We witnessed another masterclass from the great Daniela Ryf this past Saturday – who now has five 70.3 World Championships to go with her four Kona World Titles. The Bird has now won a major title every year for the past six years in performances that most in the tri community take for granted.
They shouldn't. Like the current era in tennis, I fear the magnitude of just how extraordinary the performances of the last decade will only be appreciated once the Bird is retired.
People do not see nor understand how difficult it is to consistently produce a performance like this Saturday's. The pressure of wearing the crown, the expectations of sponsors, press and all who surround you can engulf the strongest of minds. The constant questions about the new challengers and who she fears may take her title, media innuendo hoping to see a new champion - as they get bored with not just the domination but the consistency of the current one - can be and is a heavy burden.
Yet she just keeps swatting away all comers. And doing so on a course that I can admit post race – did not really suit her. A great rider? Yes. Bike skills unmatched by any female triathlete with the exception of Nicola Spirig or Flora Duffy. But she is a heavyweight power rider. Not a mountain goat. A truly great effort to ascend as she did.
Sport is about the next champion, I get that and have built a career around producing them. But to be on the course in Nice last week and to hear the excitement from the Ironman commentators hoping 'they're catching her' during the first 4km of the run as she gave up 30 seconds of 'only' a 2:30 lead off the bike had me thinking:
Does the sport realise how very difficult it is to produce these types of results year in / year out? What type of physical and mental strain to be able to go into a World Championships knowing that if you taper to be at your very best for all the challengers who are eyeing the 70.3 distance - that it can destroy your Kona performance? It is brave beyond most people's imagination to front up, ride such a hard course tired, dismount and run knowing you're not going to be at your best – while carrying all the expectations of still being the defending champion. It is special and I don't think we'll see future champions straddling between winning Kona and 70.3 titles so consistently ever again. The men's racing is indicative of that.
Yes, a new generation will come through. That's sport. But when we have performances like the one we saw on Saturday, the commentary shouldn't be about whether they can ever catch her or not, but about how brave the effort to have kept holding them off for as long as she has in the first place.
Brett Sutton is the Head Coach of Trisutto.com