x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Sundberg eager to overturn last year's mishaps

After finishing seventh last year, Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon's Swen Sundberg is aiming for a podium finish in the Challenge Roth - one of Europe's premier Ironman events.

Team Abu Dhabi's Swen Sundberg trains along the Corniche in the capital.
Team Abu Dhabi's Swen Sundberg trains along the Corniche in the capital.

After finishing seventh last year, Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon's Swen Sundberg is aiming for a podium finish in today's Challenge Roth - one of Europe's premier Ironman events. However, with defending champion Patrick Vernay, 2008's runner-up Pete Jacobs and two-time world champion Normann Stadler spearheading the elite field, Sundberg faces a gruelling battle.

"My objective is the podium, but it's a very strong field," said Sundberg. "I'm aiming to finish around the eight-hour mark, which should be good enough." Sundberg, 35, has been preparing for the full Ironman distance event - a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.4km run - in St Moritz, a high altitude training camp in the Swiss Alps. "Things have gone well, I'm in good shape and I'm looking forward to a good race," he said.

"The conditions in Switzerland are perfect. It is warm and there are lots of long climbs which are perfect for training." Sundberg is eager to avoid the chaos which interrupted his Challenge Roth last year. In atrocious conditions, the athlete suffered two punctures in a kilometre. As he was only carrying one spare, he had to wait 15 minutes for the technical support car, a delay which ended his charge.

"That was terrible luck. I hope nothing like that happens again as I will need a bit of luck to beat these guys," he said. Double Hawaii champion Stadler is eyeing an elusive Roth win after watching his teammate Timo Bracht storm to victory in last week's Ironman Germany. "Timo's outstanding result will push me even more. A victory is all that counts for me," said Stadler, 36. "The Normann Stadler of today is much better than last year and at the moment, everything seems to be perfect."

And in an obvious warning to Sundberg and his other challengers, the German favourite revealed he will target the world record time of 7min 51sec in his first long distance race of the season. "I want the world record but wanting it and making it possible are two different things." Bracht talked up his colleague's prospects when he said: "If Normann performs as he can, it will get hard for the other athletes to beat him."

Vernay is another contender and the Frenchman cannot wait to defending his crown against the world's best. "Last year was perfect for me and I hope it goes the same," said Vernay. "I have been training very hard. The best athlete will win." emegson@thenational.ae