Despite abandoning the race, defending champion Holly Lawrence still played a role in Daniela Ryf’s crowning comeback in Chattanooga.
Just past the halfway point of brutal 56-mile (90.1km) bike leg at the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tenn., two-time race winner Daniela Ryf learned defending champion and arch rival Holly Lawrence had called it quits more than three minutes behind her.
While that did not necessarily play a role in a race the 30-year-old Suisse was clearly dominating, Lawrence did place the wheels in motion toward Ryf’s eventual historic third 70.3 world title—the fifth world championship of her career.
“I heard the splits from one of the motorbikes, and they told me Holly had pulled out,” Ryf told Triathlete in the post-race press conference at the Tennessee Aquarium auditorium on Saturday afternoon. “That was never something I wanted. I have a lot of respect for Holly and I think she’s had an amazing season.
“Actually, I am quite grateful for her because she really motivated me last year with her performance in Mooloolaba (Australia). She just smashed it and it really motivated me for this race.
“I hope nothing bad happened to her,” continued a concerned Ryf. “I don’t know, I haven’t seen her yet … I heard it and it didn’t affect my race. I just tried to keep doing what I was doing, but of course I also would have liked to race her and make it a good race.”
Given the course has received so much attention due to the level of difficulty which included 3,408 feet (1,039m) in elevation gains on the bike and nearly 1,000 feet (975ft/297m) on the run.
Triathlete asked the European-based Ryf what other races globally—if any—remind her of the new course debuted in Chattanooga on Saturday.
“I’ve been training in St. Moritz, so I am used the climbs but I guess you can find climbs everywhere else in the world,” said Ryf of the training grounds in her native Switzerland at 6,000 feet in elevation (1,800 meters). “One race I can really compare it with is the Allgäu Triathlon I [won] three weeks ago.
“It was actually a perfect race for my preparation,” she explained. “It’s a two-loop course and you do a 5k hill twice. That was a very tough course as well and it helped for today, and I’m happy my coach chose that race.
“I always like a challenging race, and I really enjoyed today,” Ryf continued. “It’s not like we could enjoy the landscape, but it was an absolutely outstanding course. You had to show your best. You could never really stop pushing and that was challenging and I think that is something important that we have challenging courses for the world championships.”
Following the press conference, Triathlete chatted with the newly re-crowned world champion for one follow-up question that turned into several. During the six-minute interview, Ryf talks about overcoming adversity, learning from mistakes, staying motivated, almost calling it quits this season due to injury, preparing for Kona and celebrating her historic victory with some Chattanooga fried chicken.
Hear the complete post-race interview below.