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Hundreds braved strong winds and chilly conditions in support of local charities at the ever-popular charity Wheelathon once again staged at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).
While numbers were adversely affected by the unfavourable conditions those who did make the effort were able to enjoy what many refer to as their ‘favourite family day out’ of the year.
Wheelchair-users were able to interact alongside hundreds of cyclists while skateboarders and those on rollerblades also raced around the prestigious grand prix circuit at Sakhir.
The Wheelathon wheeled into action at 2pm with the participants lined up along the F1 start line, eagerly awaiting the green light, before flying down the main straight, young legs pretending to be the next Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso, while some enjoyed a more sedate pace.
As temperatures rose, the numbers began to swell. Some took the time to engage in a quick pit-stop, either getting their bikes fine-tuned by the Trilife expert mechanics, or changing their ‘wheels’ and heading back onto the circuit on rollerblades, skateboards, or other contraptions.
A new addition to the event, a duathlon race (two parts of the thrilling triathlon sport which has grown in popularity in the kingdom) kicked off at 4pm in two phases. First off were the older children running a first leg of 2km, delighting in having the same F1 lighting procedures to set them on their way!
Five minutes later the younger children took off on a 5.4km bike ride. The many spectators were then able to closely watch the exciting transition area as the riders parked up their machines to set off on foot for the run and were able to improve their techniques under the guidance of recently-appointed national coach and selector, Vicent Beltran and Bahrain stalwart, Abbas Buhassan.
The duathletes received raucous support throughout from the crowd with the winner, Abdullah Attiya, crossing the line after a 2km run, 5.4km cycle, plus 2km run in a blistering time of 25 minutes and 25 seconds.
Beltran, featured in last week’s GulfWeekly, said: “This was the perfect venue to host our first duathlon and all those who took part seemed to have a great time.
“I’m proud of my team who showed their speed although we have also found some new talent. This is the first step on an important journey as we aim to produce a Bahrain triathlete at the Olympic Games in 2020. My thanks go to everyone involved for allowing us the opportunity.”
The reaction from supporters was positive throughout. “Brilliant organisation,” said Abdulla Attiya. “There was a really good atmosphere.”
And Rayan Ajaji said: “It was great to see the BIC support such an event for a great cause. It also gives youngsters the opportunity to ride their bikes in a safe environment. We look forward to doing more events on the track.”
These comments were music to the ears for Wheelathon organiser David Axtell, who added: “These were some of the worst conditions we have experienced in all the 11 years of staging the event, although ironically once the wind dropped and the sun came out it was close to perfect for the race.
“It is always heartwarming to be able to see wheelchair-users participate on equal terms – this day is as much about bringing everybody together as it is raising money.
“The duathlon was a wonderful addition to the Wheelathon this year too and will produce a strong foundation for future events. Following on from the success of Challenge Bahrain I had hoped to provide an opportunity for a wide range of youngsters to experience the thrills of a duathlon and learn about the transition between cycling and running. Hopefully, the opportunity to do this in the perfect setting of the BIC was an added inspiration.
“My thanks go to the Bahrain Triathlon Association for its support. Having so many elite cyclists flying around the track will set the standards for other competitive cyclists in the future, while having the professional technical support from TriLife was an added bonus. Countless individuals and families benefitted today from their expertise and service with a smile!
“My personal thanks also go to the countless volunteers, including the Filipino Mountain Bikers who kept everyone on-track and the medical team from the International Hospital of Bahrain (IHB).”
Volunteers and supporters included St Christopher’s Cathedral, St Christopher’s School and Bahrain Triathlon Association and sponsors Coca Cola, IHB, TriLife and Wellmed Clinic.
Charities to benefit from funds raised by Wheelathon 2015 will be the Ecumenical Conference of Charity, nominated by Ily Khan in loving memory of Noriko, and the Bahrain Association for Intellectual Disability and Autism.
1st Colby Altman
3rd Stan Szecowka
1st Mohammed Mubarak
2nd Abdulrahman Mubarak
3rd Omar Abdulah
1st Kizzy Price
2nd Alisha Mani
1st Andulla Attiya
2nd James Price
3rd Abdulla Hassan