Abu Dhabi: The sun was beating down hard, the temperature rose well over the 30-degree mark to drain out the best in business, but not Tyler Butterfield.
The 30-year-old triathlete from Bermuda weathered the sweltering heat and stunned some of the top athletes to clinch the men’s elite long course race title in 6:43:01 seconds at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon here on Saturday.
On second place, 46 seconds behind was Bas Diederen of Belgium, while Frenchman Sylvain Sudrie came third another two minutes and six seconds later. Defending champion and Ironman Frederik van Lierde of Belgium had to be content with the fourth place.
“I have won the race but it has not totally sunk in. I felt the pressure this year as it was a select field and all 12 of the guys that had lined up had better credit against their name than I did,” said Butterfield adding, “James (Cunnama) went into the front and I thought: “Is he chasing the Brownlees? Competing in the short course? I was feeling a lot of pain in the beginning as I had not done speed work and I had done lot of long training. I played a bit more patient after last year. On the running, it was like go on hard and then hang on but I wasn’t feeling comfortable.”
Butterfield’s wife Nikki had won here in 2012 and the day’s hero attributed his success to her. “We have a little bit of family banter to keep us motivated and so to win here, where she won, is very special. That’s what keeps us motivated. It’s an internal camaraderie that we share as she understands the sport. I had a son just nine weeks ago and she understands I need to sleep and train to provide for the family. She has played a big part in the success.”
Reigning women’s champion Melissa Hauschildt of Australia had to battle through camps and was involved in a tooth and nail battle with Netherlands’ Yvonne van Vlerken before retaining her long course crown by a mere 23 seconds. Denmark’s Michelle Vesterby (07:31:39) came third.
“I slowed down towards the last 60km of the bike ride. Later, on the 70km mark, I felt a deep cramp and then I started nutrition. The water seemed like it was only half full. Couldn’t manage to get coke or gel and the last 20km was hard. When I jumped off the bike, I felt I will fall straight over,” revealed Hauschildt, who was simply unstoppable last year in the middle distance racing with wins at Ironman 70.3 Worlds, the ITU Long Distance World Championship, five 70.3 races and a second place at Hy-Vee.
Olympic medallists Alistair Brownlee and Jonny Brownlee were in a class of their own and the duo crossed the finish line together, virtually unchallenged to share the top honours in the Elite Men’s Short Course race. Switzerland’s Ruedi Wild came third 4:05 seconds behind.
The Brownlee Brothers chose not to take their contest into a leg-breaking sprint finish and made it to the line holding the Yorkshire flag, clocking 3:12.21.
London Olympic gold medallist, Alistair later revealed that the duo were still recovering from a ‘stomach bug’ and so didn’t want to strain themselves in the bid to out run each other.
“Well, we both decided not to push because of the bug. However, we were competing all the way through and working together which was nice. I would like to think that I could have beaten Jonny for sure, had we competed till the end,” said Alistair sporting a broad grin.
Alistair, who won the title here last year, was the first to be out of the waters at the Corniche after finishing the 1.5km swim in 17:16 seconds; brother Jonny a second behind while Wild was third. The brothers were in total control in the 100km bike ride and completed it in 2:15.38 seconds before heading for the final 10km run.
“I’ve done the same events for 4-5 years now and so it’s really cool to go somewhere so completely different. Where else can you ride on a F1 circuit and bike in the pits and chicanes? The Yas Marina Circuit was a highlight and, due to the smooth tarmac, allowed me to get up to 65km/h on my bike which I really enjoyed,” said Jonny.
In the women’s short course race, Svenja Bazlen of Germany rallied from behind after the swim and then carved out a race-best 2:31:15 bike split to go on and beat Annabel Luxford of Australia. Luxford’s compatriot Lisa Marangon had to settle for the third place in 3:46:49.