Playing the long game

Playing the long game

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

Qatar now has a middle distance race – The Dukhan Water Sports UltraTriathlon – 2.2 km of swimming in the beautiful sea off the Dukhan WaterSports Club, 80 km cycling up the peninsula, with four 5km laps of thecoastal run course to finish. If you are wondering how that stacks upagainst Ironman’s 70.3 events, it’s 300m extra swimming (and whywouldn’t you want to spend longer in those waters?), 10km less bikingand 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 thesupport and collaboration of Qatar Triathlon Federation, in factcombined sprint, olympic and Ultra distance events with a totalparticipation of 240 and Ultra times ranging from Irishman BarneyMcCullagh’s 4hr07min (capped off with a 1:19 half marathon) to GrantTotten at 7hr25min. Whether playing the long game or not, all athletesfaced a challenging start with a bumpy sea which was thrilling for some,while others felt more trepidation as they took a crash course inlearning to sight on the crests rather than down in the troughs and togo with the flow, rather than fighting the waves. Winds abated somewhatfor the bike section but even so, Jonathan Parker, with the day’sfastest bike split, claimed to be hitting speeds of 70kph when sailinghomeward. All in all, this course and this venue are a great locationfor triathlon and this is an event which justifiably deserves to grow.

The Qatar Triathlon Series league was given added interest by thespread of points across the three distances. With top points availableat sprint, Olympic or Ultra, where could you score best? For BarneyMcCullagh, Enzo Fascinato, Sophie Clarke and Pia Sundsted, the questionwas irrelevant as all scored maximum points, as they had done at Katara,but Mouhcine Rhaili and Barry Shillabeer in the men’s races andMichelle Shilabeer, Daniella Sposi and Andrea Stadler in the women’swere among those who benefited from either playing to their strengths orthe dilution of opposition. Aday Alvarez opened his league account witha maximum 250 points – managing to do what he couldn’t last season,creating enough of a gap to counter Ethan Bennet’s blistering run overthe sprint distance. Our Ultra winners deserve special mention: BarneyMcCullagh 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 rightup there in the overall standings. See the full results here

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

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