Ride on: Tyler Butterfield negotiates the F1 track in en route to victory. *Photo by @trimaxhebdo.com
Ride on: Tyler Butterfield negotiates the F1 track in en route to victory. *Photo by @trimaxhebdo.com

Tyler Butterfield said the key to his spectacular Abu Dhabi International Triathlon win was his ability to keep his emotions in check in the closing stages.

After a solid swim, the 31-year-old Bermudian benefited from a fast ride from pre-race favourite Freddie van Lierde before grinding down the leading pack with a superb run.

Butterfield crossed the finishing line in six hours 43 minutes and one second, which was 46 seconds ahead of runner-up Bas Diederen, of the Netherlands. France’s Sylvain Sudrie was third in 6:45:06, while van Lierde was third in 06:46:12.

The victory was the perfect start to the new professional season for Ironman Butterfield, who finished third in the corresponding race last year.

He said: “It really could not have gone any better.

“All 12 of the guys who lined up had better credits than myself. I thought I could easily be fifth.

“I am happy it came off. If we raced again next week, I could easily come 10th!

“I had a really good swim, it felt really fast. I knew to hang on when on the bike. I knew the race would get better.

“Freddie wanted to push hard to set his year up, while I was happy to pace myself. On the run, I thought to go out hard and try to hang on.

“I never take anything for granted. 

“You can push too hard and cramp up with 2km to go and it is over when you have had it in the bag.”

Butterfield’s splits in the 3km swim, 200km ride and 20km run event saw him clock 37mins 49sec in the water to leave him in eighth. He finished the bike in third after a 4:44:24 ride, eventually seizing the lead for good during a devastating run of 1:16:24.

The Colorado resident, who capatured the imagination of his Bermuda fans with a stunning seventh at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawai’i last year, admitted he was not expecting to win in the desert.

However, lessons learned from Kona, where he slipped from third late in the race, meant he knew exactly what to do.

“If I got excited and took it for granted I probably would have been fifth or sixth, so I played it a bit calmer.

“Freddie was the strongest on the bike. He raced like a world champ. He didn’t win but we, the competitors, saw who pushed the pace the most and he definitely was that person.”

Butterfield added: “I wanted to improve on third [last year]. But I was a bit more nervous with the more select field.

“I came here realistically thinking top five would be a good result. I had two gels for the last 10k, and I wanted to just hang on.

“Even in the last 800m, I grabbed some sports drink as I did not want to take it for granted.” 

‘I’ve evened a score with my wife now’

Household bragging rights were also at stake in Abu Dhabi.

And Tyler Butterfield says he will feel less guilty about making wife and fellow triathlete Nikki do the washing up now he has emulated her win at the same event in 2012.

Butterfield said: “We have a little bit of family banter and that is what keeps us motivated.”

He added: “I don’t mind Nikki doing the dishes any more saying ‘I shouldn’t be doing this you should be, I got better results than you’. 

“She still has better results than me [overall] but I want to say we have evened the score.”

When Nikki won she was able to cross the finish line with their baby girl Savana in her arms. That wasn’t possible this time with the family back in Colorado and with the couple having  welcomed their second child into the world so recently.

“Nine weeks ago I had a little boy, Walker James, so maybe having kids is good luck for this race,” said Butterfield. “I know Nikki wants a third but I want to wait a couple of years and then see! 

“But I know this pay cheque ($40,000) will help with the kids and pay for schooling for a little while!” He added: “After coming third last year, people expected me to be on the podium again and I didn’t want to disappoint. I knew I could miss it, though, because it was a great field.”