Will Clarke showing Middle Eastern promise

Will Clarke tackles his first race in the Middle East tomorrow confident that under new coach Mark Pearce he’s in his best shape for years.

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The Leicestershire triathlete joins a host of the world’s best non-drafting racers as well as a strong British contingent of Fraser Cartmell, Daniel Halksworth, David McNamee, Ritchie Nicholls and Joe Skipper on the start-line for the middle distance Challenge Dubai.

“I was trying to bully Mark into giving me more work last week, but he looked up my training stress scores on his phone and convinced me I was tired,” says Clarke after completing today’s final swim practice at Jumierah Beach. “He’s from a sports science background so has an answer for everything, can back up decisions with data and leaves no stone unturned. It’s a confidence-booster.

“Normally I’d be in South Africa or Australia at this time of year, but I chose to stay in England and take mini training camps away and I’m feeling good.”

Fifteen-month old son, Freddy, might have had an unwitting hand in the decision to stay in the UK this winter, but he’s been left behind with the grandparents for this one, as Clarke, supported by wife and designated Dubai driver, Clare, focuses on returning with a share of the $300,000 prize pot.

Facing standout favourite and four-time ITU world champion Javier Gomez, last year’s Ironman UK 70.3 winner at Wimbleball will need to be in peak form and admits there might be some rust to shake off having not competed since Lanzarote in September, a 70.3 he won in familiar surroundings with a 1hr 14min 50sec run split.

That victory, along with finishing 10th at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, gives him a healthy buffer of qualifying points for the Ironman World Championships in October and it’s a debut spot Clarke will look to cement with a top five at the African Championship race in South Africa next month or, if he “cocks it up,” another trip to Lanzarote in May.

Hawaii withstanding, he believes the promised $1,000,000 for any triathlete who can scoop all three Challenge Triple Crown events (Dubai, Oman and Bahrain) might be a little out of reach.

“It’s a bit too high in the sky,” he says. “I think you’re looking at someone who is world champion level to win it and I think Javier is the only one who can be consistent enough. The other longshot was Jan Frodeno, but he’s pulled out. It’s a massive ask to win all three, but then $1,000,000 is a massive prize.

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UPATE: A favourite for the women’s race, Holland’s Yvonne van Vlerken has withdrawn after slipping on stone steps and bruising her lower back and shoulder blade.

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