Transitions: So you mentioned WTC what is your opinion on their newly announced Pro policy with regards to prize money etc?
CA: If you want my honest opinion…. which I know you do, I really like it. It has structure, all good sports have structure, you look at the PGA or the WTA tennis, you have your grand slams, and majors then you have the main tour and then you have satellite tours and that’s what we need. It is a breeding ground for the future champions. So I like the idea of regional championships in the 70.3 and the Ironman distance. I think also having those regional championships means you have more than one marquee event a year so you can get the best people racing more often which is what the media and the fans want to see. I think Kona should be 35 men and 35 women, that is my honest opinion. Speaking to a lot of my female colleagues there is still a lot of concern about the women’s race and how they get mixed up with the back end of the pro men and the front end of elite age group men. That needs to be cleaned up, because above all else the integrity of the race has to come first. You need to clean up the drafting, you have to clean up the course cutting. If you are trying to sell something as a product that product needs to be polished and professional. But that’s not just on WTC, that is also on us, as a professional athlete body. We need to have a code of conduct, we need to lift our standards and improve the quality and the entertainment, and the onus is on every stakeholder. I think if the pros can race well and put on a better show which I think they have proven they can and we have a code of conduct that we adhere to then I think that needs to be rewarded with more prize money. It’s a hard sport, I think there should be much more prize money. We are still a young sport when you look at tennis or golf or football, they have longevity and also demand from a sports fan point if view but we are growing, it shows in the participation levels, the number of events is growing, and that needs to be reflected in the prize money that is on offer. Its great we are growing and nurturing the grass roots level but as these events grow and sell out the professional side also needs to grow and they need to pump more money into it.
Transitions: Do you think the athletes need to band together and have an organised body, a pro athletes union?
CA: Yeah they do but what has to come first is that when you sign on for a pro licence you should have to sign a code of conduct that you have to adhere to, and we need to self-police that. When we can get to a stage where, when you get to a swim start no one is trying to jump the start or trying to get 5 or 10 metres in front, when people aren’t deliberately drafting or cutting the course then we will be at a place professionally where we can put our hand out and say we want more money. In any job you have responsibilities and a code of conduct that you need to stick to and that is the start of forming a union. It happens in every sport where the balance of power sits squarely with the people running the events and then at some point the athletes realise they also have power if they stick together. It’s not about hijacking the event it’s about getting a seat at the table that’s all it is. Sometimes people get caught up on the word “union” and if that’s and issue then let’s have an “athlete’s association” that is run professionally, represents professional people and has a clear voice at the negotiating table.
I hear lots of athletes whinging, saying we should have more money, the same guys who blatantly draft or cut the course or who whinge and bitch and won’t turn up to the press conference because they aren’t getting paid to do it or turn up looking like crap or can’t speak properly in front of a microphone, it’s a two way street. If you project a professional image and act like a professional then you should be paid in a professional manner but you can’t put the cart before the horse.
Transitions: So on course cutting and cheating, how often do triathletes get drug tested?
CA: Probably not as often as they should! I can only speak for myself but I have been tested as much as 5 times in a week before but I have also gone 3 months without a test. There is not an endless pool of resources to fund these types of things but I don’t think it (drugs) is a sport specific problem it’s a human nature problem. Certain types of personalities will always try and cheat and as a sport we have to do our best to try and clean it up as best we can. At the moment the onus is on WTC and ITU they are signatories to WADA and abide by the WADA code and in Australia we are under ASADA. But Im not exactly sure how it works as sometimes I get tested and the test has been commissioned and paid for by Triathlon Australia and other times it is from WTC. I don’t know how much they communicate with each other and therefore how wide they are spreading the net. But, mate it is one of those things, the guys who are motivated to cheat are usually well resourced, hence they tend to get away with it. Slowly but surely we are catching people but it is usually retrospectively and what that means is the cheats take away not only the money but also the experience of running down the finish chute you can’t get that back.
Are they doing enough?? You would have to ask the powers that be about how much money and resources is being committed. Would I like to see them do more test? The answer is YES! There is no place for it in sport but we are naïve if we think it’s not going on. Here’s my take on it. We went through the whole cycling thing and I think that was more a cultural and team based thing with cycling whereas if it was In triathlon it would be more sinister because you would have to make that decision and seek it out as an individual. Not that I condone what happened in cycling, but you can sort of see the timeline, a young cyclist gets called into a team and they see the team leaders doing it, they are too scared to speak out. They dreamed of riding the tour not taking drugs but if it’s the culture you can see how it happens, whereas as an individual in an individual sport it just seems more sinister.
Transitions: On the forum we have Lachie Kerin who is a young fella chasing his dream to become a pro, what advice would you have for him?
CA: Try and get good advice and train consistently. Rome wasn’t built in a day. As much as you can roll out clichés all day that one stands true in endurance sports. You have to be patient and work on the fundamentals, work on technique, work on core strength and stability. Work on the technical aspects of all three disciplines, if you look at athletes like Greg Welch or Hamish Carter or Gomez they are just pretty to watch. They have brilliant techniques swimming, cycling and running. There is no unnecessary movement. So I’d say to him, work on the fundamentals and the technical side, build your strength and endurance over time.
Transitions: So who do you think will be the “next big thing for Kona” will the ITU boys start smashing it post Olympics?
CA:I think some of them will, but I don’t think it’s a given. Gomez will I think, I think Gomez and the Brownlees can win whatever they want. They’ve all got massive engines, good coaching behind them and these are the next generation, guys that were groomed form a young age and different from our generation who sort of fell into triathlon from other sports. The new breed of athletes are just triathletes, they are thoroughbreds with great pedigree. But Kienle won in Kona he is not an ITU boy, it is still a strength based sport but it doesn’t hurt to have that sort of speed in your arsenal. But after the Olympics in 08 we had Potts, Raelert, Henning, Bockel all great athletes but the only one who made an immediate impact was probably Andreas. After London Bevan Docherty stepped up, a two time Olympic medallist not just an average ITU athlete, but the cream of the crop, Bevan had an immediate impact at the 70.3 level. I think the top guys will have an impact at any level, a great triathlete is a great triathlete as long as they have good advice behind them, good training. But the real difference with the ITU boys stepping to Kona up is in the swim. There used to be a front group of 10 or 12 guys now its 25 guys. But if you look at the top 10 you had Kienle who was not ITU, Ben Hoffman was not ITU, Timmy Berkel etc so there is still a strength aspect. The IYU boys will definitely make an immediate impact at the 70.3 level but an 8 hour race is an 8 hour race and I think you need to develop some more endurance I guess.
Transitions: You talk about strength, and that relates to weight. So tell us overweight age groupers what your normal weight is and what weight you get down to for Kona.
CA: I’m about 70 or 71 kilos most of the year, and for Kona I get down to 67 or 68, but I think that’s due to the sheer amount of training. My big block used to start the last week of July and go through August so 5 big weeks and then I’d have sort of an intermediate week, then a taper week, then either race Muskoka 70.3 or Vegas 70.3 Worlds and then that was usually 4 or 5 weeks out from Kona then I’d have another two or three big weeks then a two week taper then Kona. So when you are doing big weeks, week after week like that it’s hard to keep the weight on. You really need to focus on supplementing your diet with good calories between meals, 2 or 3 protein shakes a day , putting bananas and berries in a blender with protein powder and blend it up and having them in between meals because I’m just hungry all day long. And the protein is also helping you recover as it is the building blocks of the muscles. I’d also have a beer or two with dinner. I’d be real careful late August and September as you can get too light and potentially get sick. I’m not the kind of guy who steps on the scales a lot, but I’d be monitoring my training and Id know the benchmarks and the parameters that I’d have to hit and if I started getting weak, you know if you get too light you can lose some strength. So I wouldn’t be watching my weight as such but I’d be monitoring my training and make sure I was hitting the benchmarks OK.
Transitions: So who is the hardest nut you have raced against?
CA: There have been a few. You know when I first started out in the 90’s,I wouldn’t say I was racing against them as I was clearly not on their level, but I was in the same race, was Welch, Bevan and Stewart. Those guys were amazing with their consistency and how hard they were to beat. Probably the hardest I’ve had to race against would be Simon Lessing in 70.3’s when I first went to America I raced Simon a lot and it was towards the end of his career to be fair. In Olympic distance racing it was Craig Walton, I got 2nd to him at Chicago, 2nd at Noosa twice, 2nd to him in LA all the big non drafting races. I finally cracked him a couple of times, Chicago 04, LA 04 but he was near impossible to beat. I remember the LA triathlon in 02, first year I raced in the US, it was a non-drafting race, one of the best fields I had ever raced in, it had something like 5 Olympic distance World Champions in it. Lessing was in the race, Spencer Smith, Olivier Marceau, Luc Van Lierde plus all the good non-drafting guys Conrad Stoltz, Matt Reed, Paul Amey, Mark Lees, Brad Bevan; it was a who’s who and Waldo made us all look silly that day. I had one of the best days up till that point in my career, I finished second and didn’t get sight of him, so he was tough to crack. At Half Ironman you wouldn’t want race Andy Potts he was tough, Terenzo, Michael Raelert and in 2009 Chris Leito was particularly hard to beat. He had a great year that year, he would swim with the front pack then launch an attack off the bike and often ride 6 minutes in to the front group. I had a coupe of close finishes with him in Honu and then in Boise we had a sprint finish and in Kona I caught him after he had a 12 lead off the bike so he was also tough to beat at Ironman. Another tough nut at Ironman was Andy Raelert , he was avery tough racer, very fast racer, always well prepared and in amazing shape.
I have given you a few names there and they were all hard to beat at their distance and on their day, they were just champions. Waldo was unbelieveable, Terenzo at Half Ironman on his day is unbelievable, Andy Potts across Olympic and Half Ironman was unbelievable, Chris Lieto across Half Ironman and Ironman, Andy Raelert across Half Ironman and Ironman Bevan Docherty was always tough too, he was always well trained and in great shape, there are a lot of good guys but they are the ones who come to mind. I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone, I don’t mean to offend, don’t write in and abuse me. (Laughs)
Transitions: Favourite race?
CA: I love Kona, but there are a lot of great races out there. One I want to give a special shout out to is the St. Croix 70.3, it’s got a lot of history, if you look at the honour roll of who has won it, and it is a who’s who of triathlon. It has that famous hill in it “The Beast” it is in an exotic location in the Caribbean, it is a very hard race but a very beautiful race.
Transitions: Some quick ones for you, favourite food?
CA: I like Thai, seafood, chocolate and a good old aussie bbq.
Transitions: Some people don’t believe you are a big fan of the chocolate milk and donuts, can you confirm that for us?
CA: Yeah, I am a big fan.
Transitions: Even mid-ride?
CA: Yeah, ask any of my training partners. My love of milk started years ago. My step-dad worked in a milk depot and got me a job there when I was 14 and I used to drink the milk, eat the cottage cheese, drink the flavoured milks, I’ve always loved it.
Transitions: Favourite drink, apart from choccy milk?
CA: I don’t mind a beer.
Transitions: Here is where you can brag and tell us you NEED to drink beer to keep weight on and make us normal blokes jealous.
CA: (Laughs) I’m a lightweight, I don’t drink much but I do like a beer.
Transitions: Favourite TV show?
CA: Anything sports, especially sports talk show.
CA: I’m 80’s, 80’s rock and pop.
Id just like to personally thank Craig for his time, honestly and a very entertaining and informative interview and I hope the Transitions members enjoy having their questions asked of a champion of our sport. If you see him around make sure you thank him as well.