Craig Alexander Interview Part 2

Here's part two of our interview with Craig Alexander. Crowie talks Macca, the rest of the season and why he's looking forward to race Lance...

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220: With the sub-8hr time, was that something you’ve had an eye one? Obviously, the priority is to win, but it must have felt really good to go sub-8?
Craig Alexander: Mate, it felt amazing, because the time thing always amazes me, the credence people give to it because all courses are different, you know, some courses are faster, some are slower, some are hilly, some are hot, but it something that people always talk about, ‘the sub-8hr club’ so yeah, from that perspective, it’s nice to be in it. One thing that was satisfying was after the race I was saying that the marathon course was IAAF certified, so I can use that run time as a qualifier for Boston or New York if I want, because it’s the old Melbourne Marathon course, too, which used to be a point-to-point run.

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It was satisfying to know that I did that time on an accurate course, and I’ve become a member of an elite club. The main thing is, like you said, is to win, and even more important than winning, I think, is just performing well. You can’t always win, but if you put in a good performance it’s always very satisfying. I must say, though, when I saw the clock, and the marathon time as well I though that it was nice to dip under 2:40 in the marathon and it’s nice to dip under eight hours on a course that the organisers prided themselves on making a legitimate length. I’m not gonna say I’m not happy about it, yeah it’s great to be part of the sub-8 club.

Did you enjoy the course? Well, as much as you can when you’re racing that hard!
Yeah I did. I mean, the first bit of the swim was tricky because it was so dark, but, the bike ride, you come out of T1, you ride about 1500 metres and then you get on this freeway, which is beautiful smooth road. It’s not flat, it’s undulating, and there’s only one section that’s a big downhill when you go through the tunnel so you can sort of get in a tuck on the way down, but then it’s like a 10% climb out of it for a kilometre.

But the road was just immaculate, a brand new freeway, it’s only like 2-3 years old. I think the main thing was it was fast because there was no wind, and when there’s no wind and you’re on a beautiful smooth surface you can carry your speed a lot better. I rode a 4:24 which was a great time, and, I think, indicative of the training I put in, but we were certainly helped by the fact that there were very, very light winds.

What was the atmosphere like? On the pictures and video it looked great, did it give you encouragement and enthusiasm?
Absolutely, I mean even on the bike course there were people who had got onto the freeway somehow on the overpass, and at some of the exits, and it was a great crowd. I read in the paper the day after that the police estimated that there were 40,000-50,000 people on the run course, so, mate, it was hats off to the organisers and the city of Melbourne because I think they did a great job in the first year, pulling it off and getting the crowd that they did. They did a point-to-point run which must have been logistically tough to organise but for the athletes I think it was a treat, I’ve certainly never done a point-to-point race in an Ironman before. The crowd were just great, along the whole course.

What are your plans for the rest of the season?
My next scheduled race is Eagleman on June 10, I might sneak a race in before then. So I’m gonna do Eagleman and then I’ll do two more, probably a 5150 or a Lifetime Fitness race, and then another 70.3 and then I’ll start my build-up for Vegas at the end of July, and finish off with Vegas and Kona again. So, obviously it’s gonna be big this year with Lance [Armstrong] there. It’s funny, 12 months ago everybody was talking about the Raelerts, now everyone’s talking about Lance and everyone’s talking about the Raelerts. But the Raelerts are still gonna be tough, as is Marino [Vanhoenacker], and there’s a lot of others – Rasmus [Henning] is back in form, obviously – and Macca could be back in Kona, the WTC have made it easy for him now by changing Cannes, that’s a validation race now, so he’s doing Cannes and can validate his spot if he wants to go, and so I think there’s gonna be a lot of guys in Kona this year, it’s gonna be an exciting race – and Vegas, too, Vegas got a great field last year and I think it’s gonna get an even better field this year.

Absolutely! With Lance, we know you must get asked this a lot, but are you looking forward to the possibility of racing him?
Yeah, I think so. I think it’s daunting, I think he brings a level of professionalism to our sport that we haven’t seen before, and he’s obviously well resourced, so good luck to him. Everything he’s got has been paid for with blood, sweat and tears, I mean seven Tour de France wins, and the man has resources and he knows how to use it, he knows how to prepare. And I think he has a confidence about him that intimidate the other athletes and I think he has raised the bar, even only having done one race he’s raised the bar because he’s stepped back into the sport after 20 years away at a very high level.

I don’t want to pretend I’m Nostradamus, but I predicted it, I heard in ’07 that he was thinking of racing Kona in 2012, and then again in ’09, so the plan hasn’t really changed for five years! He owns a house in Kona, he’s probably logged more miles on the Queen K than anyone – he was just out there training for two weeks. He’s a smart guy, you know, he knows he’s not gonna ride the bike in a triathlon the way he does in a Tour time trial, he has to save some for the run, he’s talked often about that in the interview I’ve read. He’s a great swimmer, he’s a front pack swimmer, he was a swimmer even before he was a triathlete, the man doesn’t go into things – and I’m sure he’s not saying ‘I’m going there to win’ – but I’m sure he is saying ‘I’m going there to be the best I can be’, and I think the best he can be is going to be very, very good. I think it’s going to be good enough to contend, that’s my opinion, I’m not trying to deflect pressure off myself or anything, I’ve said it all along. I deal with pressure the way I deal with it, I’ve been defending champion there twice before, and been able to defend once, I defended in ’09 and then was able to come back again last year and win again. I’m never under the radar, so I’m not trying to deflect anything, I do feel he’s a contender.

He showed in Panama he can swim with the front group, and he can ride with whoever he wants, I’m guessing in Panama he rode with [Chris] Lieto and the other guys he was with fairly comfortably, that’s my guess, which is why he ran so well. I think he got off the bike in Panama with two or three other guys, and they didn’t run as well, so maybe it taxed them, well obviously it did, it taxed them a lot more than it taxed him.

Right away you can see the man has a strategy, he knows how to go about it, he’s getting great advice, and he’s gonna bring a level of professionalism and resources that’ll lift the bar and it’s a challenge for everyone, it’s exciting, that’s from the perspective of an athlete.

And from, I guess, the perspective of the sport as a whole, he is a mainstream, global sporting superstar, and he brings a level of attention and media that we’ve never had, so I can’t see how it can be anything but good. If the administrators and the powers that be can get it right, I think it’s an opportunity for our sport to maybe get to the next level. I think every sport in its evolution, in its history is presented with opportunities and I think this is an opportunity for triathlon, maybe to set itself up for the next 20 years, and get real traction in the sport on the public side and the corporate dollar, corporate sponsorship, I mean there’s gonna be a lot of attention because Lance is there and I’m sure with that level of exposure, well I’m hoping that the administrators and the marketers can really leverage that and get some great corporate backing into the sport at all levels – grass roots, junior, ITU and Ironman – I mean it’s all triathlon! And the bigger this sport becomes the more talent we’re gonna draw into it from other sports, and when kids are younger and they’re deciding between sports, if triathlon’s a viable profession we’ll attract a lot of great athletes.

I think it’s exciting, mate, I can’t see any downsides, really. I know a few people have had their noses put out of joint – that’s what I’ve heard, anyway – because he’s getting all this media, well, that’s what happened when you win seven Tour titles, when you’re world champion, when you’re a cancer survivor, when you have a foundation that’s raised, what, a quarter of a billion dollars? I mean, he is a massive name in sport in general, and he’s just a mainstream media personality as well, so I think we need to use that.

Definitely, yeah. Thanks very much for you’re time, Craig, and thanks for the video you sent in for our awards, too, we enjoyed the juggling!
No problem mate, thanks for Skyping, it makes things a lot easier! I’m glad you enjoyed the video – my wife always says I’m boring as you-know-what, she says ‘oh your speeches are all the same, you’re so boring, do something different’, so she choreographed that one! It’s nice to have a little bit of fun, it’s not all serious business.

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Very true. Thanks again Craig
No problem, mate, thank you. See ya!