Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee cannot wait to get the defence of his Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (ADIT) short-course title under way.
Alistair, 25, and his brother Jonathan, 23, are part of the 2,400-strong field for the sold-out fifth running of the event on Saturday.
Alistair will have fond memories of the 2013 revent when he smashed the short-course record, despite taking a wrong turning and adding two kilometres to his race.
“It is fantastic to be back,” London 2012 winner Alistair said. “I really enjoyed it last year, and that is why I wanted to do it again.
“It is a good way to start the season, with something a little bit different and I am looking forward to getting started.
“It feels really hot here, so I hope I will be alright.
“I would like to beat him [Jonathan]. But you never really know until you start.”
The Brownlees are the star names in the short-course race, which will see competitors swim 1.5km in the azure waters off the Corniche, tackle a 100km bike course which includes several laps of Yas Marina Circuit, and finish with an energy-sapping 10km run as they make their return to the city.
Those figures are doubled for the long-distance – a challenge which holds no fear for Belgian reigning champion Frederick Van Lierde (below).
The 34-year-old’s glorious 2013 campaign was bookended by a second triumph in the UAE this time last year, and a dominant victory in October’s prestigious Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
For Van Lierde, the contest in Abu Dhabi provides the foundation for future success.
“To start the season with a long-distance race here under my belt is the perfect preparation for the season ahead,” he told Sport360°. “It is a great feeling to be back for my fifth time in Abu Dhabi.”
As ever, the fields for the long, short and sprint events will include a mix of elite professional athletes and amateurs. Racers of all abilities from 68 different countries have registered to compete, with first-time entrants coming from as far afield as Algeria, China, Ethiopia, Iceland, Norway, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago, Ukraine and Vietnam.
But much of the focus will be on the Brownlees. The English siblings have dominated the triathlon scene in the last four years, taking gold and bronze at London 2012 and exchanging wins on the Triathlon World Championships circuit.
This run came to a halt in September’s Grand Final in London, when Spain’s Javier Gomez outsprinted Jonathan to lift the International Triathlon Union title. That performance saw the ailing Alistair, who dropped back because of a long-term ankle injury, label his brother a “tactical numpty” – an English slang word for an idiot.
Speaking at an Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority kids masterclass session on Wednesday (pictured below), Jonathan joked about the fraternal rivalry that is spurring the pair on as he prepares to make his ADIT debut.
“I have talked to him a lot about that [the ‘numpty’ comment],” he said. “I will try not to be a tactical numpty, I suppose.
“There has been a bit of friction about that… But only good friction.”
The brothers have spent the off-season training in the hills of their native-Yorkshire, as well as in Spain.
They arrived in Abu Dhabi on Monday to prepare for a race which will see them cycle for more than double their usual distance, and not be allowed to rest in each other’s slipstreams as no drafting is allowed.
With the circuit also being completely flat, Alistair insisted those factors meant the brothers would have to look out for themselves at the weekend.
“It is a completely different race on the bike for us, as it is non-drafting and more than 100km,” he said. “It is an individual thing basically, you have to have your own pacing strategy and ride it as you want to ride.”
Anyone wanting to see how the Brownlees and the other competitors get on can head to the fans village on the Corniche East Plaza. In addition to the race action, there will also be opportunities to win exclusive prizes and take part in a number of different activities.
Know more about Sport360 Application