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Ready to roll in Laguna Phuket: 5 takeaways from the press conference.

Everyone was all smiles at the Laguna Phuket press conference, but once the gun goes off the racing will be intense. Five takeaways, including a video interview with Imogen Simmonds.

There wasn’t much talk about the racing at today’s press conference, despite the fact that tomorrow’s Laguna Phuket Triathlon (LPT) is likely to feature some interesting competition for both the women’s and men’s titles. Some thoughts from today’s press conference.

Imogen Simmonds and Emma Pallant are all smiles at Saturday’s press conference. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Related: Another race of legends at the Laguna Phuket Triathlon

Takeaway #1:

Unless you’ve seen the transformation that happens once the gun goes off and the athletes hit the Adaman Sea – the one where everyone stops smiling at each other and does everything they can to get to the line first – you’d never believe there was a race happening here in Laguna Phuket tomorrow based on what we saw at today’s press conference. It was one big “love in” – a chance for the athletes to rave about the LPT and express just how happy they are to be here.

And why not? Asia’s longest running triathlon hasn’t stuck around by not treating athletes well. Everyone is smiling, volunteers eager to ensure you’re race goes well abound and, well, the race is in paradise.

Just ask Imogen Simmonds, as I did in a post-press-conference interview:

Takeaway #2:

Once you’ve won here, you want to keep coming back and winning here.

Germany’s Michael Raelert (left) won this race three years in a row. Italy’s Massimo Cigana has won this race four times – this is his 15th year in a row coming to the event.
Switzerland’s Ruedi Wild is a two-time LPT champion.

The three men at today’s press conference have all won this race at least twice. Ruedi Wild is a two-time champion, Michael Raelert is a three-time champ and Massimo Cigana has won here four times. They are all in the hunt for another title, but will face some stiff competition in the form of Per Van Vlerken and Luke McKenzie.

Takeaway #3:

Emma Pallant is one tough cookie.

Emma Pallant is back for another go at the LPT. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Even though she’s had her share of bad luck in Laguna Phuket, Emma Pallant keeps coming back. And don’t count her out for the win tomorrow. She’s in excellent form, coming off two 70.3 wins and this course suits her.

Well, most of the time. We learned at today’s press conference that Ironman 70.3 Laguna Phuket was her first long distance race. She broke her shoulder during the race, but says she was able to recover enough to enjoy the sport’s most epic after-party. Last year, at the LPT, Pallant spent over an hour on the side of the road with bike issues, but refused to quit and finished the race.

She’s fit, she’s likely very determined …

Takeaway #4

People keep coming back to this race.

Belinda Granger is a two-time champion here at the LPT. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Belinda Granger has been coming to this race for so long that she can’t remember the first time she came. She thinks it was either 1999 or 2000. She might have retired from pro racing, but she continues to come back every year, celebrating her birthday and anniversary. (She and husband Justin celebrated their 20th this year.) She’ll be doing social media posts for the race tomorrow.

Ruedi Wild has raced here four times, then had to take a three year hiatus after the birth of his son – the trip was too long for young Finn. Now that Finn is two-and-a-half, Wild is back with the family – they’ll enjoy 10 days of holiday after the race.

Ask Granger and Wild why they keep coming back and the first thing they will say is the people – everyone is smiling and the community embraces the event and the athletes. Then they both smile and tell you its paradise – the beach, the weather …

Enough said, right?

Takeaway #5

As much as everyone smiles and gets along, it is still a race. There is a $20,000 prize purse on the line and a chance to add your name to a list that includes some of the sport’s greatest athletes. One and all talked about how tough the race is, too – the ocean-to-beach-to-lagoon swim, the challenging bike course with its 18 percent grades and the sauna-fest run.

All of which makes finishing that much more satisfying, and winning even more so.

And these two will greet you at the finish line, too, celebrating your achievement in style.

LPT race announcers Kamonchanok Supawatee and Whit Raymond. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon