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© James Mitchell / www.jamesmitchell.eu
Stephen Bayliss: my best is yet to come
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Wednesday 20th January 2016


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After pneumonia in 2015, Stephen Bayliss is back to health and not finished yet

Stephen Bayliss is perhaps Great Britain's most experienced professional iron-distance athlete. A former British Ironman record holder (8:13:53 at Ironman Austria 2008), he has finished faster than 8:30 over the distance seven times and has ten full distance Ironman® podium finishes - both of which head those statistics for British athletes.

His 2015 season was impacted by falling ill with pneumonia, and the effects of trying to recover from that left his late season performances well below his usual standards. Now refreshed, recovered and looking forward to 2016, I recently spoke to Stephen while out at Sands Beach Resort (www.sandsbeachactive.com) about the plans for the remainder of his competitive career, of which he feels his best is still to come.


Firstly Stephen, a year ago when we spoke to you after the Lanzarote International International Duathlon and you were fit, healthy and looking forward to the 2015 season. Not long after that you got struck down with pneumonia and that really impacted the rest of the year in trying to recover and get fit and that reflected in your results. Are you recovered now?

I'm fully healthy again, which is the main thing. Training again, particularly the last few months has been very good and I'm starting to feel very positive about this year and securing some good results later in the season.

What have you got planned for the year in terms of events?

I haven't planned too far ahead, but the first aims are Challenge Fuerteventura and Ironman Lanzarote. After that I'll probably race a couple of other Ironman races because I want to qualify for Hawaii and try have a good race there before I retire.

Related Article: Stephen's Challenge Fuerteventura report 2011

Being based here in Lanzarote, you must know the roads and course of the Ironman really well. Do you think that's and advantage, and is it a course that you think suits you?

Whatever Ironman you do I think the most important thing you can do is be fit and ready. We've found, both Bella and I over the years, it doesn't matter too much about the course - if we're in good shape and are smart on race day then you can do a good job anywhere. I think more than knowing the course for race day, it's training here in Lanzarote is very beneficial. Obviously the climate helps in the winter - you can train outdoors every day of the year if you want to. But the wind and the hills really improve your cycling.

Lanzarote International Duathlon 2016 ©James Mitchell / www.jamesmitchell.eu
©James Mitchell / www.jamesmitchell.eu.

Related Article: Fastest British Iron Men

You've raced for a long time now and have got plenty of Ironman races under your belt - how much longer do you plan on racing for?

Well, I think I'm 37 (!), so I've not got years and years left... but the way I'm looking at it is I want to have a good year this year and then have my best year ever the year after (2017). Then, that might be time to retire or, if it makes sense financially and I'm better than I've been previously, continue. I read an interview recently with Conrad Stolz and he's 42/43 now and of course Cameron Brown is still winning. I think my knees are starting to wear out - but they are still working (!) - and I do feel like I can improve and do a good job. I still want to win some more Ironman races and I would still like to do a good race in Hawaii. My first time there was my best and at the time I thought, that's a good start, but I've not been able to improve on that since, so that's still a big aim.

Stephen Bayliss - Career Iron Distance Victories

Challenge Henley 2012 - 8:29:31
Challenge Vichy 2011 - 8:45:29
Ironman UK 2008 - 8:53:59
Ironman South Africa 2008 - 8:18:23

What would you regard as your best performance race wise, irrespective of your finishing position in that race?

stephen win IMSAIn 2008 there were a lot of races which I think were probably my best to date. Possibly getting second to Marino in Austria [Ed. which, at the time, was a new British Ironman record], was a very good performance. I remember getting off the bike about six minutes down and thinking I was in a position to try and catch him. The gap stayed the same on the run, but I was in really good shape and I felt like I was pushing hard, I wasn't worried about blowing up - I just ran and ran and ran. Also, when I won Ironman South Africa (2008), my first Ironman win, that was pretty special - with Bella winning as well.

What would be your favourite race?

If I had to choose I think I'd go for Embrunman. It's such an amazing test, riding in the mountains. In some years it can be freezing cold or it can be raining. It's a very individual event, a fair race and a stunning course. Everyone is just there for the challenge of the event.

Stephen Bayliss - ETU & ITU Championship Medals

2012 ETU Long Distance (Roth) - Bronze
2007 ETU Long Distance (Brasschat) - Bronze
2005 ETU Long Distance (Sater) - Bronze

Having had to recover from pneumonia last year and not being able to show what you are capable of, do you still have the belief at this stage of your career that you can still be better than you have so far?

Yes, I think my swimming has actually improved... but unfortunately that's only about 45 minutes of an eight hour event! Biking has improved too, but obviously I wasn't able to show that last year and run wise I still think that, depending on the course and the conditions, I can run a low 2:40 something off of a good bike. I believe I can do better than I've ever done before and that's why I still want to go on for at least a couple more years.

I think the level of Ironman and the depth has really improved and so you really need to be biking really well and then have the run to go with it. You can't have an average bike split and then rely on a 2:45 to win. I was speaking to someone here recently about belief and if you don't believe it yourself then you have very little chance of making it happen.

Related Article: The fastest bikers in Ironman

Lanzarote International Duathlon 2016 ©James Mitchell / www.jamesmitchell.eu
©James Mitchell / www.jamesmitchell.eu.

There seems to be a strong and emerging group of British male athletes over the Ironman distance currently, with David McNamee (11th), Joe Skipper (13th) and Tim Don (15th) all doing well in Kona at their first attempts in October. We've then got Will Clarke focussed on Ironman now, Fraser Cartmell, Harry Wiltshire and possibly a few others, plus yourself, in the mix. And of course, hopefully one of that group might be the first Brit to crack the eight-hour mark which would be quite a milestone.

Exactly, and that's the way to do it. I can see now that one or two of those are going to be in the top ten at Kona next year. David McNamee from what I understand is a hard worker and that's going to show for him in Ironman. I mean he was doing brilliant in ITU, top-10's but maybe the Ironman for him will really suit. His performance last year was very impressive and I'm sure people will be looking at him to do some good things next year and it will help everyone. Those short course guys, if they have the desire and the will for the longer stuff, have the basic speed and talent - and if you are going to run close to 2:40 off the bike, or perhaps even quicker, you need to be running a fast 10km or be able to.

Related Article: Men's Sub-8 Hour Iron-Distance Archive

It seems to be quite an interesting mix at the top of Ironman racing right now - you've got the dominant athlete right now, Jan Frodeno, who came to Ironman from the very peak of ITU racing as an Olympic Champion. You've then got guys like Marino Vanhoenacker and Sebastian Kienle with almost zero history of top level ITU history, and then others like for example Brent McMahon and perhaps David, who have been very strong in ITU, but perhaps not at that very top tier, but all battling closely and performing well over the longer distance?

I think the only thing now in Hawaii is if you want to be win, and possibly top three, you can't have a weak anything. You've got to be in that front group on the swim and then the same with the bike and be able to run well. That first year Craig Alexander won I think he lost a lot of time on the bike and then ran fast and caught up, but I don't think you can do that now and still win.

Well good luck for a positive and healthy year and some good battles with David, Joe, Tim, Fraser and anyone else who is going to come along to push on that British long distance effort.

Thank you John!

Lanzarote International Duathlon 2016 ©James Mitchell / www.jamesmitchell.eu
©James Mitchell / www.jamesmitchell.eu.


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Have Your Say
Re: Stephen Bayliss: my best is yet to come
Posted by TonyJam
Posted at 16:29:36 20th Jan 2016
Reply to this

Great to hear Steve's getting his health back on track. He is genuinely one of the nicest guys you can meet when out training.