Daniela Ryf is the most dominant triathlete of her generation, and has already earned her place in the discussion regarding who are the greatest triathletes of all time. She’s the three-time, reigning Kona World Champion and course record holder. She’s also a three-time 70.3 World Champion, as well as a winner of countless other races in her illustrious career. Going into 2018, what else does she have to prove? How does she find the motivation to keep training, competing, and suffering in a way that only a few elite endurance athletes ever have? Read on to find out, as well as gain some insight into a truly unique champion.
FELT: Tell us about your 2018 racing season so far. What have been some of the highlights and some of the low points?
Daniela: Some highlights have included winning the 70.3 World Championship in South Africa, as well as winning at home in Zurich, Switzerland, and at Rapperwil, and discovering a new location to race like Gdynia, Poland. I don’t really think about low points, necessarily, as they’re always opportunities to learn.
FELT: What's your favorite memory from your career racing triathlon?
Daniela: My favorite memory is racing at Kona in 2016 when I had the feeling that I was in a tunnel during the race. My body just worked that day, and everything fell into place.
FELT: What racing goal would you like to achieve that you haven't yet?
Daniela: My ultimate goal is always to see how fast I can go, each and every race.
FELT: Describe your hardest day of training for Kona.
Daniela: Each day is always different, but the solid days usually start with a two-hour run in the morning before breakfast, then a long swim set at noon, followed by a four-hour bike ride in the afternoon.
FELT: What's the most unique element of your training plan for Kona?
Daniela: There is nothing unique, really, as my training continues as it does for every other race.
FELT: What makes the Kona World Championship unique, compared to other triathlon events?
Daniela: The conditions make it unique. It's beautiful but brutal in Kona, with lots of wind and humidity. Sometimes it feels like you can sense the importance of this race in the air itself.
FELT: Describe your perfect race day at Kona.
Daniela: My perfect race day at Kona is to start with a good swim so that the gap between me and the best swimmers is not too big. I’d follow this with a solid bike ride where I can push myself to the limit and find myself back in that tunnel frame of mind. And then I’d finish with a solid, consistent run.
FELT: If you weren't a professional triathlete, what career would you pursue
Daniela: I think I would work as a food scientist, developing new food products. I am very interested in new foods.
FELT: Tell us about your Felt IA Disc bike. What do you think of disc brakes
Daniela: I like the disc brakes a lot because they have more power in all conditions. Even if the course is wet, or if it rains on my training ride, I know I will have full control. The bike also feels very stable, and the handling is perfect thanks to the extra stiffness of the thru-axles.
FELT: What are three things you cannot live without?
Daniela: Family, friends, and Red Bull.
FELT: You're on the verge of winning four Kona World Championships in a row. The only woman to accomplish that was Paula Newby-Fraser. Other greats like Natascha Badmann and Chrissie Wellington won plenty of championships, but never four in a row, consecutively. What would it mean to you to win a fourth Kona title? And what is the biggest obstacle that you must overcome on race day?
Daniela: I don't focus on the titles as it's not what motivates me to race. My motivation is to see what I am capable of, and to see how fast I can go. Of course, to win another title would be great and I greatly admire the wonderful athletes who have achieved so much. But, in the end, I want to say that I pushed myself to the limit on race day and gave everything I had. On race day, my obstacles are like everyone else's. It could be that my body does not work as my head wants it to. So there is a lot of work going on in my head to control my body as I want to.
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