It wasn’t just on the Ironman course where Bath-based pro triathlete Leon Chevalier created an impression in the past few days.
The 26-year-old delivered a fifth-place finish in the Ironman World Championship on the French Riviera in Nice, bettering both his sixth place in the same event in St George last May and seventh in Hawaii in October
But he also caused a stir at the pre-race press conference by wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan DRUGS ARE BAD.
During the post-race press conference, we asked the Frenchman to explain the intent behind the wardrobe choice and whether it held special meaning after a year in which triathlon had been rocked by one of its biggest doping scandals.
“I was coming back from the Ironman world champs last year in St George and we had a stopover in Las Vegas, and I was walking around the strip,” Chevalier explained. “I found this t-shirt for $7 in a store. Apparently it’s from a TV programme to put kids off drugs.
“I’d been wanting to wear it to a press conference for a while. This was pretty big press conference and I don’t do many, so thought it would be quite funny.
“But also this year we’ve had one big doping case in triathlon. Maybe I was a bit naive, but I always thought the sport was pretty clean because in the short time I’ve been doing long-distance triathlon I’ve been able to get pretty close to the top.
“It shows the performances that we see are realistic, and it’s a shame that people think they need to take shortcuts to win races. I got a lot of positive feedback from wearing that t-shirt and if it shows people that as athletes we don’t want drugs in the sport then hopefully that’s a good thing.”
Chevalier received a round of applause from the room for the statement, which added to the cheers he’d received earlier in the day from the home support around the course.
Chevalier’s race recap
The race on the Cote d’Azur had got off to a good start. Acknowledging the 2.4-mile swim – particularly being non-wetsuit – was the weakest part of his race, he said he “kept digging” and it felt faster than in Hawaii in October.
Having also lost less time to the front than in Kona, it was then time to “hammer” the bike to try and catch the leaders.
“I had hopes to catch the front of the race, but didn’t quite have the power that I wanted to have,” Chevalier admitted. “I felt amazing three weeks ago when I came to do the recce (watch it below), but the past three weeks were a bit more complicated as I returned to altitude and I felt the effects of the big training block.
“But it’s the first time we’ve tested this. The bike was pretty hard but it turns out I was further up than I thought, although as I was running through T2 I saw the group with Patrick [Lange] coming in and had hoped they were so much further behind.
“Thankfully, only Patrick ran through, although I thought I’d give it a go to match his pace and ran 3-4km with him. We were running 3:20min/km and I thought: ‘This is suicide.’ He then put in a dig and went off on his own.”
Chevalier still managed to hold on for an Ironman best marathon of 2:39:26. “I’m mega happy with that. I’ve known I’ve had a faster marathon than what I’ve run before and to execute that is great. I’ve been running really well this season, with some crazy sessions at 1,700m altitude doing 1km reps on roads that aren’t flat at 3min/km.
“It’s a world champs and this is my best finish so far. Top five really isn’t bad and actually probably my best overall Ironman if I look at the swim, a bike with pretty big power – although not quite what I hoped – but I backed it up with a really strong marathon.”
Watch Chevalier’s Nice bike course recce with nutrition sponsors Precision Hydration
Top image credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for Ironman