Third on her Challenge Roth debut in 2021 and runner-up last year, there’s only one question to kick-off our interview with Fenella Langridge – can she claim first place this weekend?
“Yeah, that’s the aim, and I think I’m fit enough and healthy enough to do it. But we all know triathlon racing and we can see the calibre of athletes that are here this weekend trying to aim for that top spot as well.
“Obviously I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to absolutely try and be there, but to get anywhere on the podium in this type of race, with the potential of a world record on the cards, it would be a good place to be.”
‘It’s a whole different story’
I pointed out that after her breakthrough year in 2022, it’s a reflection of her standing that she was one of the five women on the stage at the pre-race press conference, alongside Kona champions Daniela Ryf, Anne Haug and Chelsea Sodaro as well as Laura Philipp.
“I was thinking about that in the pool the other day when Daniela just dropped in my lane,” she admitted. “I thought, okay, I remember the first time I raced her in the 70.3 Worlds and she absolutely flew past me on the bike. And going from that race compared to where I am now, it’s a whole different story.
“And I don’t think the way I used to think there. They have a few more titles under their belt than me at the moment but I feel I belong up there. And it’s taken me a few years, or maybe last year and the beginning of this year, to really think like that.
“I’ve always wanted to be the best, and so you’ve kind of got to think like that to get there. I didn’t come into my first year as a professional thinking I was going to win but that’s always the aim.
“It’s about improving and keeping an open mind because evolution happens and the sport’s changed so much. It’s just these last two or three years that I’ve been racing at this kind of level, so it’s about continuing to move in that direction.”
All about Roth
Langridge is currently #13 in the world rankings after a solid but unspectacular start to the season which included a second place behind Laura Philipp at IRONMAN South Africa.
And she explained: “This year hasn’t been without ups and downs and building to any race, you’re always likely to have that. But since we started training for South Africa in January, I haven’t had any chunks of training off from swim, bike or run. It’s been the most smooth in terms of 20 to 25 hours every week since then. There’s been the odd cold or illness but on the whole it has been pretty good, which leaves me in a good mental state going into this weekend.”
Fenella openly admits that Roth has been the absolute focus of this season – as it was last year. She’s not even looking at how she’ll plot her race schedule to Kona until Sunday’s race is done and dusted.
And seeing the stellar line-up confirmed back in March has heightened that mindset: “I think knowing the calibre of the field only spurs you on in training and to make it a real target. I think long distance does suit me. As much as I’d love to go and win a 100km PTO race, I just think it’s not me at the moment. I’ll be there or thereabouts, but I don’t think I’ll be winning so I may as well focus on the longer distance, like the Roths and Konas.”
‘The race is where you come alive’
One of the abiding images of last year’s race was Langridge cycling in the lead up a packed Solar Hill, arms pumping along with those of the packed crowd in what resembled a Tour de France mountain stage.
She was in her element in a race that is clearly a perfect fit for her engaging personality but what does she remember of that? “Yeah, I didn’t plan it. It’s just something that was really organic and natural and maybe the energy or the atmosphere just brought that out of me.
“And it really was an iconic moment of the year that helped progress the rest of the season for me. Pros and age groupers have said they saw the passion and love for how you can race triathlon differently instead of just head down focused.
“Obviously I am a very focused and driven athlete but at the end of the day, the race is where you come alive and you can perform. And that’s what we’re here to do. And that probably got the best out of me and is maybe why I’ve come back again, to hopefully get that extra 10% that will hopefully get me that top step.”
If that’s going to happen, what will be the process to get to that point?
“The ideal plan is to lead from tape to tape. And if I can swim as I know I’ve been swimming, I should have a good lead, especially fingers crossed that it’s looking like it’s non-wetsuit, which will suit me. It’s a truer reflection of a pure swimmer but if it is wetsuit, it is what it is.
If there’s a swimmer with me then it would probably be Lisa [Norden] but I think we’re smart enough to know to work together.
“So hopefully I have a good lead, then just stick to my game plan. And hope the other girls are messing around behind me, not sure what to do and hopefully playing a bit of cat and mouse so I’ve got that space to play with at the front. But I know that they’re phenomenal athletes and if they catch me, hopefully I can at least arrive with them all together into T2.”
Langridge had a five-minute buffer at the start of the run last year and with another year of progress under her belt and even against a stronger depth of field, she looks primed to make her presence felt again.