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McCormack & Alexander to race Abu Dhabi Triathlon

Head to head battle goes Saturday March 12.

Ironman world champions and legends of triathlon – Australia’s Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack and Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander – have both thrown their hats in the ring for next month’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, as they look to go head-to-head for the lion’s share of the $250,000 US prize purse.

The dynamic Aussie duo, both originally from Sydney, will lead one of the best elite fields expected outside of Kona, Hawaii when they take to the Abu Dhabi start-line on March 12th. They join defending champions – Spain’s Eneko Llanos and Great Britain’s Julie Dibens – who have also thrown down the gauntlet to the 45-strong elite field contesting the event’s unique 223kms course.

And with the fearsome twosome having dominated the Hawaii Ironman for the past four years, with McCormack winning in 2010 and 2007 and Alexander in 2008 and 2009, the chasing elite field will need to be in superlative form to tame the energy-infused Antipodeans.

“The opportunity to race the world’s best athletes, over a very unique triathlon distance is exciting and it will be a wonderful race and I look forward to the challenge. It takes the foresight and courage of destinations like Abu Dhabi to create these different styles of races and challenges, and I am anticipating a very tough day,” said McCormack, the only athlete to win Triathlon World Championships and the ITU World Cup Series in the same year (1997).

“I have spent a lot of time in the UAE and have many friends who call Abu Dhabi home. The course is challenging, Abu Dhabi is spectacular and the winds could make this race much tougher. It should be great and I am excited about competing,” added the five-time Ironman Australia winner.

And Alexander, one of only four male triathletes to win the Ironman World Championship two years in a row (2008, 2009), is hoping to kick-start another record-breaking season off in Abu Dhabi and wrestle the Hawaii title back off his countryman.

“I’m excited to make my competitive Middle East race debut in Abu Dhabi.  I had ties with the UAE a few years back and I’ve also had a blast training with local triathletes in the Emirates several times. The race venue in Abu Dhabi looks fantastic and I look forward to my first race of 2011 at this world-class event,” said Alexander, a previous Ironman 70.3 World Championship (2006) winner.

Registrations for the second Abu Dhabi International Triathlon has more than doubled over the 2010 edition, with over 1,500 athletes from 48 countries due to take their marks in the UAE capital next month.

Living up to its international billing, the race – which is run over three unique distances – has seen first time representation from Brazil, the Channel Islands, China, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Slovenia, Turkey, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Much of its success is down to its specialized format, with a finishing running leg shorter than typical Ironman events, allowing athletes to recover faster and compete more often, as well as a city-wide course that weaves through many of the UAE capital’s iconic landmarks including a cycle sprint around the stunning Yas Marina Circuit, home of the Formula 1TM Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“To have doubled our entire field in just 12 months and to attract an enhanced world-class athlete line-up, consisting of world-champions, Olympians and world record holders, speaks volumes about how positive word-of-mouth about this event has spread and interest has grown,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which organizes the race.

“With Abu Dhabi boasting a large Australian population, we expect to see a very strong turnout from fans cheering on their countrymen and hopefully many more turning up on the start-line to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with their sporting heroes.”

This year’s event will be raced across three lengths. Professionals will contest a 3kms swim, a 200kms cycle and 20kms closing run. The shorter version, at half the length, has a 1.5kms swim, a 100kms cycle and a 10kms run, with both courses eligible for a share of the US$250,000 prize purse.

Also a first for this year’s edition, ADTA has also launched a unique ‘sprint’ distance as an entry platform for aspiring athletes. Comprising a 750m swim, 50kms bike and 5kms run, the new ‘sprint’ course is aimed at boosting uptake from novice racers across the Arabian Gulf and can be raced as an individual or as a team.

Places are charged at US$180 and US$123 for the long and short distances, respectively. The team relay short course entry fee stands at US$272, and the sprint fee will be US$70 for individuals, US$112 for a team.

Athletes interested in entering should visit www.abudhabitriathlon.com and, after clicking on the ENTER NOW link, simply follow the instructions.