For Till Schramm, the third time really was the charm.
After consecutive years of finishing second in the Dubai International Triathlon, the German finally got over the hump by crossing the finish line first in the event’s third edition at Jebel Ali Waterfront on Saturday.
Schramm crossed in a time of 4:11:42 to complete the half iron distance consisting of a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21.1km looped run.
“That’s awesome,” Schramm said of finally winning. “I would have preferred a stronger pro-field as I was in top shape at the start line and did not to race at maximum.”
Leading up to the race, Schramm had been putting in work this triathlon season, winning several races including the OSTEEMAN full iron distance in Germany.
When asked what his motivation was to finally grab first and continue doing triathlons, Schramm answered: “My family and triathlon itself. I love the sport and don’t need a real motivation to do it.
“Well, days in Germany with five degree Celsius temperature and rain are the bit I need to remind myself about some goals.”
Great Britain’s Lucy Woollacott, meanwhile, paced the women with a time of 4:54:56.
It was her second time competing at the Dubai International Triathlon, with her first experience back in 2014 marking just her second triathlon overall.
With added experience under her belt, Woollacott showed her improvement with a time she said was nearly 10 minutes faster than the one two years ago.
“It was a really hard race out there. It was hot on that run in particular, so I’m really pleased, especially with the time,” she said.
Woollacott also had high praise for the event, which is organised by Race ME and had around 900 people turn out for another challenging course.
“I think it’s really nicely run,” she said. “It’s very friendly and it’s more of a local race, so the big brand Ironman races are very different than this, they’re much more commercial. This is much more friendly and fun.”
One of the only off-road triathlons in the Middle East, the event will take place in Kalba on the outskirts of Sharjah on Saturday, March 26.
The triathlon is organised by Urban Ultra and sponsored by Shurooq, contributing a Dh20,000 pro-athlete prize fund, and is entering its second edition following a successful launch in October 2015.
Triathletes will be able to compete as individuals or as teams to swim in the tranquil waters of Kalba’s protected lagoon, mountain bike over the hills in the mountainous region and finally trail run on goat and donkey trails.
Various distances are on offer for triathlon novices to the more experienced triathletes.
The sport distance includes a 750 metre sea swim, an 18.5 kilometre mountain bike and a 5km trail run, while the championship distance is extended to a 1.5km swim, a 35km mountain bike and a 10km run.
For those who want to stay over, camping by the sea is available, as well as the Kalba Camp, which comes with natural stone and wooden buildings, a fire pit and an outdoor dining area.
The cost of the dormitory-style rooms are Dh100 per person or Dh375 for a twin room with an en-suite bathroom.
To make your booking, visit www.adventure.ae/accommodation/kalba-camp/ or call 04 392 6463.
If you’re in need of a bike for the race, bikes are available for rent from BeSport and Adventure HQ.
Registration for the race will be open until midnight on Saturday, March 19, but could close sooner if places sell out.
Join all the other triathletes on the day before the race for a social gathering on Friday, March 25.
Meet fellow participants and be ready for the event, which will take place bright and early the following day at 07:00.
What: Urban-Ultra X-Tri Cross Country Triathlon
Where: Kalba, Sharjah
When: Saturday, March 26 at 07:00, with a social gathering on Friday, March 25. Registration closes at midnight on Saturday, March 19
Contact: Visit www.urban-ultra.com and www.premieronline.com to sign up and for more information
The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi that took place last weekend saw more than 2,000 contestants take part in the Age Group amateur categories, and almost 300 professional triathletes participate in the Elite races, that served as the season-opener for the World Triathlon Series.
As one of the fastest-growing participation sports in the world, it was only a matter of time before the Arab region caught up with triathlon.
In Abu Dhabi on Friday and Saturday, flags from Arab countries like UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and many more were seen up in the grandstand and around the race headquarters.
The amateur races – that featured three distances of Sprint, Olympic and Maxi – saw an increased number of Arab contestants, who not only showed up, but clocked impressive times.
The UAE had an Emirati team take part in the Olympic Relay age group race for the first time while Egyptian Mohamed Khaled was third overall and first in his age group in the Olympic Solo, which was won by Spanish-born Syrian Olympian Omar Tayara.
Emirati Mohsen Al Ali was seventh overall and first in his age bracket. Bahrain’s Samira Al Bitar was third overall in the Sprint Solo and first in her age group while Egypt’s Fatma Hagras placed fourth in the Olympic distance, and topped her age category.
UAE’s Ahmad Al Fahim, who was 10th in the 30-39 category in the Sprint distance (and 31st overall), only started competing in triathlons a year ago and says more and more Emiratis are getting interested in the sport. Al Fahim is also a rally driver and sealed the UAE Desert Championship title a day before the triathlon in Abu Dhabi.
Around 18 months ago, the 36-year-old wanted to lose some weight so he took part in a triathlon that involved horseback riding (instead of the swim) and he got hooked.
Al Fahim started doing triathlons and admits he struggled with his swim early on but he trained with an Austrian professional trainer for a full year and managed to complete the half ironman in Dubai last month, before his decent race in Abu Dhabi over the weekend.
Sat next to fellow Emirati, Ibrahim Al Hosani, who also competed in Abu Dhabi, Al Fahim, believes word of mouth alone is already encouraging more locals to participate in races.
“There isn’t much local participation at the moment but there are many people – for example Ibrahim is new, this is his first race, I was always urging him to join us, and there are also others I’m trying to bring into the sport,” Al Fahim told Sport360.
“I feel that, you’ll see, in a year’s time we’ll double the numbers. Especially now there’s a big infrastructure for sport, the government is spending, and triathlon is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. It is addictive. It’s so demanding and you keep digging deeper and deeper.”
Al Fahim, who works in property development, believes that once the UAE set up a federation for triathlon, programmes can be created to attract youngsters and the sport can truly take off locally.
Al Hosani, 30, had just completed his first-ever triathlon and is keen on raising his level. He trained himself through information available online and comes from an equestrian background having competed in endurance races.
“I think what keeps those guys competing in triathlon and wanting to do more and proving themselves is the feeling, the challenge, when you arrive at the finish line; that feeling makes all the training and the hard work worth it,” said Al Hosani.
Samira Al Bitar says she surprised even herself by her podium finish in the UAE capital.
Originally a swimmer who represented Bahrain at the Olympics, Al Bitar took up triathlon a little over a year ago and is part of the development squad of a team called Alameda O.N Tri Team.
Unlike the UAE, Bahrain already have a triathlon federation and in Abu Dhabi, Al Bitar was part of a large delegation from her country, that included HRH Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain, who contested the Maxi distance.
Al Bitar hailed the role of the UAE in hosting several triathlons each year, which allows aspiring Arab athletes the chance to compete regularly in the region.
“I think triathlon is really booming in this part of the world,” said Al Bitar, who is preparing for the Arab Championships in Egypt next month.
“Especially for the shorter distances, the UAE hosts a lot of races, almost every single weekend. That’s nice because it gives us the option to participate on a frequent basis. Because there’s a big triathlon community in the UAE and that helps drive participation. Even in local races there are more than 500 people taking part.”
Triathlon is also exploding in Egypt with one of its clubs, Maadi Athletes, sending 25 people to compete in Abu Dhabi, including Mohamed El Ansary, who was 26th in his age group in the Olympic distance.
Their eldest participant is 74 and their youngest is six years old. Alameda O.N Tri Team was also founded by an Egyptian, Hassan Afifi, whose main goal is to raise the profile of triathlon in the Arab world by creating role models for the younger generation to aspire to and find the next champion from the region.
“For us, a race like this is extremely important because we are about Arab triathlon,” Afifi said of the World Triathlon in Abu Dhabi. “This is the highest ITU race in the Arab region and for us it’s very important because it proves that the Arab region has the facilities, know-how and will to run such big races.
“From the team’s point of view, it’s great for our Arab athletes to be competing within an Arab country. We have athletes from Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain represented here in Abu Dhabi.”
Alameda’s professional triathlete, Lawrence Fanous of Jordan, competed in the elite race as he targets a qualification spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics this summer.
“I’m really impressed with this event,” said Fanous. “This is a good one for all the other events to aspire to. I’ve been here for a week and I did TriYas last week, another event to look at in terms of good organisation and big participation.
“They do different things here, like they have women-only events, so it’s a bit more inclusive and they can accommodate everybody. They’re learning quicker than Europe about how they can run events in a positive way so everyone is involved, women, men, whatever religion, it’s really important for this to set the stage for that.”