High-stakes poker: Patrick Lange on the big showdown in St George

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This week in our ‘Road To St George’ series, two-time IRONMAN World Champion Patrick Lange joins six-time Kona king Mark Allen to look ahead to the huge showdown in May. The German superstar is currently preparing in the Canary Islands.

The delayed 2021 IRONMAN World Championship will be a game of high-stakes poker when the world’s greatest triathletes line up in Utah on the first Saturday in May.

The eventual winner will not be decided just by athletic prowess, but by strategy as well. Nobody knows this better than German great Patrick Lange – who reigned in Kona in both 2017 and 2018.

Lange on St George strategy

When asked by Allen whether athletic preparation or a strategic gameplan will be more important on May 7, he answered simply: “I think it will be a combination of both.

“The biggest elevation gains on the bike there are made on the last section of the bike course. So you have to be experienced and have to read the race and maybe hold back a little bit in the beginning.

“Obviously not losing too much time to the front but I think if somebody goes mad in the first 20-30kms I think he is gonna have to pay for it.

“So yeah, you have to play your cards in the best way possible and you have to keep something in the tank for the final push. The run is more or less the same game of course – if you blow up at 35km it’s not a good idea.”

Lange, like most of the world’s top stars, raced sparingly in 2021 as triathlon attempted to tiptoe out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He notched impressive wins at IRONMAN Tulsa and Challenge Roth, and it is the former which gives him great heart for 2022.

Victory that day came with a winning margin of more than five minutes, over a stacked field which included the likes of Daniel Bækkegård, Joe Skipper and Sam Long.

Lange explained: “First of all I’m pretty happy I raced in Tulsa because it turned out THE best race from the whole of the last year. I think it was the best field when it comes down to the professional athletes

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“I was really happy to take the win there. I think I could prove I made a big step forward back to normal I guess. I ran a 2:36 there which has been a goal performance-wise for me for quite a long time now.

“So that gives the confidence to know that I am able to compete with the very best in the world, because obviously there were a lot of really strong athletes.”

There are new kids on the Ironman block now – particularly the Norwegian prodigies Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden. Lange though knows he must focus on himself.

“Of course you have some unknowns like the Norwegian guys that you have to have on your list. Obviously Jan [Frodeno] didn’t race much last year. So yes, it’s just exciting, and the only thing I can do is prepare my best, look at myself and try to extract the most out of my possibilities and go out and race hard.”

Course will suit me – Lange

Lange was upbeat as he looked ahead to May, believing the course in Utah will suit him.

“In St George we will have a hilly run course that will suit guys like me that are maybe on the lighter side, and especially having good running technique,” he said.

“We worked on our running technique to be efficient for almost 10, 12 years now – to be as efficient as possible also in the downhills.

“I think that will hopefully make a big difference, running downhill but not carrying so much weight uphill but being really really efficient downhill even after 30km in the run after a really, really hard bike ride.

“I think the bike course will be the one with the most metres of climbing in total that I have ever done so it’s going to be really interesting and exciting.”

Lange has previous experience of racing in St George, having finished 21st over 70.3 in 2014 – more than 13 minutes behind the winner Frodeno. In triathlon terms though, almost a lifetime ago as Patrick is quick to point out.

“2014 is a long of time ago and a lot of things have changed,” he said.

“I have a really experienced team around me and we will arrive two weeks before the race to check everything, to analyse the course, to be the best prepared.

“Also I am in Gran Canaria right now – very well known amongst cyclists as probably the hardest island to climb. You can have 25km climbing on your bike that does not stop.

“That’s actually why we chose this island to prepare in a really hot, dry climate just to be prepared for Utah in the best way possible.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
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