Sam Long was runner-up at the IRONMAN 70.3 Worlds last year but is under no illusions as to what it will take to move to the top step of the podium next week.
‘Fresh’ from a first IRONMAN World Championship crown at Kona, Gustav Iden heads back to St George looking to make it three 70.3 World Championship wins in succession.
The Norwegian produced a spectacular display 12 months ago, moving to the front on the bike and then surging clear on the run – with American star Long taking second place, just under four minutes adrift.
Picking his battles
One likely advantage for Long this time on a course that’s largely similar, especially for the swim and bike legs, is the fact that he took the decision to swerve Hawaii this season.
Talking on IRONMAN’s live coverage of 70.3 Waco at the weekend he explained: “I sat out Kona to focus on St George and I think that’s the state of racing now, you’ve got to pick your battles.
“I’ve had a lot of battles this year but I’m charged up and fired up and things are looking really good.”
Long has had three half-distance victories already this season (CLASH Miami, Challenge Puerto Varas and 70.3 Gydnia) and made the podium last time out at the PTO’s US Open in Dallas.
Bar has been raised
But looking ahead to St George, Long knows he’ll face a raft of other leading contenders, including Norwegian pair Iden and Kristian Blummenfelt.
And referencing that, he added: “I’ve just got to execute on the day and take care of business and I expect it to be a whole level up in terms of racing, even compared to last year. That’s just the level of the sport these days.
“Being a little bit better than I was last year won’t be enough. I have to be a lot better.
“There are so many great guys and it’s going to be some battle.”