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Tue 20th Aug 2019
Interview: Philip Graves
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Friday 5th March 2010

Tags  Abu Dhabi  |  Phil Graves  |  Philip Graves

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While the likes of Alistair Brownlee, Chrissie Wellington and Julie Dibens may have won more in 2009, if you were looking to present a 'breakthrough' award in the British triathlon world, then Philip Graves would surely be your 2009 winner.

At just 20 years of age, Phil took the title at UK Ironman 70.3, Wimbleball, and then backed that up by becoming the youngest Ironman winner ever, when he won Ironman UK in Bolton. Add to that a national time trial medal in the 100-mile championship, representing GB at the European Olympic Distance Champs, leading the Ironman World Champs in Kona and a host of other time trial and triathlon victories, and 2009 was certainly a defining year for the likeable Yorkshireman.

But, what is in store for 2010? I caught up with Phil ahead of his first major event of the year - the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon - to look back on 2009, discuss what is in store for 2010 and talk about what lies ahead in Abu Dhabi.

Looking back on 2009

JL Looking back on 2009, you had a very long and successful season with the UK Ironman and UK Ironman 70.3 wins, plus a National 100 TT medal - plus of course gaining some headlines in Kona - how satisfied were you with the year overall, and how would you mark your own performance out of ten?!

PG 2009 was definitely an 8 out of 10. The year went perfectly for me, but racing so much, nearly every weekend from February till October really got to me I think. I got good form and was flying in the summer but when it came to the end of the year, and at Clearwater especially, I just felt washed out and ready to stop. Still, I learnt a lot which is what it was all about for me. I'm glad I raced the races I did and now I can be more picky with what I race, though I don’t think that will stop me racing nearly every weekend in 2010.

Phil training in Stellenbosch on his new Specialized Shiv TT bike

Looking forward to 2010

JL Coming in to the 2010 season, do you feel additional pressure because of  increased expectations / media spotlight than last year, or does that fact that you are still young and proved what you can do in 2009 actually mean you can relax and enjoy your racing, having now secured improved backing and sponsorship?

PG There is definitely no added pressure! I would say I put more pressure on myself last year as I knew what I was capable of, I just had to prove it myself. I think the biggest thing last year was everyone except me wanted me to stay away from Ironman, even though it was something I so badly wanted to do. So really, I had to do well or I would have looked a right tool! This year is going to be another huge learning curve for me. I finish University in May and then can turn my attention to triathlon full time, which will make next Winter so much easier not having to worry about essays and having to stay, for some time at least, in the UK in the Winter. I went to South Africa for three weeks in January and got a very good block of training in. If I can just get three months in like that I just know I have more to give!

Phil in TT mode

JL You committed to racing Ironman at a relatively young age - at least in elite pro terms - do you plan to focus on long distance events again this year, or will you be doing a range events? Is qualifying for Kona this year an objective for example?

PG Kona is the primary objective for the year, I want to race well for 8 hours there this year, not just 3 or 4! But I will be doing a range of different racing, some ITU, some 70.3, some Ironman, a lot of time trialling whenever possible and perhaps some XTERRA. I'm still young so want to mix things up and just enjoy my racing, not see it as a chore.

JL You were announced as an ‘affiliate’ member of the 2010 British Triathlon Performance Squad, presumably due to your potential in a ‘domestique’ role in draft-legal racing. Is there a conflict between that, and your long distance ambitions, or do you think the speed requirements of the shorter distance will ultimately benefit your 70.3/Iron goals?

PG At the end of the day, it's all just swimming, cycling and running. I think the ITU stuff will help me in the years ahead and it gives me the opportunity to try and gain selection for the Olympics. The Olympics will only be in my home county once in my career and its something that I don't want to just let pass, I would love to represent my country at the most important sporting event in the world.

Abu Dhabi thoughts...

JL On to 2010, your first major race will be the brand new and much hyped Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. A new race with a great field - you must be pretty excited at the prospect?

PG I really am looking forward to racing Abu Dhabi. Being in March it is going to be an interesting prospect, I don't think anyone will know how fit they are which will make for some exciting racing, plus the whole approach to the race is very professional. It will be a great learning experience for me.

JL The Abu Dhabi distances are - give or take  bit - “iron distance, but with a half distance run”. On the surface at least, that would appear to play to the strength of the swim-bikers (like yourself!), but do you think the racing will be that simple - how do you think the race will pan out?

PG Nothing is ever that simple but as I said, it's going to be a very interesting race. On the surface it does seem to suit me but it really depends on the nature of the course. I mean, will people be running at Ironman or 70.3 speed, its difficult to predict! I'd like to know myself!

JL What sort of shape are you in heading into the race? Have you got any thoughts on who you would consider the race favourites, and what are your own hopes and expectations?

Phil post KonaPG In my opinion Joe Gambles is the man to beat, pure and simple! I was extremely impressed with him at Clearwater and I think he has amazing talent. There are 10 or so guys right up there who could win on any given day. On my shape, I really have no idea what's going to happen, I've put in some good training with some great athletes, we will just have to wait and see!

JL What lies in store on the Phil Graves race schedule for the rest of 2010?

PG Well, its going to be an interesting year! I hope to race Wildflower, Ironman Lanzarote (I have been eyeing Thomas Hellriegel's record for a few years now and it is a race I really want to do!), then I will try and defend my 70.3 UK title. After this I will switch my focus to some ITU racing for a couple of months, try and get some speed in the legs, then maybe race a 70.3 somewhere in the US in September then hopefully Hawaii and possibly XTERRA world's. It would seem a shame not to race it, being over on that side of the planet!

JL And finally…is it true you take your Yorkshire Tea with you everywhere? If so, will you make me a cup in Abu Dhabi please!!

PG Actually I don't drink any tea or coffee, it's my Dad, aka the support team that is addicted to it. I think it’s the only thing that keeps him going. I’m sure you could get together and have a tea drinking contest!

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