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Prior to Sunday’s race, we had a chance to chat with five-time World Champion Craig Alexander and receive an insider’s preview of his new helmet and race kit. The custom-painted helmet, provided by Alexander’s sponsor Road ID, sports several unique design details including the years of Alexander’s five World Championship wins, his Kona course record time (8:03:56, set in 2011), the Australian flag, handprints from his wife and two children (Nerida, Lucy and Austin), laurel leaves and a fierce black crow.
Triathlete.com: Last year you had planned to race Ironman Port Macquarie, but had to withdraw due to illness. Obviously there was a great deal of hype around you racing an Ironman in your home country, and it had to be devastating to pull the plug. Does racing here feel a bit like redemption in terms of another chance to race at home?
CA: It does feel nice to be able to race at home. But to be honest, I would rather not have had to race another Ironman. I haven’t raced since Kona so in essence I’m doing two Ironman’s back-to-back. It gets harder at this age to race two Ironmans that close together. It’s an endurance sport – it’s about longevity – so I don’t like the points-chasing scenario where people have to cram in another Ironman. But it is what it is, and I just have to work within that framework. Ideally I would have liked to have a lead up race or two but it hasn’t worked out that way. But I’m glad to be racing at home for sure. It’s exciting. And no disrespect to Port – I won a few long-course titles there – but I think this is a step up in terms of elevating our sport into more of the mainstream media consciousness. Melbourne is a big sporting city so I think it’s definitely a step up for the sport. And the race is a regional championship so it’s attracted an unbelievable field. I think there’s going to be a lot of media interest – within triathlon but also some of the wider media. I know certainly the Melbourne media are really getting behind the race.
Triathlete.com: You’re widely touted as the favorite to win, and with good reason, coming off back-to-back World Champ victories in both the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 distances in 2011. But you don’t seem to be one to get swept up in the façade of invincibility and ego. How confident do you feel?
CA: There’s no such thing as a favorite in Ironman racing. Because what happened last year is irrelevant. All that matters is what training you’ve done in the last three or four months. What matters and what people need to understand is that this is a regional championship with a lot of Kona qualifying points, on par with Frankfurt and New York. So people who really want to go to Kona are in great shape, because this is their chance to score maximum points. There are going to be people you’ve heard of and people the so-called experts haven’t tipped, all who will be in great shape to get those qualifying points. I think I’m in very good shape. I’ve trained well. I mean I’ve been very busy but I knew that would be the case and I took that into consideration and started back training a bit earlier. I’ve got no excuses. The rule says I just have to finish to validate, but I don’t think like that. I’m here to race. It’s a great field. I mean I can understand why people want to label a favorite, and that’s fine – I guess in light of what I’ve done in my career I’m happy to wear that tag of warrant for a long time. But the truth is, when the gun goes off what you’ve done in the past counts for little. What you’ve done in the last three months of training counts for everything. It’s going to be competitive – that’s what people should expect. There’s not going to be a runaway winner.
Triathlete.com: How do you feel about potentially running 26.2 miles into a headwind?
CA: I’m a glass half full kind of guy and I’m thinking it’s going to be a tailwind for the whole run! But you prepare for everything. And that would be interesting – I wouldn’t mind at all actually. There are always positives – when you have a headwind it cools you a lot better. Not that cooling is going to be too much of an issue here, but I’ll take whatever I get. I never worry too much about the conditions other than to try and prepare with the right clothes and that sort of thing. Everyone’s saying this will be a super quick course and it could be, but it could also be a very difficult course. I think you need to be prepared for either end of that spectrum. I always think it adds something to have it tough. As much as it’s nice to ride and run with a tailwind, it’s more of a challenge certainly if it’s a bit tougher.
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