Lionel Sanders has been training with the enemy as he prepares for his big showdown with Gustav Iden at IRONMAN Florida on Saturday (November 6).
The 33-year-old Canadian will likely provide the biggest obstacle for the Norwegian two-time 70.3 World Champion when he makes his full-distance debut at Panama City Beach.
And Sanders has been able to get a close-up look at Gustav in training as the two men are both coached right now by Iden’s brother Mikal.
Iden and Sanders of course had been scheduled to lock horns at IRONMAN California late last month, before a ‘bomb cyclone’ caused that race to be cancelled just an hour before the start.
This time there will be no Jan Frodeno of course, but Iden’s debut, with Sanders and the likes of Cam Wurf lining up in opposition, still carries plenty of intrigue.
Lionel, speaking on his race week video on YouTube, said: “It’s a little weird seeing as we went through all the motions just what, how many days ago? Ten days ago we were in a totally different city on the other side of the country doing this.
Gustav the man to beat – Sanders
“I’m still having fun though, and I think that’s all that matters, and this is a great opportunity to test myself in a more head-to-head format. It’s not a very deep field, it will be a very individual race and of course we’ve got a guy in Gustav Iden who is going to be probably the one to beat for years to come, so I think it’s a great opportunity for us.”
Lionel has Florida history
Lionel has plenty of history when it comes to IRONMAN Florida – he made his PRO full-distance debut there in 2014, and became engaged there to his future wife Erin. When he compares 2021 to 2014 not surprisingly he sees a massive difference in where he is at.
“It’s amazing, the difference in perspective. The last time I was here was 2014 for my PRO debut. I didn’t even know to think to find a lap pool to swim in, to practice swimming, because I didn’t care about swimming at all, didn’t really practice it that much or believe it was important.
“And now I absolutely love swimming and I’ve become significantly more proficient, so it’s very cool to come back to a race many years later and see how your perspective is different.”
Florida the backup plan for Iden
Iden meanwhile made a cameo appearance on Lionel’s race week video, and he was relaxed and confident as he looked ahead to the race. He had been suffering from a cold in the days leading up to Sacramento so the extra time to recover should be a big benefit.
“I came to race California, so this was just a backup, but it’s a pretty good backup. I have been around the course and it’s nice. I’m actually feeling more prepared now than I did for California. So I think it’s gonna be good.
“I think I’m ranked over him (Lionel here) but he’s the one to beat.”