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Having won the Ironman World Championship for the past two years, Patrick Lange knows exactly what he has to do to retain his title this Saturday—and he also knows who could stand in his way. The fleet-footed German appeared calm and confident at this morning’s press conference, flustered only by the Big Island’s mosquitoes and never by questions about his form or the bullseye on his back.
As the first man to break the eight-hour mark here, Lange knows a thing or two about how to unleash a tactically-perfect race, but he also knows there is a long line of men ready to end his reign. Although some of the greatest threats come from his countrymen, namely Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle, Lange is quick to praise the strength in depth of the German pro field, which boasts a total of 13 athletes in this year’s race. “It shows us just how much the sport is growing in Germany,” he says.
Germans aside, Lange points out that there’ll be another man on his radar: the two-time Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee. Although it’ll be Brownlee’s first time racing on the Big Island, Lange knows better than to underestimate an athlete of his caliber—and he’s taken time to do his homework.
“Brownlee is definitely a man to watch,” says Lange. “He has had great races all over the planet. I did some of my Kona preparation in The Woodlands in Texas with some friends of Brownlee’s (notably British ITU racer turned long course athlete Will Clarke), so I was able to get a little bit of an insight into him and I now know enough that he’ll be one to watch.”
And then there’s Lionel Sanders, whom Lange had a great battle with en route to his 2017 Kona victory. Lange says: “He is definitely on form and I like the way he is handling the lead-up to the race this time around. He is not so outgoing and it seems like he’s had a shift in his attitude. It’s been pretty interesting to see this development over the last year. He might well be up there in this race.”
However the race unfolds, Lange knows his place to win it is in the infamous Energy Lab. While many racers fear and dread this hellishly hot and humid part of the run course, Lange relishes it.
“The part of the race I am most excited about is the Energy Lab because that’s where the races are decided. I have fought really hard in the Energy Lab in previous years; it’s where I’ve won the race. For me, that’s the most important part.”
While some have raised questions over Lange’s form throughout the 2019 season so far, there can be no discounting an athlete who has the talent, fitness, and mental strength of this man. He references last year’s race, a race which started with a lackluster swim for him (in which he lost three minutes to the leaders), but turned into a record-breaking day atop the sport’s greatest podium.
He adds: “I had not expected that performance. It just taught me that you always have to keep pushing and trying until the race is over.”