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PROfile: Team TBB’s James Cunnama

The 2012 Challenge Roth champ is turning his focus toward qualifying for Kona 2013.

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The driving force for James Cunnama’s unequivocal victory at the 2012 Challenge Roth—where he battled fierce winds on the bike and an equally fierce field of rivals to claim a nail-biting 7:59:59 finish—was clearly redemption. The prior year, Cunnama was forced to withdraw partway through the race due to injury, a setback that disrupted his entire 2011 season. But the South African has responded well to his time on the sidelines, as evidenced by his 2012 results (second at Rev3 Quassy and third at Wildflower, in addition to his Roth win). Later this year, this rising star from Team TBB will turn his focus toward qualifying for Kona 2013.

» I spend up to nine months a year traveling and at camps, living out of a bike box. It’s a very nomadic existence. I do kind of like the simplicity of it though. I dislike the way our lives collect clutter. When you have a baggage weight allowance, it forces you to keep it minimal.

» In 2009, after racing Embrunman in France, I had some travel drama. Immediately after the race, around 9 p.m., [Team TBB coach] Brett Sutton drove me five hours to Nice to catch my flight. I had only 24 hours to get out of Europe before my visa expired, so I had to hustle. But when we got to Nice in the early hours of the morning, with 12 hours until my flight, all the cheap hotels were full, so Brett dropped me at the airport. I still hadn’t slept since finishing the hardest Ironman-distance race in the world, and my bike was not yet packed in its box. Then I found that my multi-tool had gone missing, so taking the bike apart was impossible. By the time I got home to South Africa, I was a wreck!

» At school I was a really good rock climber. I’m not sure it had any bearing on my triathlon career, but I loved it and trained hard at it. I could even do a single-arm pull-up at one stage.

» One time, in Thailand, my teammate Scott DeFilippis and I set off to ride a new 100-mile route. We missed a turn and found ourselves lost, in extreme heat and humidity, having spent all our money on drinks and food. Eight hours and 145 miles later we made it home, very thirsty and hungry. But we saw some interesting parts of the country!

» Both my parents have competed in multiple Comrades Marathons and Dusi Canoe Marathons. They “get” what I put myself through, and that helps when dealing with the ups and downs of professional sport. They both still run, and there has been talk about them doing a 70.3 in the near future.

» I started racing without a watch a few years ago and I much prefer it. I have very good internal pacing and find that the clock disrupts that. Going without a watch allows me to get more in tune with my body, and in a race eight hours long (or less!) it is very important to listen to your body. The downside is that I am blissfully unaware of records and times whilst racing. But I don’t really race for time. The 7:59:59 was a cherry on top at Challenge Roth. The win was the real achievement.

RELATED PHOTOS: Behind The Scenes With Team TBB

Wildflower Video: James Cunnama Finish Line Interview