Lionel Sanders produced a personal best iron-distance time in the much-publicised Zwift Tri Battle Royale in Germany earlier this month, but he came away knowing there is still one man on an entirely different level.
The 33-year-old Canadian has made a point of seeking out Jan Frodeno in recent months, yearning for head-to-head combat with the the man currently acclaimed as the best long-distance racer on the planet.
Sanders got to see just how good the German is in their showdown in Allgäu on July 18 – his personal best of 7:43:28 was some 15 minutes slower than Frodeno, who set a new world record of 7:27:53.
While Lionel’s achievement of his best ever time just three weeks out from the traumas of IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene should not be underestimated, his takeaway was instead all about the improvement which is still required.
Speaking on his YouTube channel, he said: “It was a great experience, the whole week was great. I got to see Jan up close and personal. I got to see how he operates and thinks.
Lionel Sanders on Frodeno
“The big take-home certainly is that there are still levels to go. He is at a different level, obviously on a racecourse, you see that level but you don’t really see I think the level behind the scenes.
“He’s an exceptionally hard worker and he’s exceptionally talented but he also has an amazing process, an amazing team around him. I got to observe that first-hand and see that my team is doing great, I think I’m doing a good job but I think there is certainly more that we could be doing.
“We could be devoting ourselves more, we could be more professional, more serious about this. It takes seeing the different levels out there to be serious about that. If you just shy away from the best guys in the world then you never really kind of see what they’re doing and how they’re going about doing it and the level of commitment that they have.”
How the Tri Battle came about
While talk of a Frodeno vs Sanders head-to-head had only surfaced in the last month or two, Lionel revealed that Jan’s world-record bid had been in the works for a long time – it almost happened in 2020.
“The reality is this was in the works for over a year. Jan was going to do this world record attempt last year but then crashed, broke a rib or something and was unable to do it. So then it was replanned for this summer, and after Miami – even though I didn’t really actually push him any – he enjoyed the mental push of the possibility of being caught and pressured.
“So I think after that race he thought I would be a good person to have around to push him to another level and keep him honest on the day because an ironman is a long way to go, solo.
“That’s kind of how the head-to-head battle came about, but the reality was it was always Jan going to break the world record that he already possessed.
“I think from a sponsorship standpont it was probably more interesting to have a head-to-head component because Jan already possessed the world record.”