Anne Haug heads into the defence of her Challenge Roth crown in two weeks buoyed by her masterclass of a win at the PTO European Open in Ibiza – which has prompted her coach Dan Lorang to suggest she’s at least as good as ever at 40 years of age.

Haug won the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona in 2019 and is bidding for a third straight success at Roth, her performance there last season helping her finish top of the 2022 world rankings.

‘She had a really good base’

The women’s line up for this month’s race is among the best ever assembled at full distance, with all the IRONMAN world champions since 2015 in action as Haug and Daniela Ryf take on reigning Kona champ Chelsea Sodaro. They will be joined by the likes of Laura Philipp, Fenella Langridge and Lisa Norden, plus several other top contenders.

And arguably the strongest middle-distance start list came in Ibiza at the start of May, when it was Haug who came out a clear winner.

We caught up with her coach Lorang to talk about her season so far and what lies ahead.

It’s three wins out of three for Haug in 2023, with emphatic victories at IRONMAN 70.3 Lanzarote and Challenge Gran Canaria setting her up perfectly for Ibiza, and Lorang explained: “She had a really good preparation without any big issues and we decided also to go for those other races like in the past, because she also wants to race and see where she is at ahead of Ibiza because she has a lot of respect for these PTO races.

“All the best women were on the start line so she wanted to make absolutely sure that she’s ready to go. And basically we had a good build up. We had just one issue of sickness after Gran Canaria but there were two weeks between that and Ibiza so we tried to bring her fresh to the line and not panicking and took it quite easy. And still she was at a really high level at the PTO race because she had a really good base.

Haug topped a podium in Ibiza which featured the top-three ranked women [Photo credit: PTO]

“She always knows that you start from scratch when a new season starts, and that’s also how she prepares.

“She worked pretty well in the winter and also is still really motivated to go that way and to really spend a lot of time in Lanzarote to basically dedicate her life around the sport. So probably some people might see that as something negative, but for her it fulfils her completely and she gets the rewards. She’s living that life – probably we can compare it a little bit to the Norwegians.”

Exciting times in women’s tri

What also appears a big motivator is the best racing the best, both in Ibiza and then next up at Challenge Roth.

It’s something Lorang agrees with, adding: “I think the sport is making a good development. For sure money attracts the athletes, so if you are able to pay the prize money, then you also have a high chance to get all the best athletes there. And that’s also fair. I think it’s okay – in all the other sports, it’s the same way.

“And it’s really exciting because it pushes everybody onto a higher level – the density is now much higher than in the past. And I have the feeling it’s really a good atmosphere there at the moment.”

Something special is going on in tri, especially in women’s tri.

Switching focus to Roth, Lorang adds: “Everything has gone smoothly since Ibiza and it’s her home race there so she wants to perform. I also try to make sure that we keep her a little bit back because always when things are going so good, you know that also the athlete is somehow at the limit. So you always have to balance it and not go over that limit.”

Roth is one of two big remaining targets this season for Haug, with a return to Kona in October the other.

“These are the biggest races for her,” explained Lorang. “Roth was a big race anyway – it’s her home race but when the field was announced, it was clear she will also be against the best in the world. Nearly all of them.

“And yeah, then for sure she wants to go once again go for the world title in Kona, but she thinks more in pieces. It’s not just thinking about this Kona, but it’s really taking every competition seriously and enjoying the process. So even at her age to still perform, even performing better than before in some aspects, and that’s what she really enjoys at the moment.”

Talent – and hard work

That suggestion that she is performing better than ever in certain areas is praise indeed coming from the man who has coached her throughout an incredible career.

“I think now on this distance at the moment, middle and long distance, I would say she’s at least at the same level and she’s now able to develop her full potential on the run.

[Photo credit: PTO / James Mitchell]

“We know that she can run fast, but she sometimes struggled in the long races to be able to show that run. It seems that we’ve found our way to show that full potential.

“But we also have to be careful because the long distance is something else now compared to the 100K distance or 70.3 distance. That’s why I’m quite curious what will happen now in Roth and see if this is also working there.”

But I think it’s a big motivation for all the women out there to see, hey, for sure you need talent, but it’s not only talent, it’s hard work.

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