Former SA Champion, Hendrik De Villiers left this week for Korea for the Tongyeaong Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series.
The Series, six legs culminating in the World Championships on September 13, kicks off on Sunday, May 3.
Manfred Seidler reports that De Villiers, a medal hopeful at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 after his 4th place finish at the World Championships, is looking to get back into racing more than anything else.
‘I was off for four months after Beijing due to my medical condition and have now only been training for four months, so it’ll be a test to see what kind of shape I’m in,ÔÇØ said De Villiers on the day of his departure. ‘I’m quietly confident of my performance but am certainly not expecting a top 10 position; Korea is really just about getting that racing feeling again at International Level.’
Well De Villiers could not have picked a more challenging race to ‘debut’ his 2009 international campaign in. The Field is a veritable line up of former champions and the who’s who of International Triathlon. Tim Don, the 2006 World Champion, Simon Whitfield (2000 Olympic Champion), Bevan Docherty, Brad Kahlefeldt and Kris Gemmel as well as a whole host of local athletes who will want to make an impression in front of their home crowd will be out to win the first race of the inaugural World Championship Series.
The Series certainly has caught the imagination of the Triathlon World as prize money per seven of the races culminating in the World Championships stands at $150 000 per race and an overall year end bonus of $500 000. ‘I think that this year all the big guns are out to win some serious money,’ says De Villiers. ‘No Olympics this year, but the World Championships are happening this year, like every other year. But its part of the Series and with that kind of money up for grabs we’re in for some really hard and fast racing.’
In fact the prize money for each placing will have a huge impact on the Series. First prize is 1.5 times more than previous, but the real impact will come in places 11-15. ‘There prize money has increased three to four times which means that more athletes will be able to pay their way to major competitions and that will increase the depth of the competition,’ according to De Villiers.
With the change of seasons now on, the weather forecast for Sunday’s race is a maximum of 18 degrees with a humidity of around 50%, ideal conditions for racing.
Asked about possible jet lag, De Villiers was not worried. ÔÇ£I like to travel around four days before a competition. Jet Lag has never been a problem for me. In 2006 when I went to Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games I was fine within a day. But to get there as late as possible is always better. That way my training is good till the latest possible moment and you are in your comfort zone at home. It makes a big difference.’
On his current form, Hendrik is quietly confident. ‘I am in good shape but I’m building up to the World Champs ÔÇô or Grand Final as it is now called ÔÇô in September. I’ll come home after this race then spend another six or so weeks here before I go to America to compete in the Dextro Energy race in Washington (21 June) as well as a World Cup race in Des Moines (27 June).’
On Sunday De Villiers is hoping for a break in the bike ÔÇô although he is not to optimistic that it will happen ÔÇô as he is not quite in the shape he would like to be in. ‘I’m not strong enough yet to try and get away on the run so I’m hoping there will be a breakaway on the bike I can go with. But I wont be instigating any breaks.’
De Villiers has dropped 3-4kg since the SA Championships in March but feels he needs to lose another 2 before he is in optimum race shape. He has also not spent as much time in the pool in training. ‘I haven’t lost anything in my swim even though I’m not training so hard in the pool. I will experience more gains by spending more time on the bike and the run.’
Both Hendrik and coach Luzy Zelenkova feel that he will drop those extra kilograms easier and quicker on the bike and run.