DUBAI // Subtle security officials mixed with swoosh-clad sportsmen in the bowels of Atlantis Resort at The Palm on Thursday at the pre-race briefing for the inaugural Dubai International Triathlon.
More than 1,100 participants from 63 countries have confirmed their involvement in today’s race, which is the first half-iron distance event to be held in the emirate.
Yet it is the involvement of Bahrain’s Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and his brother, Sheikh Khalid, that has drawn the extra focus.
The attendance of both men had been kept quiet and was confirmed only moments before Christian Berglehner, the director of Race ME, addressed a group of elite athletes.
Bodyguards stood on alert nearby.
“Sheikh Nasser has given the race a completely different prestige,” Berglehner said. “A different level.”
As well as Middle East royalty, the Dubai Sports Council-backed race will feature Chris McCormack, the Australian who has broken the eight-hour barrier a record four times on his way to two world ironman titles.
He will be pushed by Till Schramm, a German who recently moved to Dubai after winning one of Europe’s oldest triathlons, at Huckeswagen, in 2011.
Today’s route starts with a 1.9-kilometre swim in the calm waters off the Atlantis, followed by a 90km cycle from the Palm, up Hessa Street and towards Dubai Sports City, before they turn and ride the 90km back.
The final leg is a 21.1km run along the crescent of The Palm.
“We’re expecting a fantastic race,” Berglehner said.
“Starting with Chris McCormack, who I think is one of the most popular athletes in triathlon, we also have Till Schramm and a host of elite athletes from Bahrain, several of whom have ironman victories under their belts.”
About 280 athletes have flown into the Emirates for today’s race with more than 700 residents taking part, including Dubai army and police employees.
“It is still hot at this time of year, so it will be a real test of their endurance,” said Jessica Josselin, a former triathlete who represented Great Britain.
“It’s the first time this distance has been contested here and the Sports Council have been very happy with the international athletes who have registered.
“Race ME has great ambition for the future and is already looking to double participation for next year.”
During the briefing, concerns were raised about the new tram tracks at the base of Palm Jumeirah, but officials said the tracks would only become slippery if it rained.
The three major roads that the route crosses – Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Khail Road and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road – will be temporarily closed to road traffic.
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