First in Vegas, fourth in Kona, 14th in Maui – it’s been quite a career for Germany’s latest wünderkind…
Racing Maui so soon after Kona last year, what were your pre-race hopes?
I didn’t know what to expect. I had some bad luck with a stuck chain, but that’s part of racing off-road. It was hard, honest racing – perfect.
You said a top-10 finish was a realistic goal in Kona last year, so how did it feel to place fourth?
I was super happy. Although after a puncture. Everybody’s taking such high risks, so it pays not to give up before the race is truly over.
Hype focus’ on your bike strength. Do your tactics revolve around the bike?
I wanted to take one step after another. First a good swim, then see what’s going on during the bike. I was in a perfect group with Ronnie Schildknecht, Timo Bracht and Andi Raelert. But I couldn’t hold back very long. I tried to catch the front before the turnaround. I had a feeling this would be important.
You rode with bike supremo Chris Lieto before Kona. What advice did he give you?
Start going hard when everybody else starts to suffer; don’t attack when they’re all in their comfort zone; be patient – sometimes you go hard for 50km and don’t make up a second, then within 10km you gain two minutes; build the race to your own strengths.
And you train with another biking master, Thomas Hellriegel. What did you learn from each other?
From Thomas, the meaning of the word ‘commitment’. From me? That volume isn’t everything!
What do you think it is that makes your nation so strong at this sport?
I had a lot of role models to choose from as a kid. Plus the media attention is way higher in our country if we have good results, and we have a good short-course development programme.
It’s well documented that your swim is your weakest discipline. Will that be your winter focus?
It’s been my focus for the last 10 years! But that’s exactly the problem with tri – I shouldn’t only focus on the swim during the winter but also in the summer. I did a big swim block in Kona after Vegas – it paid off.
Lives: Karlsruhe and Knittlingen, Germany
4th, Ironman World Champs, 2012
2012 World Ironman 70.3 Champion
2nd, European Ironman Champs, 2012