As race day looms ever nearer, our four athletes are starting to feel the enormity of the task they have taken upon themselves. Signing on for the Pho3nix Sub7 and Sub8 Project, Powered by Zwift is not something you do on a lark.
That fact is dawning on Joe Skipper now. He admits, “Thought it was going to be easier than what it was, to be honest. After going out on the bike and getting an idea of what the pace feels like in the swim, I think it’s definitely doable but it’s going to be pretty hard.”
Kat Matthews is feeling the pressure, but is also excited. “The gravity of actually being here this week, it’s really come together and I’m starting to realise there’s so many different parts to this.”
Kristian Blummenfelt, in a rare show of vulnerability, reveals, “Coming here a few days before the race and seeing how the team has been built together, it just gives me a lot of confidence… I just hope that I can prove that the Norwegian hype is a thing on Sunday.”
If she has any nerves about what’s coming, Nicola Spirig seems to be hiding them well. She says, “This is a huge challenge for me, and I always liked challenges. Now that everyone is here and I see the teams in person, it’s quite nice.”
They wouldn’t be the champion endurance athletes they are without the urge to explore their limits and the unknown, never mind if they’ve possibly bitten off more than they can chew.
“When I first heard about the project, it was cool to be asked,” says Blummenfelt. “It’s a unique opportunity: it’s only two guys and two girls racing the full distance.”
Skipper knows he can deliver big performances under the gun because he’s done it before. “You’ve got the pressure of the team; you don’t want to let the guys down,” he says. “I’m glad there is a bit of pressure, because otherwise I don’t think I’d get the best out of myself on Sunday.”
Matthews knows she has done the work; now is the time to let the cards fall where they may. “I think I’m in the best position to give this shot the best that anybody could at the moment in the world on the female field,” she states.
Spirig, who is racing Sub8 as a swan song having announced her intended retirement at the end of the year, says, “I’m 40 years old. I’m [raising] three kids. I have a 25-year career. And it just shows that you can achieve a lot if you really go for it and you really give a lot to achieve it. And I hope that inspires other people to do the same with their dreams, their hopes, their goals.”
They are on a mission, and they can’t stop now. And this is what separates champions from also-rans. They are just built different.