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As close as I’ll get to an MMA fight … Lionel Sanders enjoys spotlight at Arena Games Montreal

Long-distance star will modify his training based on lessons he learned from the sprint event

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

He might not have won the event, but his sixth-place finish and frighteningly high wattage on the bike (over six watts per kg in the final leg of the race) thrilled the crowd on hand in Montreal, making Lionel Sanders the star of the show at Saturday’s Arena Games Powered by Zwift Montreal event.

“This is as close as I’m ever going to get,” Lionel Sanders said when I suggested that the atmosphere at Saturday night’s Arena Games Powered By Zwift Montreal was similar to an MMA event. “I’m soaking it in hard core. It’s amazing. This proves that triathlon is an entertaining sport, in the right way.”

Sanders powered through the runs on Saturday night. (Canadian junior star Mathis Beaulieu runs next to the long-distance star.)

While Sanders was enjoying the atmosphere, he learned a lot from the race that will help him in his longer races, too.

“This is a great learning lesson for me, to see what real top-end speed looks like. I have to get that. I have to figure out a way to get quicker in the water, in the top-end, for sure. It’s good for me to come here an get crazy humbled. Last place every single time out of the water. I just need to continue to motivate myself to get better and faster, particularly in the shorter distances in the water.

Sanders was thrilled with his sixth-place finish, which game him some idea of what he needs to work on as he gears up for longer races this season.

“It was a win to make it to the final,” he said. “This was just for fun. I played my cards the best I could. I didn’t destroy myself in the first two rounds, and then I left it all out there in the third round. The difference in my speed between pretty controlled to going a little bit harder is almost nothing, but there’s a massive energy cost. That is the lesson I’m learning – I don’t have a lot of anaerobic capacity. I don’t think you want too much of it, but you need a bit, particularly in the swim and the first part of the bike to bridge the gap because I’m never going to swim front pack.”

“It was a great learning experience and to see how these guys tick, how they execute,” he continued.

The big takeaway for Sanders was that his training needs to incorporate more of the high-end intensity that’s a mainstay for short-course competitors. He’s also going to incorporate some different types of brick workouts to his routine, too.

“Last year I did my final triathlon experiment, which was to do all my training at the sweet spot – in the middle,” he said. “Almost no high intensity. You need to do stuff in the middle, but you also need this, and if you don’t do this, you’re going to get last place as well. The way the game has gone, you have to be well rounded. If you’re neglecting the top end, for instance, you’re not going to be competitive. Coming here, one of the takeaways I learned – I also did a brick session for this – I learned that I need to incorporate a swim to bike brick. Multiple rounds. When the gun goes – I might hear the gun go six times a year – it’s just not enough to get in the zone. I had it five times today. It’s great practice. The last one, it was so routine, it felt like I could go harder. That’s something that’s missing in my training.”