An impressive field will line up for the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon next month, including athletes who hold a combined 24 world championships, 50 Ironman titles and more than 100 national titles.
Chris McCormack and Craig Alexander, who have each won two Ironman titles in the past four years, head the elite field of 61 professionals, along with defending champions Eneko Llanos of Spain and Julie Dibens of Great Britain.
"This is a powerful line-up with truly lives up to our call to amateurs to 'Compete With The Elite'," said Faisal al Sheikh of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, which will stage the March 12 event. "The best the sport has will be in Abu Dhabi which is a ringing endorsement for an event which is only in its second year."
McCormack and Alexander are highlights of the men's field, having together dominated the Ironma in Kona, Hawaii for the past four years. McCormack won in 2010 and 2007 and Alexander in 2008 and 2009.
"I love new races in new destinations, especially one with as much mystique as Abu Dhabi. This will be my first race of the season and my first competitive race in the Middle East," Alexander said.
They will be challenged by the top three men from 2010's inaugural race - Eneko Llano, Dirk Bockel and Rasmus Henning.
"I had a great experience in Abu Dhabi last year and hope to return and improve my third place finish," Henning said. "The race course is world class which is reflected in the quality of athletes it has attracted this year - there will be a lot of athletes who will want to finish in the top three but will have a hard fight ahead of them."
Dirk Bockel, an Olympic triathlete who took second place here in 2010, is ready to return to the UAE.
The women's field includes athletes with 14 World Championship titles, seven Ironman wins and more then 35 national and regional titles. Leading the pack is Julie Dibens - the defending champion and 2009 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and three-time Xterra world champion. Leanda Cave, a past World Champion, is also in the field.