Leanda Cave to follow Macca?

Britain's Leanda Cave is one of the favourites for tomorrow's Abu Dhabi Triathlon. In our exclusive interview, she reveals how this could be her last long-course race for quite a while…

Britain’s Leanda Cave (33 – just) is looking to go one better than 2010 when she finished second to Julie Dibens in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Triathlon. Like all of the elites and the press pack, Leanda is staying at the race hotel (Rotana), so we grabbed her for a strong coffee, a mini Snickers bar and an interview that revealed why Macca may not be the only long-course athlete aiming for London 2012…
Happy birthday for yesterday Leanda. When did you arrive?
I flew in Tuesday night from America so I’m feeling a touch woozy. Hence, the strong coffee! I’ve discovered the best way to avoid jetlag is not to sleep in the day.
You look in good fettle. Where have you been training?
In Tucson, Arizona. It’s where Chrissie [Wellington] went for a couple of weeks at the start of the year [Chrissie had planned to base herself out of Tuscon but didn’t settle]. It’s a shame that in the two weeks she was there, it was bitterly cold. Also, I didn’t get to chill out with her as I had family over. Torsten [Abel] and I got married in Port Douglas [Australia] last year but we didn’t have family at the wedding so it was a late catch-up.
Tucson appears to be rivalling Boulder and Lanzarote as an endurance Mecca. What’s then appeal?
We just get such good weather; it’s only rained twice since New Year. Also, there are a lot of good facilities that are either free or cheap and there are plenty of athletes to train with.
I find that sort of set-up is best for me. I really struggled when training in the UK; I became an indoor trainer because all I wanted to do was sweat.
You look in condition to go one better than 2010?
Training’s been going well. I’ve taken a lot of confidence from the bike in 2010 – I registered many of the fastest bike splits throughout the season. And I’ve definitely put a lot more bike mileage in this winter and getting in the gym for more strength, so I should be stronger.
Now you’re married, is Torsten still your coach?
No, I changed last year to Siri Lindley [Olympic-distance world champion in 2001 and 2002]. Torsten and I were a great team but it’ a better relationship not having my husband as coach. It works for some people but I need to come home and not talk about training.
It’s the race tomorrow. But what are your plans post Abu Dhabi?
Well, I’ve already accrued enough points to qualify for Kona. So I kind of pulled out all the big money races and they’re the ones I’m going to target. Being from an ITU background, I want to race the best. That’s my mindset. I don’t like turning up to a weak field and winning by a large margin.
I’m going to do the Texas 70.3, which is also the US Championship. Then there’s the Ironman there four weeks later. I’m doing the Escape [from Alcatraz] again – that’s my only short one. I’ll do a few more US-based 70.3s and then Kona.
However, that may change as we’ve got 20 days left [deadline 31 March] to put our name forward for the Olympics. And I’m probably going to put my name down. But I haven’t quite decided yet.
That’s potentially huge news. So it’s not just Chris McCormack who’s leaving long-course to aim for 2012?
It’s not definite yet. Unlike Macca, I’m not in the financial position and haven’t had his success to just give things up. The British federation probably wouldn’t fund me. And things can get a touch political so I’m unsure if I want to be part of that.
I’m experienced now and know what I need to do; I don’t want to be treated like a 10-year-old. In the past the federation have tried to control what you need to do but I’m a mature adult.
There still seems to be a focus on potential and development athletes. But there’s the here and now. You’ve got an Olympics coming up in 18 months and they’re still putting money and effort in the wrong places. They should be directing it at the athletes and giving them what they need to medal. What the athletes need is space and encouragement to get to the start line healthy.
I’ve never been to the Olympics and I’ve always wanted to go back. But do I want to risk everything I’ve developed and created for the Olympics? When you grow up in the sport as an athlete, all you hear is the Olympics. And that’s what you target. As you grow older you change perspective slightly.
Do I want to risk what I have income-wise now? I’m earning decent money for then first time in my life, and do I want to throw that away for a stab at the Olympics?
If you decide to qualify for London 2012, what would be your aspirations?
I’d want to be competitive. I know what it takes, but I have to question whether I want to put my body through that again. I mean, I put my body through a lot now but the training’s not as intense so I can get away with it. I don’t have any injuries.
But you see it a helluva lot with ITU athletes; it goes in waves. They come up, they go down through injury. Look at Emma Snowsill. She spent most of last season out through injury after winning the Olympics in 2008. Vanessa Fernandes has been plagued by injuries and now taken a break from the sport.
I got injured after winning the World Champs [in Cancun, Mexico, in 2002] – severely injured. It was spinal related; impingement in my back, all the way down my hamstrings. I had physio and it never went. I spent a year with that injury.
It’s only switching over to long-course in the last couple of years that it’s gone. And that’s what you risk. I know I can put in the training for ITU racing but it’s how your body holds up. It’s such a fine line.
Most the people close to me are saying whatever you do, I’m 100% behind you. I’ve got sponsors, too, who are only sponsoring me because I’m doing long course. I’ve got 20 days to sign the form.
Watch this space.
More on the Abu Dhabi Triathlon at www.abudhabitriathlon.com