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Challenge Roth Update

By September 20, 2021No Comments

Coming off the Collins Cup I was really happy I made the choice to head to Europe and race. It’s been 2 years since I raced on the world stage. And the Collins Cup was a huge milestone for the sport in general. To pull off this event in covid times and with the level of media that was involved was huge and I know all of the athletes that attended the event are looking forward to next year.

After the Collins Cup, I stayed on for 4 extra days at the X-bionic Sphere in Samorin. It was perfect for recovery in the lead into Challenge Roth. I was still feeling pretty jet-lagged and although the Collins Cup was a good result, I knew I had lost a fair bit of fitness being sick and then travelling to Europe. The goal was simply to see if I could pull up in time for Roth.

Photo: PTO 

My focus has always big races so we had decided once Kona was cancelled that Challenge Roth was the race I would target. Choosing to race Challenge Roth, off the back of the Collins cup, and after a few weeks of being sick and lots of travel wasn’t the perfect lead-in. But I had made the call to come to Europe and I wanted to give Roth another crack. I also wanted to get a feel for where I was in my training. It’s hard to know if you have made any gains when you are just racing in NZ.

Photo: Christoph Raithel

In the lead-up week, I felt good. But I didn’t feel great on race morning. I battled through the swim on the feet of Nick Kastelein and Patrick Lange who led the group. I tried early on to make a break but had to settle into a pack swim in the end.

The bike is something I’ve been putting a lot of energy towards in training. This was the discipline where I wanted to test myself and see if the work I had put in had paid off.  I pushed harder than I ever have in that first hour of the ride.  I lost sight of the podium I was hoping to achieve pretty rapidly and decided that my goal instead was to see how far I could push myself on the ride. You don’t get many chances in the year to ride with a front group like this one, and it was worth the punt.

In 2019 when I last raced Challenge Roth I was dropped off the back of the German freight train within the first five to ten minutes of the ride. This time it was better. But if I look back I should have gone to the front, not stayed at the back. I lost the pack by about 70 minutes in the end.

Once I was off the back, I was in no man’s land for the rest of the ride. I was hoping Sebby (Sebastian Kienle) would come through at some point but I found out later that he had pulled the pin. No one was coming through so I got into position and tried to ride consistently. But I was a long way back going into the run.

Photo: Christoph Raithel

The ride played its toll on me and I was pretty stiff going into the run. Normally I feel pretty good but I think my lack of training in the 3-4 weeks leading in caught up to me. I knew I was going to need a blinder of a run to make any headway on the field in front of me.  I ended up finishing 7th. It was a crazy day and if the ride was full distance many of the world long-distance records would have been challenged.

Photo: Simon Fischer

Since the race, I will admit that I have had some low times. I questioned whether I had made any progress at all over the last 18 months. But after a few days when my body started to come back to life, my mind started to join the party.  After some solid reflection with my team, I know I have made some gains. But there is more for me to work on. It seems obvious now that I wasn’t going to have my peak performance at Challenge Roth even though in the lead in I had convinced myself I could. I also realise that I lost a lot of fitness back in NZ before arriving in Europe. I seem to be an athlete that gains fitness quickly but loses it really fast. Because time-trialling is the sport that I feel the least bedded into, I think I lose my edge on the bike a lot quicker than I do in the run and the swim.

Photo: Markus Berger

My coach and I went back through all of my cycling data for the last 18 months and although it is always hard to compare power, especially as I’ve changed bikes and power metres a few times. There were a few really clear performance trends that I now understand about myself as an athlete that should help me prepare better for Kona if it ever comes around again.

My FTP has had huge variations across the course of my year. I expect it varies a lot more than most athletes. As a result, I think I need my riding to be the main focus as I get closer to an event. In the past, we have put the biking time and effort in earlier in the season but as I back off the power and the volume and try and pick up my swim and run, I lose my power on the bike pretty quick. Moving forward, this will mean I need to change up how I periodise my year and look at how I get the most out of my riding into the lead up (12 weeks out) from my key races.

Photo: Markus Berger

Overall on the lead into Roth, I believed that because my mind was in a good space, that my body would come to the party and give me the result I was hoping for. I have always been a big believer in mindset. But I can see why I didn’t get the result now pretty clearly. It’s a good thing in some ways as there’s plenty to keep working for but it was hard to swallow at the time.

A few weeks on from Roth everything is still unknown. I know I can’t just pull another full Ironman out of nowhere and the season is pretty much at its end over here. I am now in Girona staying with Kyle Smith.  I have met a German bike coach whom I have started to work with, alongside my current coach Val Burke. And I am looking forward to getting back into the training here in Girona.

Photo: Markus Berger

I am hoping for a world champs in February back in Kona. But I am not sure whether we can rely on the date and information we have been given. The same postponement date was given last year and it didn’t happen. I hope we will get enough notice to plan ahead. Otherwise, I’ll look to plan for next season when I get back home to NZ and see what’s on the cards.

What this experience has given me in Europe is the motivation to keep going with it. One good result and one that I know wasn’t my best. But both I and my wife have decided that regardless of the restrictions that NZ has in place around travelling overseas to compete, we are going to keep finding a way to make it happen.