Alistair Brownlee isn’t the only pasty Limey flying the Union flag in Abu Dhabi, the British contingent is out in force. A roll-call of former Ironman UK winners including Scotland’s Fraser Cartmell, Yorkshire’s Phil Graves and Jersey’s Dan Halksworth are all here looking for a top-10 finish, a pay cheque, and the chance to prove sunny Bolton is perfect prep for a triathlon in the desert.
Add to that list Paul Amey and Paul Ambrose who’ve at least got the GB race kit (if not the accent) and young Rhys Davey trying to keep up with his training mate Alistair on the short course, and there should be plenty of live action to follow, fingers crossed, on the live stream courtesy of abudhabitriathlon.com or its YouTube channel (if you can get up at 3am).
Back at the race hotel I’m finding that triathletes, whether from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan or the Ivory Coast have the same territorial tendencies when it comes to the breakfast buffet – a swarm of locusts making a metaphorically mixed-up beeline to whisk the contents of the fruit bowls back to their hotel rooms.
With a day to go until the race, even the late-coming chancers are starting to rock up meaning those queuing for omelettes are crammed in tighter than a draft-fest on the Queen K. It’s a proper multi-cultural shindig. The press release says there are competitors from 76 different nations, so even if we round this down to a more believable 50, it still makes it a contender for the most international of international triathlons in the whole entire world.
And you certainly won’t find a better race venue for tapering than Abu Dhabi. The absence of alcohol removes the temptation of too much liquid carbo-loading and unless you can find the odd, stealthy, beer-serving bar squirrelled away on one of the 100 or so floors of the average hotel here, you’ll toe the start line dryer than the desert heat.
Sadly, this also means you’ll struggle to find a more testing venue than Abu Dhabi for a journalist whose limited hack tactics to garner newsworthy quotes is normally to get the subject inebriated and try and remember to surreptitiously switch the Dictaphone on.
Drink is to journalists what aero helmets are to triathletes. Both make us feel cool when we look like wallies and both cost the same as a small island in the Arabian Sea. The only difference, as far as I can tell, is you lose a lot more than seven seconds by seeking redemption at the bottom of a pint glass.
Finally, there’s one other reason triathletes love coming to Abu Dhabi so much - it’s guaranteed to be tacks free! (No? I found it funny in the Belgian beer café last night.)