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Gloves are off as Max Stapley and ‘UFC’ short-course stars step up in distance

Max Stapley with his own unique take on the short course versus long course debate.

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“If the long-course guys wanted to do a World Series, they’d get destroyed.”

That was Max Stapley‘s take ahead of a couple of intriguing weekends which will see short-course athletes, including himself, stepping up to 70.3 distance.

‘He’s going to smash them’

There are a host of Norwegians – and we’re not talking Kristian Blummenfelt or Gustav Iden – set to shake things up at IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells on Sunday and then next week in Bahrain the likes of Stapley, Dan Dixon and Emil Holm will test the waters at middle-distance.

But the reverse of long-course athletes dropping down to WTCS and Super League, bar a few high-profile exceptions, is far rarer.

And with good reason according to Stapley, who won over a hybrid ‘Olympic-plus’ distance at the Laguna Phuket Triathlon recently.

Ever insightful and entertaining in equal measure, he says on the latest Talking Triathlon podcast, embedded below: “I mean no offence – they’re great at what they do – but I just find it funny how the short-course guys don’t get the respect for how good they are.

“The cohort of men and women that race short course are so capable and I think you’ll see them do really well [at Indian Wells]. I genuinely think that if [men’s one-two from 2022] of Sam Long and Jackson Laundry think that it’s going to be a retake of last year, I think they’re mistaken.

“I think Vetle Thorn is an incredible runner, an incredible rider. Casper Stornes gets spanked in short course in the water, but he’s going to smash them. So you could easily see a kind of Norwegian armada off the front.”

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Kudos to ‘No Limits’ and others

With host Tim Ford – like many of us – saying he’s a big fan of those like Lionel Sanders at Arena Games this year who do take the plunge and put themselves out there by racing at the shorter distances, Stapley added: “Yeah, and not to tear them down. If they want to come, come.

I feel like sometimes long course and short course is kind of like boxing and UFC.

“The long course guys are like the boxers, and they’re like, ‘yeah, I’m the baddest man on the planet’.

“And then Francis Ngannou from the UFC is like, all right, mate, come in the Octagon. They’re like, oh, no, let’s do a boxing match. Like, you’re not about it when there’s jujitsu and kicking and stuff, you just want to use your fists.

“I feel like that’s what the long-course guys are like! Sometimes they’re ‘we’ll take you, bro. Come and race us’. Well, how about you come and race the World Series, pal?”

And Stapley is looking forward to his own step up to 70.3 next Friday – and is predicting fireworks in Bahrain: “For me it’s a bit of an adventure. I think a few of the short-course lads are going to race this like a short-course race. So I kind of feel sorry for any of the long-course guys there.

Get ready to get your legs ripped off boys – and arms especially!

“I genuinely think this could be the fastest swim / bike you’ve ever seen in a 70.3. I’m not sure about the run because we could tear each other to smithereens and then just jog it in for a 1:20.”

Great stuff from Stapley who also discusses our recent interview with Blummenfelt where the men’s Olympic champion said he thinks he’ll have to run ’28:40-something’ to be in with a chance of retaining his title in Paris next year. Stapley reckons it will need to be even quicker than that at sub-28:30 – and even then feels the likes of Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde are now in pole position despite finishing second and third to him in Tokyo.

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  
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