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Van Lierde and Dibens win in Abu Dhabi. Naeth gets fifth.

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Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde and Great Britain’s Julie Dibens both picked up $50 000 US first place cheques today at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.

After finishing fifth last year, Van Lierde came out victorious in a final run battle where only 33 seconds separated first to fourth.

American Andrew Starykowicz took a 5:47 lead onto the run but it was not enough. Van Lierde, and a host of others gave chase but it was Van Lierde who took the lead from Starykowicz at the 13 km mark and held onto the lead for the win in 6:43:14. Fellow Belgian, Marino Vanhoenacker came back from 7:08 deficit after T2 to finish an impressive second (6:43:31), just 17 seconds back, while Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel got third (6:43:42). Starykowicz faded to tenth (6:50:22).

Dibens won in her typical front-runner style, leading from start to finish to take her second Abu Dhabi title in a row. She got out of the water first (40:40 – 3 km swim), built a sizeable lead during the 200 km bike (8:38 over Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen by the time she exited T2), and unlike the Ironman World Championships, she held off Steffen during the final 20 km run, taking the win in 7:14:23. Steffen followed 5:22 later to claim second in 7:19:45. Great Britain’s Catriona Morrison picked up third (7:31:12). Prince George’s Angela Naeth worked her way through the field during the bike and ran tough to finish fifth (7:32:34).

“What a day, highlight had to be puking the whole way down the finish line,” tweeted Dibens. “Sorry to those who had to witness it. It was fugly.”

“This was my first ever race outside of Canada or the US, so I really had no idea what to expect as far as the race organization was concerned. The same could be said about my fitness, since early-season events are always somewhat unpredictable, regardless of the training data,” said Naeth to Triathlon Magazine Canada. “I’m extremely pleased with both the race organization and my efforts. It was the toughest event I’ve ever done but also the smoothest-run one. I’ll definitely be on the starting list for 2012!”

The much hyped showdown between Craig Alexander and Chris McCormack, the winners of the last four Ironman World Championships, did not go as anticipated. McCormack dropped out of the race during the bike due to cleat issues, while Alexander finished sixth.

“Day ended early in Abu Dhabi only 80km in,” said McCormack on Twitter. “Lost my holding screws on right foot cleat, then the entire cleat fell off.”

Make sure to visit our Facebook Page for more videos and photos from our man on the scene – Chris Lepik.

The top 10 Elite Men and Women results are below.

Elite Women

1. Julie Dibens (GBR)  7:14:23

2. Caroline Steffen (CHE)  7:19:45  +5:22

3. Catriona Morrison (GBR)  7:31:12  +16:49

4. Rachel Joyce (GBR)  7:32:09  +17:46

5. Angela Naeth (CAN)  7:32:34  +18:11

6. Leanda Cave (GBR)  7:34:20  +19:57

7. Lucie Zelenkova (CZE)  7:46:33  +32:11

8. Joanna Lawn (NZL)  7:48:10  +33:47

9. Belinda Granger (AUS)  7:49:09  +34:46

10. Emma-Kate Lidbury (GBR)  7:51:30  +37:07

Elite Men

1. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL)  6:43:14

2. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL)  6:43:31  +0:17

3. Dirk Bockel (LUX)  6:43:42  +0:28

4. Raynard Tissink (ZAF) 6:43:47  +0:33

5. Sylvain Sudrie (FRA)  6:45:49  +2:35

6. Craig Alexander (AUS)  6:46:46  +3:32

7. Luke Bell (AUS)  6:46:52  +3:38

8. Faris Al-Sultan (GER)  6:48:22  +5:08

9. Timo Bracht (GER)  6:49:40  +6:26

10. Andrew Starykowicz (USA)  6:50:22  +7:09