Daniel Bækkegård is relishing the fact he will face a “stacked start list” as he bids to defend his title at IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai on Saturday.
The 25-year-old claimed victory in the Middle East event in 2021, and will face a tough assignment as he looks to hang onto the crown.
Olympic Champion Kristian Blummenfelt heads the opposition while short-course star Marten Van Riel is another fascinating contender to throw into the mix.
“The fact that we have a pretty stacked start list is very nice, because there’s a lot of races on the IRONMAN circuit where the start list is not that deep,” said Bækkegård at Thursday’s press conference.
A real battle awaits
“But here we actually have a real battle for the title. Coming into a season with the two IRONMAN World Championships and a lot of other high-profile races as well, it’s nice to set the tone of how we are hopefully going to change the middle and long distance game.”
Another thing Daniel is looking forward to on Saturday is once again enjoying the challenge provided by the course in Dubai.
“The fact that you have to keep the pedal to the metal here for the whole 90km in another ball game compared to other courses.
“Normally we have more challenging courses when it comes to cornering, technical stuff or climbing… but here were have to be as aero as possible for one hour and 50, and that can do some damage for the run, that’s for sure.”
Pressure? What pressure
Saturday will be the first time that Daniel has returned to a race as defending champion, so will that bring added pressure?
“Not necessarily pressure. As Kristian said we are all here to test the form going into St George so I would more put it like it is a process towards performing on a high level in May. Obviously you want to start out performing great here in Dubai.
“I think it’s the first time I’m coming back as defending champion at a race and it’s a new thing you have to learn how to cope with, but especially having some of the ITU guys and Kristian here, it’s really not something I think about because it’s really just the race you have to take care of.”