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Lionel Sanders on ‘the IRONMAN year’ and his plans for 2022

Lionel Sanders calls it ‘the IRONMAN year’ as well he should – the Canadian’s brutal schedule in the summer of 2021 was as tough as it gets.

‘No Limits’ took in four full-distance races in around three months – as well as competing in the inaugural Collins Cup in Samorin. In his mind, ‘the IRONMAN year’ was a success.

In the latest post on his YouTube channel – as fascinating and honest ever – he revealed why he won’t be heading to IRONMAN California on October 24 to face Frodeno, Iden et al – and what his plans are for 2022.

Lionel’s final attempt at the full distance in 2021 came at IRONMAN Chattanooga last month, where he finished a distant second to Britain’s Joe Skipper. Prior to that he had limped home following nutrition issues in Coeur d’Alene in June, locked horns with Frodeno in the Tri Battle Royale in July, and claimed second behind Cam Wurf in Copenhagen in August.


I’m not competitive right now – Sanders

As he reflected on his performance in Tennessee, he reasoned: “I feel like there is no need for me to go to IRONMAN California because I am not competitive right now. I feel like I need to do some work behind the scenes, to be competitive. Power numbers are pretty good – I think there is more to be had – the numbers are good but I am not riding well.

“This was the lowest reading power meter I have had, I’ve compared it to my other meters, so I am riding very good power and I am not going anywhere, so that has to be diagnosed and solved.

“I’m at a point where I don’t have to do races – I love to race, but I’m not going to race for the sake of racing, I want to be competitive and I am not competitive right now.

“It’s two races in a row where I haven’t even been in the thick of it. Against Joe I’m not even in the ballpark and that’s not fun you know. I’m an athlete and I want to be competitive and deep in side I know I am, it is in there, but I’m not – it’s not that fun.

“You’re just going through the motions, that’s why I had goals in the race created for myself in the event that if this happened it was a win for me – and it was a win, the way I executed was a win.”


Looking ahead to 2022

While Chattanooga may have told Sanders it was time to shut it down from a full-distance perspective for 2021, he does see much brighter things on the horizon – notably the rescheduled 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in St George next May.

“When it all comes together, and I figure everything out, I think I can be competitive,” he said.

“So with the May World Championships in St George I don’t think there can be any better opportunity for me to be competitive in a World Champs – I love that course, I love that place – so I am just going to go away and become better particularly technically and aerodynamically, and power wise, and continue to own my run, and continue to get better at swimming, that’s what I’m going to do.

“I have a team now, who I listen to, so I mean me personally I am going to do nothing, I’m going to hand it off to people that I trust who are professionals.

“I’m going to go out and ride with some pro cyclists, I’m not sure who, maybe Cameron Wurf is coming back to town soon, so I think I might go do some riding with him – learn to ride the bike a bit better.”

One thing Lionel is delighted about is having spots for St George in May and Kona in October already locked up.

“I’m happy that finally, after three years or four years or whatever, I am not going to have to do an IRONMAN next year to get a Kona spot.

“I’ll actually just be able to just do what I did when I did my best racing, do a lot of 70.3s, focus on getting fast and just do the IRONMAN World Champs and now I have a much better sense of what I need to do nutritionally, pacing wise, training wise in order to be competitive.

While we likely won’t see Lionel taking on any more IRONMANs this year, it’s still possible we might see him in action somewhere before the end of 2021.

“I wouldn’t mind doing one more race this year, a rust buster, something in December and that’s all I can really say on the matter – I used to be able to tell you the plans for the next six months because I wrote all the training, but I think I exhausted how far I could go with that.”

Stuart Dick
Written by
Stuart Dick
Stuart is a graduate of the University of Sunderland with a masters' degree in Sports Journalism. He spends a lot of his time running and cycling around West Yorkshire, England.
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