Patrick Lange a “different athlete” as he looks to reclaim Kona title

The two-time Hawaii winner says he’s fitter than ever and happy to be written off ahead of the Ironman World Championship

Patrick Lange celebrates winning first Ironman World Championship in 2017

“It’s funny to be in Kona and flying under the radar as a two-time Ironman world champion, but I really like that,” said Patrick Lange ahead of his Big Island showdown on Saturday.

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Much has changed since the 36-year-old German successfully defended his Kona title in 2018.

That race ended with a finish line proposal to his now wife Julia and it was also a chance for his mother, Carmen, to fly in and see him race for one of the final times.

“It made me really proud to give her that victory,” Lange explained. Carmen passed away with cancer in 2020.

A coaching switch

After dropping out of the race during the bike leg in 2019 as Jan Frodeno took the title and Lange’s course record, the softly-spoken Lange also overhauled his approach to triathlon.

A coaching switch from the experienced 2005 Kona winner Faris Al-Sultan to the sports scientist Bjorne Geesman signalled a more data-driven mindset and typified  how the sport as a whole is evolving – and becoming faster.

“We see a change in the new generation,” Lange explained. “They bring much more speed and you have to be able to adjust. I think I’m one of the experienced guys who has been able to make that change.

“The swimming got faster, the bike is not at a steady power output, and you have to be able to counter attack. And the development of carbon shoes was introduced – which is why I think the run course record will be broken on Saturday.”

Under Geesman’s guidance, Lange says the training has become much more structured too. “My training changed dramatically,” he said. “It’s a lot more volume and intensity and I think I became a stronger and completely different athlete.”

Lange didn’t compete in the St George Ironman World Championship in May after breaking his collarbone in a bike crash, which only put more emphasis on a return to Kona in October.

I’ve always had my best performances when nobody was expecting it so I think that’s a good sign and I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been here on the island

Under the radar

The build-up included the familiar surrounds of the hot and humid Woodlands in Texas, and while the bulk of the camp went smoothly, it ended in horrific fashion when Lange also had to act as auxiliary first responder to training partner Kat Matthews after a bike crash. “I think she was just happy to see a face she recognised,” he said.

With Matthews on the road to recovery, Lange flew to Hawaii as one of only two past winners lining up in the men’s field, the other being compatriot and 2014 champion Sebastian Kienle.

While he sounds relaxed and confident, few are giving him much of a chance this time around. Which is exactly how he likes it.

“I’ve always had my best performances when nobody was expecting it so I think that’s a good sign and I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been here on the island,” he added.

“All the work is done and I’m confident we did everything we can to put me in the best shape ever. It’s time to show it.”

Patrick Lange was talking at his press conference at the Canyon ‘House of Champions’ at Lava Java on Ali’i Drive.

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Top image credit: Sean M Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman