Saturday, February 23, 2008

Top female triathletes say right strategy is key to victory


LANGKAWI: The top female professional triathletes competing in the Ironman Langkawi Triathlon 2008 today believe that the race can only be won by utilising brains and not brawn alone.

They feel that a proper tactical approach, and not pushing all out from the starting point, will be crucial to winning in Langkawi.

The 2003 women’s runner-up Belinda Granger of Australia cites herself as the best example of failing to win the competition after going all out in the race five years ago.

The Langkawi Ironman requires a triathlete to complete a 3.8km swim, 180km cycling and run a 42.2km full marathon course.

“Being unable to win here in 2003 hurt me so much that I swore at the time not to return to Langkawi. The race here is a different kettle of fish than any other Ironman competitions around the world.

“Because of the heat in Langkawi, a triathlete who decides to be too competitive will only risk suffering burnout during the run. I learnt the hard way five years ago after pushing myself too hard during the cycling leg. I am older and smarter now, and believe I have the correct strategy to challenge for the top spot tomorrow,” said Granger.

Holland's Yvonne Van Vlerken, who is still searching for her first Ironman title despite clinching several other high profile international victories, also feels that the key to success lies in the crucial marathon leg.

“It is important to have a proper marathon run and not struggle, especially in the final 20km. I have been told not to spend too much energy on the bicycle here and I intend to follow the useful advice.

“Even if I don’t win in Langkawi, it would still be a good result for me if I can clinch one of the qualifying berths for the World Championships in Hawaii,” said Van Vlerken, the 2006 world duathlon champion.

Since most of the repeat competitors here have cautioned against cycling too hard, American Hillary Biscay intends to utilise the opening swimming leg to her advantage.

“My strength is in the water, and I intend to push to the front to try and earn an early lead before the cycling starts. Due to the extreme weather conditions here, I do not expect any competitor to attempt to break any records,” said Biscay.

Besides fatigue and heat exhaustion, dehydration has also been cited as one of the main problems confronting the participants.

Czech Petr Vabrousek, who is competing in the men’s professional category and has not missed a Langkawi Ironman competition since 2003, said the dehydration kicks in early during the swimming leg itself.

“In European Ironman competitions, the water is freezing cold when we swim. Here in Langkawi, the water is warm and since the dehydration kicks in early, it can be very exhausting,” said Vabrousek, who only had five days to acclimatise since arriving from wintry Europe.

The 690 competitors will be flagged off at the Jetty Point in Kuah beginning from 7.30am, with the winner expected to cross the finish line more than eight hours later. A competitor is required to complete the gruelling race within 17 hours to be certified as an Ironman.

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