Triathlon’s top talent will come together in Nice, France for the 2019 IRONMAN® 70.3® World Championship, where 158 athletes will represent South Africa on 7 and 8 September 2019.
Michelle Enslin, the 2018 Isuzu IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion (50-54 age category) and 2018 IRONMAN World Champion (50-54 age category), is set to make South Africa proud by attempting to defend her IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion title.
Proudly representing South Africa
Two local athletes who will join Enslin at this year’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship after qualifying at this year’s Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa are Christine Claasen (55-59 age category) and Pauline Tunstead (45-49 age category).
Training for Claasen has been going well. She made a strategic decision to find all the hills in Port Elizabeth to do her bike training in preparation for the fierce hilly course in Nice, France. Claasen shares how she plans on tackling the 2019 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship course,
“Running is my passion and strongest discipline, so I intend to hold back on the bike in order to save my legs for the run, but I do realize that it’s important not to lose too much time on the bike, therefore my focus in training has been to get used to the hills. However, my weapon is the run. I am excited but super nervous for this race.”
First time on world stage
Tunstead will race internationally for the first time and cannot contain her excitement, “I am incredibly excited to just experience the whole vibe of competing internationally. The South of France is so beautiful.”
“It was a surprise and privilege to qualify for this incredible event (IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship). I qualified while doing my first ever IRONMAN 70.3 distance. I am a very proud South African and I can’t wait to represent my country.”
Coming from a cycling background, Tunstead will be eager to use this hilly bike course to her advantage come race day.
“I came into this sport as a cyclist. The Nice (France) bike course is incredibly technical by triathlon standards. I come from an endurance mountain biking background, so for a girl, I descend well. Therefore, I have opted to take my road bike and not my TT bike to capitalise on the long climbs and tricky switchbacks on the downhills. I can’t wait to tackle this route.”
It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for Tunstead, though. “I shattered my tibial plateau 20 years ago, so I walked with a limp for years and I was told that I would never run again. For years I battled with chronic and debilitating knee pain, and after my 6th knee operation, I was told I would never be able to mountain bike again. This was soul-destroying as I had only recently discovered my love and passion for cycling. After 3 months I decided, to heck with medical advice, I will start cycling again.”
After years spent supporting triathletes on the sidelines in Port Elizabeth, Tunstead decided against all medical advice to pursue her dream of competing.
“I took part in the 2019 Standard Bank IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa in Buffalo City as preparation for my dream of becoming an ‘IRONMAN’. After this 70.3 event, I eventually completed my first full IRONMAN distance event in April this year. I am incredibly grateful that life, and the person in my life now, has given me this opportunity and I absolutely love this sport!”
Sink or swim for Classen
Like Tunstead, Claasen has had an interesting introduction to the sport of triathlon, “When I started triathlon, I could hardly swim. When I did my first full-distance IRONMAN event, in 2008, I just made the swim cut off with less than 10 minutes to spare. Even though I managed to overcome my emotions, eventually overtaking almost half the field during the bike and run portion of the race, I realised then that in order to continue with the sport especially on a competitive basis I had to improve my swimming drastically. I went for swimming lessons and I have continued with swimming at least twice a week in a pool since then and I do sea swims, sometimes even solo, whenever the Port Elizabeth weather allows.”
Having had championship racing experience, Claasen will fancy her chances in a podium finish in France,
“In 2018, I participated in the Isuzu IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in my own backyard. This was my first ever IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship event and I finished 10th in my age category (50-54). I have done all 12 of the IRONMAN 70.3 South Africa events in Buffalo City, and I have podiumed (in my age category) in 8 of the 12 races. This year I am competing in a new age category (55-59) and I’m extremely excited to be taking part in an IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship event again, this time in Nice.”