By Anna Cleaver
Widely known as one of New Zealand’s greatest female triathleteÂ Debbie Tanner talks to us about this weekend’s ITU World Triathlon Series round in Auckland, New Zealand.
After announcing her retirement last year, New Zealand will miss seeing Debbie toe the start line at events like this weekend’s Auckland WTS. However, she remains heavily involved with the sport that has been such a large part of her life for so long, so we will continue to see her friendly face at many triathlon events.
Known for being strong across all 3 disciplines and having a long history in the sport, Debbie is the ideal person to talk to about Saturday’s event, and we were fortunate enough to catch up with her.
Anna: Debbie, firstly congratulations on an incredibly successful and inspiring triathlon career. You finished this career racing in Auckland last year. What does it feel like to not be on the start line this weekend?
Debbie Tanner: Wow what an introduction! Honestly it feels great. It was my decision to retire, I was not forced due to injury, age etc so I am completely happy to be on the side lines this year watching the race here in Auckland and cheering on the Kiwi team!
Anna: Auckland is the first event in the ITU World Triathlon Series, which takes athletes right up to September. What shape will competitors be in this weekend, given it is the start of a long season of racing?
Debbie Tanner: The first race of the season is always hard, mentally and physically. The athletes will have spent the last few months in base phase, doing a lot of miles and gaining a lot of strength, some if not most would come into Auckland without a huge taper. It is a strength based course, so it really fits in perfectly to start the season. Getting your head around racing after having 4+ months off is also challenging but a lot of athletes use shorter races to prep or training sessions to get ready.
Anna: The Auckland course is a challenging one. Is it likely to lead to breakaways on the bike in the both male and female fields? Or should we expect the race to largely start in the run?
Debbie: You are absolutely right, in both the men’s and women’s field I would expect some of the lead swimmers to really push the bike and try to break from the start, there is no hiding on this course, it is not your typical ITU WCS race with three hills per lap, one very steep and also technical which makes for some great racing
Anna: Gomez has been described as â€œTriathlon Royaltyâ€. Will anyone be able to challenge him this weekend?
Debbie: He absolutely is! He currently sits second overall in the list of ITU world cup winners to Brad Beven, followed closely by Simon W. When he toes any start line he is there to win, he is such a classy racer and likes to race hard, I am unsure if anyone will be able to come close to him this weekend. However Jan is lining up in his first race in awhile and when he is on form you can never count him out. Along side Jan is his German team mate Steffen Justus and from France Laurent Vidal are always challenging for the podium, and of course there are the Kiwi boys who love racing on hard course so look out for Ryan Sissons, Tony Dodds and Clark Ellice to be throwing out some attacks.
Anna: Names like Anne Haug, Andrea Hewitt, Barbara Riveros and Gwen Jorgensen are likely favourites for Saturday’s event. Who are your podium picks and can we expect any surprises from other athletes?
Debbie: Anne Haug is definitely on form at the moment and there is no denying how good she is, she is almost in a class of her own. Her weak point is the swim but she has an incredible tenacity to ride the shit out of the bike and get to the front group. However I am picking Kate McIlroy and Andrea Hewitt to be dominating on the bike and they will try and put substantial time into the chasing groups and go for the podium
Anna: For many of the athletes racing this weekend the next Olympics is their main goal. Whereas for non-drafting athletes, their â€˜world championship’ event occurs on a yearly basis. How do the ITU athletes stay focused on a goal that is over 3 years away?
Debbie: The Olympics happens once every four years but it is not just what happens in that year that will make them an Olympic champion, it is the preparation that goes on the years before, everything is purposeful. Even if it is not the year of the Olympics there are still goals to be achieved, Commonwealth and World champion titles (if that means accumulating the most points over the ITU race season ) are still up for grabs
Anna: New Zealand has loved following your very successful triathlon career. What have you been up to since announcing your retirement from the sport?
Debbie: Well since I have retired I got married in Fiji which was just incredible, we spent a week with family and friends over on Mana Island. After that I really just started ‘tidying up’ if that’s what I can call it. As an athlete you are constantly making sure your life is focused about what will make you a better athlete so a lot of stuff gets thrown on the back burner (or in the attic) so there was a lot of stuff to clear up. It is a pretty big lifestyle change but I am really enjoying it. I have spent a lot of time catching up with friends and trying out new sports like surfing and spending my time with my hubby!
I now have new job, which I can’t disclose too much about yet but is very exciting and very passionate about!
Anna: ITU athletes typically spend half the year training and racing in Europe. This will be your first winter in NZ for quite some time. What are your plans for the coming 6 months, a time that you usually spend overseas?
Debbie:The summer to summer dream! I will miss that! I am looking forward to going skiing this winter and rugging up in front of a fire with a hot choc sounds just delightful
Debbie will be in Auckland this weekend supporting her friends and previous team mates. For those who are coming to downtown Auckland to watch and cheer for their favorite athletes, details can be found at auckland.triathlon.org/
Follow Debbie on twitter
Anna Cleaver is a former New Zealand champion swimmer and now professional triathlete who has just stepped up to Long Course.