Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team’s enigmatic captain, Faris Al-Sultan, stormed to a dominating win at the Frankfurter Sparkasse European Ironman Championship to earn automatic qualification into the sport’s pinnacle competition – the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, this October.
Racing in unfavourable wet and windy conditions, Germany’s Al-Sultan - the 2005 Ironman World Champion – turned back the clock to record the fastest bike split of the day. Al-Sultan then powered to victory with an impressive closing marathon run to finish in 8h13m50s – six and half minutes ahead of fellow countrymen, Jan Raphael and Michael Göhner, who rounded out an all-German podium on home soil.
“I had pretty low expectations before this race, especially as I was still carrying the flu and I much prefer warmer race conditions than those we had this week. My main aim was to add to my Hawaii points tally so I can work on getting qualifying over with,” said Al-Sultan, who is backed by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).
“Winning here and securing my entry into the Ironman World Championship has reinvigorated my season and has given me the confidence and flexibility to work towards being at my absolute best this October.”
With a daunting 3.8kms swim, a testing 180kms cycle and an energy-sapping 42kms run facing the 33-year-old Abu Dhabi star, the chilling 10ºC weather provided the international field with its biggest challenge.
Used to training in the UAE capital’s warm desert winds, Al-Sultan – widely regarded as one of the world’s leading triathlon cyclists – pushed through the cold to emerge second in the opening swim leg. On his speciality bike section, Al-Sultan opened up a solid lead over the chasing pack and entered the lung-bursting marathon run with a comfortable cushion.
And despite a strong final push from Göhner on the third of four laps in the marathon discipline, the ‘Sultan of Sweat’ kept his cool to snatch the coveted title of European Ironman champion.
It is the second Ironman win for Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team this season after the UK’s Rachel Joyce recently smashed her way to a maiden victory in Lanzarote with a compelling wire-to-wire victory. Joyce’s win also secured the Brit automatic entry into the season-ending Hawaii championships.
Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team, created by ADTA to further the emirate’s performance athletics’ credentials globally, will compete in more than 30 top international events this season, including the Ironman and 70.3 series, and the World Championships.
Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championship
1. Faris Al-Sultan (GER) 8:13:50
2. Jan Raphael (GER) 8:19:31
3. Michael Göhner (GER) 8:20:26
4. George Potrebitsch (GER) 8:22:29
5. Stephan Vuckovic (GER) 8:26:03