Eight from among the multitude of top professional athletes racing Challenge Bahrain gathered on stage on Thursday morning for a press conference to kick off the race week activities. In addition to a tangible buzz about the race itself, athletes were excited to learn that their race day efforts would be rewarded with a post-race party featuring live performances from rap music star Akin and legendary band Dire Straits. “I look at this lineup of athletes and it’s just amazing,” said Challenge Family CEO Zibi Szlufcik. “I think we will see an amazing race on this course, a chance to blow any speed records. And I hope that the guests at the after party will also blow you away!”
Here’s what the pro panel had to say in advance of Saturday’s highl- anticipated race.
Sebastian Kienle (GER)
On getting race ready again so soon after Kona.
“After Hawaii of course I celebrated and had a lot of work related travel, but I also figured out that Kona is not the end of the world for me. It’s just about the sport and enjoying it, and so I think I had more fun than ever preparing for this race. It was always my plan not to end the year with Kona. In the last few years I was always really fired up after Kona, and I think it’s important to take the breaks just when you’re really tired. I don’t know if I’m in the shape to be a factor, but I did do my best to try and be a factor. I’ve had a lot of races where I didn’t feel my best and then had a good race, so we will see. I think I am not in bad shape!”
On his picks for the men.
“It’s for sure Tim Don. He was third at 70.3 world champs, he has the legs for putting out one of the best races and he didn’t race Kona so he’s not tired from that. And of course Michael [Raelert]. He’s had a good comeback and he’s hungry for more. I think those two guys are the biggest factors for sure.”
Pete Jacobs (AUS)
On his excitement about the event.
“I’m excited to see a race with this many guys in it. I just met Tim Don on the bud on the way here for the first time. I was literally just like, ‘So who are you?’ His hair was all poofy and wild. I’d never met him before. And there’s a few other guys and girls like that. Jodie Stimpson, I just met her. So it’s not just come here and do a race, but it’s come here and meet other athletes that you respect. It’s really exciting, and then to get to be on the same start line as them as well, that’s really cool. It gives you that excitement and buzz like you had when you were young.”
On his fitness.
“It’s frustrating to not be in great shape, but at the same time, like with any race, you’ve just got to be happy with where you’re at and do the best you can on that day and accept it for what it is. I’d just be really happy with a top 10.”
Jodie Stimpson (GBR)
On her impending debut at the half distance.
“I’m not really known for my pacing in Olympic distance, so this is going to be a challenge. But to be honest, after Commonwealth Games I was quite drained, so now it’s been nice to get back to training. But I don’t think these girls will take it easy on me!”
Rachel Joyce (GBR)
On her impressions of Bahrain.
“It is my first time here, but it feels little bit like Abu Dhabi and I’ve spent a good amount of time there. The course looks like it’s set up to be really fast, and that’s sort of kept me going since Kona. I’ve had fun and jumped into some time trials, so I feel pretty mentally fresh. And I’m excited about the weekend also because we’ll see Ironman athletes mixing it up with 70.3 athletes and ITU athletes. I don’t think anyone really knows what’s going to happen. So I’ll just throw my hat into the ring and see how it goes!”
Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)
On her fitness post-Kona.
“I’d be lying if I stood up here and said I was in great shape for this event. After Kona it’s always hard to get back up again right away, and I always like to take every opportunity afforded to me after the race, some work related and some just holidays and celebrating. It’s important to celebrate the big wins. So long story, I’m not in my best shape or anywhere near it. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get beaten pretty badly!”
On the competition.
“I’m happy to put out a couple names. Helle Frederiksen–she’s focused on this race. Bella Luxford has come off a couple wins in Australia. the ITU girls will be great, it being a fast course. I also know that Rachel and Caroline will be really fast given that they’ve been training in Oz. I still don’t put myself in that category. Top 10 would be amazing!”
Caroline Steffen (SUI)
On her picks for the women.
“I don’t want to pick any names because the list is just way too long. Even when Rinny says she’s not in good shape, sorry but I don’t believe her! I know she’s always coming from the back. With all the girls here, it’s going to be a nice mix-up and a bit surprising as well.”
Dirk Bockel (LUX)
On whether this is his A-race, having missed Kona due to injury.
“There are more important races on the calendar but this is the biggest race for me. Whether or not I’m recovered, we’ll see on Saturday.”
On the competition.
“It’s not as easy as to pick one or two names–it’s the best field ever assembled. It’s the end of the year and there will be people that are really tired, and there will be people like me that were injured early and are now coming back. I think anyone in this field that has taken it seriously will be a danger. I hope I can contribute to a good show!”
Michael Raelert (GER)
On returning to the sport after a long time out due to injury.
“I realized everybody goes through these down times, like with injury. But I also figured out what’s really important in the time away from triathlon. For me, it’s racing. Not even having the best race ever, but just being here again. I’m really happy to see everyone again, all the guys and all the girls, and to have a chance to be a part of this again. I’m so happy to race against these top guys. I’m just really proud to be here.”