Even though it means he might be jeopardizing his chance to compete at the Ironman World Championship in October, Lionel Sanders says he wouldn’t have missed this weekend’s Zwift Tri Battle Royale.
“I don’t have a Kona slot,” he said as he rode his bike on Zwift at 2000 m of atltitude at the top of a ski hill at Fellhornbahn/ Oberstdorf at today’s press conference. “I had to say, ‘which would you rather do, Kona or this?’ From an experiential standpoint, I would rather do this than Kona, just because Jan has had such a positive impact on my career.”
Running stride for stride with Frodeno at the 2015 Ironman 70.3 Oceanside event for 5 km was a gamechanging experience for Sanders, he says.
“I tasted it for a second – that experience has motivated most of my training to do that again,” Sanders said today. “Every time I face him, I can’t do it. Every time I get better in all the disciplines, he gets better, too.”
While Frodeno is the prohibitive favourite to take the duel between the two, he was quick to point out that many aspects of this course suit Sanders’ strengths. Frodeno had looked at doing this event last year as a follow up to his “stay at home” event where he completed a full-distance race at his home in Girona, Spain. While that event was geared around trying to motivate people to “get off the couch and have a good time,” this event is focussed on performance. After finding a fast course with the help of Hannes Blaschke (the man behind Hannes Hawaii Tours), Frodeno then turned his sights on finding some company for the race.
“Why not bring ithe guy who is best in the world and well suited to this format,” Frodeno said while riding his bike facing Sanders. “It’s a time trial. A lot of people can perform in a pack but we all know Lionel from his die-hardness. That is what I appreciate and that’s why I am glad he accepted.”
Frodeno isn’t buying into the “prohibitive favourite” narrative, either.
“People forget that I’ve been around so long that I have still lost more races than I’ve won in my career,” Frodeno, who turns 40 next month, said. “I’ve lost that many tiimes that I know how much I hate it and how much it defines me as a person and how hard I am on myself, and that’s all I have. I don’t know how many races I’ve got left, but I’m treating every one like it’s my last one, so I have to apply myself fully.”
Sanders says he’s amazed at the attention to detail he’s seen with the preparations for the race – everything from banked corners for the turnarounds to super-smooth roads. During a test in the rain yesterday he was able to hit 44 km/ hour while pushing 303 watts on “better pavement than I have experienced ever.”
Based on what he’s seen, Sanders thinks that this is a “low four-hour course.” If it turns out to be even faster, then he thinks that breaking Frodeno’s 7:35:39 record is quite attainable.
“This is truly the opportunity of a lifetime,” Sanders said. I get to race one of the best guys to ever do this, in his prime, going for a record, and I get to do it in Germany. It’s absolutely amazing. I came here for one thing, and one thing only – and I intend to push him.”
“It would be awesome if we both broke the record,” Frodeno said, “And I can be the first to do it.”
The livestream for the event starts at 2:40 AM EST (8:40 AM CEST). You can find more information on the event here.