Laura Siddall would have loved to have been racing at Challenge Roth this weekend and looking to add to her superb record of two runner-up spots and three fourth places.
Unfortunately she was involved in a shocking accident halfway through the bike leg at IRONMAN Brazil last month and suffered a slight brain bleed.
She’s currently recovering, telling us: “Yeah, I’m doing all right. It’s been pretty slow, which I think for any athlete is frustrating, but obviously I’m very conscious of the nature of the head injury.”
We’ll update in more detail on her progress so far – and those frustrations and challenges – in a detailed interview here next week.
Thankfully she was able to travel to Roth to take a full and integral part with the Challenge Family team in an event that means so much to her.
We sat down with her after the athletes’ press conference, which she admitted was “quite hard to watch at times.”
She explained: “I was feeling like I actually do want to be racing, but to race against the women on the start list this year, you have to be top of your game – but it would been great to test myself with those girls.
“But I come back here every year just because I’ve built up great friendships and relationships. The Challenge team have been so good to me over the years.”
In common with so many, Laura cited the homestay culture of the race which has seen her stay in close touch with families and what are now friends – a process that is continuing this week.
“It’s going to be incredible”
But away from the serious matter of her injury, who does she think will come out on top in what is an incredibly stacked field featuring Anne Haug, Daniela Ryf and Chelsea Sodaro – who between them have won all the IRONMAN World Championships since 2015 – as well as Laura Philipp, Fenella Langridge and Lisa Norden?
“We haven’t really had the matchup of Daniela, Anne, Chelsea and Laura Philipp outside of Kona. Throw in Fenella and Lisa as well and I think that’s really credit to the team in Roth and how much they’ve worked for the event over the years.
It does remind me a little bit of several years ago, where Rachel Joyce and Mirinda Carfrae used to battle it out in both Roth and Kona.
“This year, having such a number of top pro women on the start list, it’s going to be incredible.”
And as to which of them will cross the finish line first, Siddall added: “It’s really hard because Anne Haug has just had two incredible performances on this course. Last year’s was good, but I actually think the year before it was never really given the credit it deserved, it was never really recognised as being as good as it was.
“Several reasons. It was sort of coming off the back of COVID and the bike course was short, but she should have beaten Chrissie’s record that year and it was never really acknowledged, I felt.
“You’re stupid if you ever write Daniela Ryf off. We’ve seen that too many times over the past couple of years. She has more races where it’s up and down than she used to, but I think, again, the standard’s going up and more people are challenging her.
“I think Chelsea is a racer, she’s a big game-day performer and I believe she has had her sights set on the race, she’s not coming here to make up numbers.
“Laura Phillip, I’m not going to say is a dark horse, but hasn’t got a world title but she’s won a lot of times. I think she’ll be fired up. She’s a fantastic runner. She’s strong on the bike, too, and she won’t be too far behind in the swim.
“Fenella could surprise everybody and win because she is probably going to be first out of water – she was leading last year before Anne had to run her down. I think there’ll be more people chasing on the bike, obviously, because of the depth of field, so I don’t think it will pan out quite the same way.”
All of which illustrates how tricky it is to predict a winner, as even Laura admits: “I’m not answering the question am I! I’m doing a great job of describing all their strengths and weaknesses!
“Right, I’m going to go Anne Haug for the win again. And then Chelsea second and Laura third.”