(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The men's field for this year's Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is set to be its strongest to date with the top three 2013 finishers, including the reigning Ironman World Champion, confirmed to compete alongside many other notable athletes in the March 15 event, largely recognised to be the long course triathlon world's marquee season opener
Reigning champion Frederik van Lierde will ignite his 2014 challenge at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon following a phenomenal 2013 season which culminated in his World Champion title at Ironman Hawaii. With the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon being Frederik's first event since his spectacular season finale, all eyes will be on the Belgian triathlete to see if he can continue his winning streak and successfully defend his title
"Abu Dhabi holds a special place in my heart as the event was the springboard for me to go on and become World Champion. The triathlon, the city and the people always welcome me with open arms and the support we get is fantastic
"This year, I hope to claim my third Abu Dhabi victory. The event is never easy, as the elite field is always so strong, but I know that a win in Abu Dhabi can push me to new heights, so I will be fully prepared for the event on March 15th.
Spaniard Eneko Llanos, who came a close second at last year's event, will also make a welcome return to the world-class course, setting his sights firmly on the top spot having already tasted gold in 2010
As one of the circuit's most consistent racers, Llanos is a force to be reckoned with, attaining podium positions at almost every event he's entered over the past few years. Last year was a particularly strong one for the elite triathlete with his season start success in Abu Dhabi followed by his win at Ironman Melbourne just three weeks later."I like to kick off my season with the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon as it is arguably the most picturesque triathlon course in the world. Narrowly missing out on the top spot last year has made me all the more determined to go for gold at the season opener.
Adding to the formidable competition in the men's long course is Bermudan Tyler Butterfield who is looking for another impressive year following his 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon third place position. Butterfield's strong season start paved the way for a successful year which included two Ironman 70.3 podiums in Calgary and Muncie, ninth place in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and seventh place at the Ironman World Championship in Kona before ending the season on a high with second place at Ironman Cozumel
"I'm looking forward to going head to head with Frederik and Eneko again this March in the hope of working my way up that podium and improving on last year's result. Having the best of the best competing in the event really pushes you to continue to up your performance and improve each year. I am under no illusion a podium in Abu Dhabi is a given - there are many other good athletes all aiming for the same goal. It will be tough and hard race, that is always a guarantee.
The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is a key fixture in the triathlon season, attracting the world's top triathletes and competitors from over 50 countries. Last year's triathlon saw a record breaking 2,000 contestants descend on the dazzling capital of the UAE and, with this year marking its fifth year, its set to be the biggest event yet. Organisers have frozen athlete registration fees for the fifth year in a row. Athletes interested in entering should visit