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In terms of women to watch at Sunday’s Challenge Roth, Caroline Steffen is certainly right on top. The 2013 defending champion has fresh memories of her fantastic victory here, plus things certainly seem to be clicking with her new coach, Chris “Macca” McCormack; she started out the 2014 season, her first under his guidance, with a win at Ironman Melbourne. But with an exceptionally competitive field queued up in Roth–many of the same women Steffen will face at the Ironman World Championship in October–I was curious to know how she felt heading into this year’s race.
Triathlete.com: As the defending champion in Roth, you’re certainly a woman with a target on your back. This year’s field is especially competitive, and in particular you, Rinny, Rachel and Yvonne have all sort of played musical chairs on various podiums at various big races over the past few years. So I have two questions:
What scares you most about racing against these specific women?
What excites you most about racing against them?
Steffen: I’m not a scared racer, ever. Isn’t it exactly what we are looking for in female triathlon–racing against the best in our sport and showing the world how exciting and fascinating our sport can be? It’s going to be great. No, I mean it’s going to be awesome, this year’s race in Roth. I love to race these girls and can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.
Triathlete.com: Going into Ironman Melbourne earlier this year, all eyes were also on you–as the returning champion but also because it was your first big race following a change in coaches from Brett Sutton to Macca. Based on your victory there and your recent win at the Philippines 5150, the change seems to be working well for you. What are some differences in the way you are training now, with Macca as your mentor?
Steffen: Chris is an athlete like me. It feels like he understands my thoughts and certain moves I do just better then any other coach I’ve had. He considers and coaches me from a different perspective. Chris’ commitment to the new job as my coach and mentor is priceless. I know he’s there for me whenever I need him. I’m more than grateful for this unique opportunity he has given me. Brett as my coach was the boss and he made all decisions concerning training, racing and travel. With Chris’ support now, I have more control over the planning and outcomes. I’m a happy trainer and racer again.
Triathlete.com: What will it mean to you to have your coach in Roth for support?
Steffen: I always felt kind of left behind and lonely in a race. To know coach Chris is out there to support me makes me feel a bit more safe. It’s a new experience I’m looking very much forward to.
Triathlete.com: Specific to the bike course in Roth, what are a few tips that you can pass along to any age-group athletes racing there for the first time?
Steffen: Oh, it is one of my favorite bike courses ever. All the needs and wants you are looking for in a race, you will get them at Challenge Roth. My advice is, enjoy the rolling hills and suck in the energy you get from the crazy German fans at the Solar Berg. And maybe don’t stop at the “Bier Meile” [Beer Mile]–that will cost you too much time.
Triathlete.com: In terms of another Roth tip, assuming that you are a regular at Bäckerei Schmidt [Roth’s renowned local bakery], what are some of your favorite items there?
Steffen: At Bäckerei Schmidt you will see me every day–but only after the race. It’s a kind of self-protection. I can’t say no to all these yummy German treats!