gasp sprint to overtake local favourite Al-Sultan and hold off last year's champion Eneko Llanos, chasing hard in third.

"It feels awesome.... I needed this confidence boost because I'd been starting to doubt whether I'd ever come back on top - it's been such a long time. This is really important to me and I'm looking towards the rest of the season. Today I think the conditions were really fabulous - it wasn't too windy and it certainly wasn't too hot," said the elated Dane.

Al Sultan, who led for most of the race, took his first podium place at the event with a time of 06:22:11 - just 27 seconds behind Henning. And whilst the 2005 Ironman World Champion was disappointed, he was full of praise for his rival.

"Honestly, I hardly found a place where I could complain about the support - it was great. It's an honour to be cheered on by so many people, whether they are athletes or fans and spectators, and as I said, I tried my very best, I gave it my all, and that was all I could do."

In the women's elite field, the most competitive to date, it was an equally thrilling affair.

Only recently back from injury, the 2010 World 70.3 Champion, Briton Jodie Swallow, led the women in the swim with a close to course-record breaking time of 58:53 and in the process nearly opened a two minute lead on the chasing pack. Following her out of the water was Lucie Zelenkova of Czech Republic, a previous Olympian who holds the current swim course record, and Emma Kate Lidbury, also from Great Britain.

 

During the bike leg the true contenders came into their own with Swallow, Australian star Nikki Butterfield, Canadian Angela Naeth and Switzerland's Caroline Steffen leading the way with fellow Aussie Mel Rollison just behind the pack but still in contention. Butterfield led the transition with a one minute 43 second advantage over Naeth, which she never relinquished, ensuring she crossed the line victorious on her first Abu Dhabi outing.

 

"Honestly, I came here to try and win this race but when it comes to the day you never know what might actually happen. This year boasted such a strong women's line up but I knew if I had a good day out on the course it meant I was in for a great chance. I was behind at the end of the swim so that wasn't unusual - it was just a matter of minimising my losses and saving the energy until the best part - the bike race," said Butterfield, who crossed the Abu Dhabi finish with her daughter Savana in her arms.

"I caught up on the bike and I knew I was in with the chance. However, I was really concerned about Melissa Rollison - she is such a good runner. My first priority was to beat her off the bike and she was more tired than me - she left little gaps open and I sat 15 metres behind her.  I jumped across to Angela, Caroline and Jodie and while I was messing they came up hard and I hit it even harder like it was a cycling race.

"At the end of the day you want to get the best out of yourself and I am glad I pushed myself today to and won it. I am so motivated by winning this race because when I came down here that was what I had planned for exactly," added the Australian, a former Under-23 World Champion and Australian Long Course Champion.

Race organiser, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, promised this year's event would be the biggest and best-of-its-kind to date, and it didn't disappoint. Thousands of fans lined the UAE capital's roads, beaches and Yas Marina Circuit race track to cheer on the more than 1,855 athletes from 62 countries - the highest number in the event's three-year history.

A full activation programme also took place at a dedicated Race Village on the Corniche beachfront, with games, competitions, entertainment and prizes all on offer from dawn to dusk.

"This has been a spectacular race in every possible way. From the closest ever finish to the biggest amateur turn out we have had, this has been a great advert for the sport and for Abu Dhabi. Congratulations to everyone who took part and we look forward to an even more exciting race in 2013," said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.

For find full results from the 2012 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon visit www.abudhabitriathlon.com

 

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