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American pro Sam Long shocked the triathlon world when he announced earlier this year he wouldn’t be racing at the Ironman World Championships in Kona – instead, he was all-in on 70.3 Worlds in St. George. After seeing the stellar race play out amongst the young guns in Kona, does he regret that decision? And what does he have in store for this weekend’s race in St. George? We sat down with the contender ahead of this Saturday’s men’s pro race at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships for a quick interview.
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You made the decision to skip Kona and focus on 70.3 Worlds instead. Did you watch the races in Kona? What was that like for you?
Yes, of course I watched the races. I watched most of the women’s race, and then less of the men’s race because of how my training aligned. 17 hours of TV in three days was too much to watch all of it! However, I am stoked that Chelsea Sodaro was able to bring the women’s title back to the USA! It was hard to sit out on the sidelines, and the FOMO [fear of missing out] was kicking in high, but at the end of it helped me double down in my decision of being all-in for 70.3 Worlds. I’m on my own unique journey. It was the right choice for me.
You raced this St. George course in May for the 2021 Ironman World Championship. What lessons did you learn about the course that you plan to apply to next week’s 70.3?
I would say I learned a lot more about how to race the 70.3 here by being second at the 70.3 World Champs last year than from racing the Ironman in May. What I did learn about racing the Ironman in May is that it sucks having a car run into you while biking 9 days before – that perhaps not racing in May would have been the right choice. That unfortunate instance caused a snowballing effect of having to work hard to get back to myself. I never take for granted being healthy anymore. I also took some lessons away about how to balance commitments on world championship race weeks.
When we interviewed you earlier this year, you said you were experimenting with racing without paying attention to your bike computer, and that you were considering that approach for St. George. Is that still the case?
Yes. I am still debating if I will even bring the bike computer with me. I have had some very good racing recently with just racing with the watch and recording the watts to look at after. I do have a very particular plan, though, and it might help me to be able to see the watts at St. George. I’ll probably bring the bike computer.
Scanning the start list, it’s a pretty international pro field. Why do you think there are fewer Americans in a U.S.-based world championships?
Right now, Europeans are generally dominating the sport. After racing in Europe all summer, the depth of quality pros is greater than in the United States. I know all the Americans will be doing everything we can to represent well, though.
In your mind, what’s the “crux” of the race, the point that’ll split up the groups or be a decisive moment?
For me, the crux of the race is what my swim deficit is in T1. That time will tell me and everyone else about what I am capable of on the day. In general – and what makes this course so great – is that there are so many challenging parts that split up the field. Two of these would be what is the race looking like just before Snow Canyon, and who has ridden well while also staying in control? And then, of course, a lot can change by the time we reach the top of Snow Canyon. Finally, I think after one loop of the run, the main groups will be decided although not necessarily the exact positions.
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