After several years of focusing on the ITU circuit, Denmark’s Helle Frederiksen decided to try her first non-drafting, 70.3-distance event at last weekend’s Ironman 70.3 San Juan triathlon. Frederiksen was first out of the water, second off of the bike and first at the finish line, posting some of the fastest swim, bike and run times of the day. We caught up with Fredriksen about her experience in San Juan, her plans for the season and if she will go after the 70.3 world championship title in Vegas.
Triathlete.com: Congratulations on your win in San Juan! Why the decision to make the jump up to 70.3 racing?
Frederiksen: Thanks. San Juan was a great day. I have to say it surprised me a little to win in the way I did. I guess it is a sign that I am on the right track with my training and approach to the season. Regarding the decision to jump up to 70.3 racing, believe it or not, my decision to focus primarily on non-draft for 2013 only came about four weeks ago. My focus on early-season goals was primarily to perform well at ITU World Triathlon Series San Diego, with my first season peak targeted for the ITU European Championships in June. However, four weeks ago it was revealed that my national federation was going to primarily support long-distance athletes focusing on Kona. It made no sense for me to pursue and follow federation expectations within ITU draft-legal racing when the performances are not recognized as they should be, and the financial commitment to chasing the series is far bigger than getting to Kona. Ironman 70.3 San Juan was always in the plan, but honestly it was always there as a preparation race for San Diego. I have always been a close follower to the sport and have always asked myself the question “I wonder how well I would do in a non-draft 70.3 event?” I am still very much unsure if I will put all my focus on 70.3 racing. I certainly have some decisions to make.
Triathlete.com: Have you spent a lot of time in the aero position?
Frederiksen: I have been adapting to my aero position since January. Just after the new year we got my TT bike built up and I love it. I have consistently ridden the bike since then. Because I was racing the ITU Pan American Cup in Clermont I couldn’t totally neglect my road bike, but I have to say my love for a TT bike has grown since the start of the year.
Triathlete.com: You had one of the fastest bike splits of the women. Was your pre-race plan to hammer on the bike?
Frederiksen: This did surprise me a little. Pre-race, I knew I was riding well with some pretty solid bike sessions in the bank. However I really was expecting to be the observer in this race and learn from some of the others out there. I was quickly informed of my lead after exiting the swim and I made the decision that I just had to go. I received a time check within the first 30 km and I had actually extended my lead to around two minutes. This gave me a lot of confidence. When Svenja [Bazlen] came by at 60 km I was expecting the train to follow, but it didn’t. When I entered T2 and was made aware of our lead I was a little surprised.
Triathlete.com: You beat two Ironman and 70.3 world champions (Leanda Cave and Mirinda Carfrae) in your first shot at the 70.3 distance. Does that give you confidence going into other non-drafting races?
Frederiksen: Obviously it does. We can’t forget Kelly Williamson also, who was the runner-up at 70.3 worlds last year. I have a huge respect for these girls. They are legends of the non-draft game. Of course I know these girls are not at their peak in March, but I don’t think any of us are. I definitely think my ITU and 70.3 combination allows me to be more competitive over the 70.3 distance than the combination of Ironman and 70.3 that Leanda and Mirinda are focusing on.
Triathlete.com: What was the biggest difference you noticed in a longer-distance, non-drafting race?
Frederiksen: I guess the aggression, or less of it, within the race was a notable factor. ITU racing is very aggressive, extremely competitive and a lot depends on the other athletes. Whereas non-draft racing, or at least the race this past weekend, was very much about the individual and I liked that. I have gained praise and recognition for my performance, which was determined only by my efforts. Non-draft, longer-distance racing has a much bigger mental component within the race. This only really came while on the run as it was [at] this point that I became challenged with muscular fatigue, something you are not really experiencing in ITU-style racing. It brought a new element to racing, which I had not experienced before to that degree.
Triathlete.com: What are your goals for the 2013 season? Is the 70.3 world championships part of your plan?
Frederiksen: I need to make some decisions. Vegas was never on the agenda. When I recently decided to fully commit to non-draft racing the aim was always to have fun, enjoy, learn and develop as an athlete. My plan is to still do this. I have made a commitment to the Rev3 series and I am looking forward to the possibilities here. I think coach Joel (Filliol) and I need to have a discussion about the later part of the year. I don’t rule out Vegas, but first of all I need to identify if I want it. The first half of the year will see me race primarily non-draft Olympic events, Nuatica Miami South Beach, 5150 St. Anthony’s and Rev3 Knoxville.
Triathlete.com: You are currently training in Clermont. How did you discover that training location?
Frederiksen: I have been working with my coach Joel Filliol since October of 2011 and we have never really spent much time together. The relationship has primarily been long-distance and we made the decision after the Olympics that spending more time close to Joel would be a positive move for my career. It took sacrifices and has resulted in time apart from my boyfriend Ben, but this is what it takes. Joel has used Clermont for a few years as a winter base.
Triathlete.com: Is Rio de Janeiro on your radar for 2016?
Frederiksen: I will make that decision at the end of 2013 and I will only commit to getting to Rio if I believe I have a realistic chance of making a top-10 performance at the games. The commitment and sacrifice that it takes to get to an Olympics means I just don’t want to be there for the experience. By the end of 2013 I will know if Rio 2016 fires me up. If so, I will commit and step back into the federation setup. If not, I will continue to better myself at non-draft races primarily in the states.
PHOTOS: 2013 Ironman 70.3 San Juan