Kona 2013 exclusive: Leanda Cave ready to defend her title

The reigning World Champ opens up about an injury-hit 2013 and why she can turn things around come Kona


Jodie Swallow, Rachel Joyce, Corinne Abraham, Liz Blatchford… ironically of the Brit Iron women who have posted stellar 2013 seasons, it’s been the reigning Queen of Kona, Leanda Cave, who’s endured the toughest 2013. A hamstring injury, a skin cancer diagnosis and the sheer weight of becoming the Ironman World Champion have all played a part in disrupting her race season plans.


Cave hasn’t entered a full Ironman in 2013, with the Welsh star being candid to 220 about how her 2012 World Championship victory has altered perceptions towards her…

You’ve endured a tough 2013 after the highs of last season. Can you elaborate on your injury and your present condition?

I had many lows early on last season with injury, illness and personal stuff, so this year has actually been better now that I know it’s possible to turn it around. My injury started with an upper hamstring tear in my left leg. Because of taking so long to get it diagnosed and treated, it caused further injury due to the compensation effect.

It’s been a year of constant treatment to manage the problem and it’s not entirely gone. Unfortunately my timeline leading up to Kona hasn’t enabled me to fully heal. I’ve been training as per usual and, once this season ends, will take enough time off to get my body back to 100% to start another season… and do it all over again!

How have things changed since your Kona win, in regards to commitments, sponsors, celebrity…?

All of the above have improved. Some for the better and some for the worse. The biggest difference is how others who don’t know me perceive me. I’m not sure why people assume that, because I work my arse off to be the best I can be and I achieve a personal goal, I all of a sudden change and become unapproachable. I don’t have has much time as before, but I’m still me. 

You’ve changed your bike to Canyon. What are the differences so far? It seems to be more aggressive than your Pinarello.

It’s a natural progression to adapt into a more aggressive (or aero) position when racing in non-drafting triathlons. When I did my first Ironman [Kona in 2007] I wasn’t aero at all and it cost me a lot of energy fighting the wind. However, I also found it very difficult to go any lower at the front of the bike because I was so used to riding a road bike.

So I’ve come down gradually into a better aero position overall, which has enabled me to fit comfortably on my new Canyon. Being aero is an important part of Ironman racing but you need to maintain a healthy balance of comfort at the same time. Very few time-trial cyclists are out on the aero position for as long as we are.

You’ve said that early season form has never been your focus. But what impact has the injury had on your Kona prep? And what’s your aim in Hawaii?

Historically I always race well towards the end of the year. This has probably been the longest pure training block I’ve had leading up to Kona, but it has also been slightly interrupted with my injury. To what extent we’ll have to wait and see on race day.

I’m as curious as everyone else how this injury has impacted my fitness. I wrote myself off last year with the injury I had mid season and it turned out rather well. So I’ll stay optimistic and keep doing what I can to keep the goal of defending my title in sight.


Image: Delly Carr