It’s impossible to dismiss the $300,000 prize purse and promise of further riches from events in Oman and Bahrain that has attracted over 100 of the world’s best triathletes to Challenge Dubai.
But an additional appeal has been the altering of a technical ruling that is the ongoing cause off much angst to many professional and amateur racers – one that concerns the contentious issue of drafting.
In extending the distance where professional triathletes can legally follow one another on the bike from 12 to 20 metres but giving them 35 seconds to pass, organisers of the Triple Crown series have found much favour with the strong swim-bikers who believe it delivers a fairer race.
“That’s something I’m very fond of,” says Andy Potts, the six-time winner of the renowned Escape to Alcatraz triathlon and consistently first from the water at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. “My physiology excels when I raise my heart-rate to eight to 12 beats below max and then just hold without having to surge. I’ve done enough races where it‘s me out front on the bike on my own and I don’t run that much slower [compared to being overtaken and forced to cycle in a pace-line of triathletes].
“I can tell when the ride is easy because I’ll get off and rip a 1hr 10min [half-marathon] and that’s because we held each other’s hands on the bike. My one concern here is judging the effort correctly, but what gives me confidence is knowing that if people ride past they will have done the work themselves, as opposed to just tactically sitting in until they can surge at an easier time. A longer draft zone will slowly feather people apart. Then it’s painfully obvious who can ride their bike.”
Such is the appeal to the 38-year-old 2004 Olympian that it has even persuaded him to race outside North America for the first time in years. “I treat my profession as a business,” he says. “I could be giving up as much as 10 days coming here but when I race in North America I’m away for a maximum of two nights and then I’m a normal dad to my two kids when I come home.”
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Potts has run a 67-minute half-marathon off the bike and with a swimming background that peaked with fourth place in the 1996 US Olympic trials and the waters off Jumeirah Beach in the Emirates state looking warm enough to make it a non-wetsuit swim, he considers himself a contender for the podium.
“There are no gifts, no presents,” Potts adds. “I’ll fight but if Javier [Gomez] is better than me, then he’s better than me.”
The 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run starts at 6:45am local time (2:45 GMT). To follow the race live visit challengedubai.com and check out our Twitter feed.