Playing the long game

December 15, 2019

Triathlon in Qatar is leaving infancy and growing up and, like proud parents, we can watch its forward steps. Indeed, we are watching you: entering the sport, perhaps at a Qatar Foundation pool-based event or roped into a team for the swim or bike or run leg of a relay; weaned on to open water; then comes your first Olympic distance. What’s next?

Qatar now has a middle distance race – The Dukhan Water Sports Ultra Triathlon – 2.2 km of swimming in the beautiful sea off the Dukhan Water Sports Club, 80 km cycling up the peninsula, with four 5km laps of the coastal run course to finish. If you are wondering how that stacks up against Ironman’s 70.3 events, it’s 300m extra swimming (and why wouldn’t you want to spend longer in those waters?), 10km less biking and more or less the same run, totaling 63.5 (miles). Let’s just call it ‘Ultra’

This first event, planned by TriClub Doha and executed with the support and collaboration of Qatar Triathlon Federation, in fact combined sprint, olympic and Ultra distance events with a total participation of 240 and Ultra times ranging from Irishman Barney McCullagh’s 4hr07min (capped off with a 1:19 half marathon) to Grant Totten at 7hr25min. Whether playing the long game or not, all athletes faced a challenging start with a bumpy sea which was thrilling for some, while others felt more trepidation as they took a crash course in learning to sight on the crests rather than down in the troughs and to go with the flow, rather than fighting the waves. Winds abated somewhat for the bike section but even so, Jonathan Parker, with the day’s fastest bike split, claimed to be hitting speeds of 70kph when sailing homeward. All in all, this course and this venue are a great location for triathlon and this is an event which justifiably deserves to grow.

The Qatar Triathlon Series league was given added interest by the spread of points across the three distances. With top points available at sprint, Olympic or Ultra, where could you score best? For Barney McCullagh, Enzo Fascinato, Sophie Clarke and Pia Sundsted, the question was irrelevant as all scored maximum points, as they had done at Katara, but Mouhcine Rhaili and Barry Shillabeer in the men’s races and Michelle Shilabeer, Daniella Sposi and Andrea Stadler in the women’s were among those who benefited from either playing to their strengths or the dilution of opposition. Aday Alvarez opened his league account with a maximum 250 points – managing to do what he couldn’t last season, creating enough of a gap to counter Ethan Bennet’s blistering run over the sprint distance. Our Ultra winners deserve special mention: Barney McCullagh for the men and Gerda Dumitru (5:16:24) for the women. Although leading the veterans’ categories,  Enzo Fascinato (4:25:25), Ewan Cameron, Andrew Kilshaw and Daniela Sposi (5:43:36) were also right up there in the overall standings. See the full results here

The Dukhan Water Sports Ultra Triathlon passed off remarkably flawlessly for a first time race but the Ultra needs numbers to be declared a complete success. Now we must ask ourselves where we will be in a year? How many of this year’s Olympic distance first-timers will be up for a step further, perhaps in preparation for Ironman branded races in Bahrain or Oman? Do we want to bring one of the big brands to us? We have developed local experience and expertise and our venues warrant a truly international event. One thing is for sure, this is a race that has just got to be on your 2020 to-do list.