Trimes digs Jeff Symonds – 3rd at 70.3 WC.

By Marc-Antoine Christin.

The Canadian, Jeffrey Symonds surprised everybody with his recent 3rd place at the 70.3 WC. It reminds me Michael Raelert at Clearwater saying, wow Crowie knows my name, it’s crazy… Jeff is almost in the same league now. So we wanted to know more about this athlete since he represents the future of the Canada on the 70.3 circuit.

Picture from Tri-magazine http://tri-magazine.net/?p=4629

You’re only 25 years old, why have you been focusing on long distance such as the 70.3 series? I started pretty late in triathlon. When I did my first ever triathlon I was 20 and 2008 was my first year where I focused on triathlon and not track. 2008 was an amazing year for me as I was the U23 elite Pan American Champion and was able to represent Canada at the U23 ITU World Championships in Vancouver. Unfortunately, it was my first and last year as an U23 and was told by Triathlon Canada that if I wanted to see any support I would first have to podium at two world cups in the same year (This was before the WCS was around). I was put off by this and tried a half Ironman and fell in love with the Long distance non-drafting format. What attracts me to long distance racing  is that there isn’t much strategy to it. The best strategy is always to work as hard as possible over the period that you are out there. I like knowing that every time I take a hard pedal stroke the other guys have to take one too.

Could you explain why there were only 2 Canadians in the pro field in Las Vegas? There are quite a few factors for that. The qualification system was changed for this year. The WTC went to a points based ranking system and reduced the number of pro men participants to 50 in order to make it a more elite field. The money in Vegas is not good relative to the level of competition, especially this year with the race date moved back to allow athletes who are racing Hawaii a chance to compete fresh. If you didn’t think you were going to place high in Vegas some felt it was a better move to focus on the other races knowing that most of the big guns would be in Vegas. Canadian Brent Poulsen was really fit and scheduled to enter but unfortunately was not able to make the start line.

You’ve said you want to be 70.3 World Champion, but is Craig Alexander really beatable? Absolutely. Craig is an amazing athlete, but the beauty of our sport is that on any given day anyone is beatable. What I need to do is use him as motivation to get myself to the start line next year with better fitness  than I had this year and see where it stacks up. I am working really hard to line up a dream team of sponsors so that I can have the best equipment and the finances needed to not have to work a day job and train full time and then really see what I can do in the sport.

What was your strategy going into that race? Was it any different than your opponents? It’s hard to know for sure but I think so. My strategy was to focus on myself and make sure I was putting out a solid effort  but also a consistent effort. My plan was to stay within my limits on the ride and run the run and at even pace. This seems to be how Craig has always raced if you look at what he did in his last 4 Kona appearances as well as the other races he has done. The difference between his first and my third was that he is currently a better trained athlete and has higher limits and abilities. I think some athletes get caught up in the racing aspect and go beyond there limits at key points in the race and on an unforgiving course like Vegas, that comes back to haunt you. Sometimes it takes more courage to hold back and be confidant than does to throw caution to the wind and go for it.  The hard part going forward for me will be having the desire and pressure to win, but be able to temper that with the confidence to race your my even if that means letting other guys pull away at times.

The course in Las Vegas is recognized as a hard one. Do you think it’s overrated? It’s tough, but Muskoka was tougher, at least for me. I am more suited to the long hills that the steep more explosive ups and down that a course like Muskoka has. I think we also got lucky in Vegas with a day that was a bit cooler than it could have been. I think that the toughness of Vegas did play into my strengths though. I have always thought of myself as a grinder and someone that can stay positive and keep moving forward  even if my body is feeling completely haggard.

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Any Ironman plans in the future or comeback in ITU racing? Ironman is more of a possibility but I am not in a rush. I like the 70.3 distance and right now I am continuing to get faster year after year without getting injured. However, Ironman Canada is the reason I got into triathlon and Kona is the ultimate goal. So Ironman will definitely happen. I may try an ITU race next year but drafting style racing really negates all of my strengths and amplifies my weaknesses. I would have to put some serious work in the pool to be competitive in the swim, I would also have learn how to ride a bike in a pack because right now I am danger to anyone who comes near me. Now that I look back those World Cup Podiums look a lot more reachable than they once did.  However I can’t see that happening because as much as I love watching draft legal races, racing them drives me crazy.  I need that go hard from the gun mentality for it to really be fun.

What do you think was the reaction of the other pros after your recent result? People seem to be happy that I was able to have the breakthrough race in my career. I think everyone can related to being the underdog, working part time at sometime in their career so to really breakthrough and make it is something they can relate to. We have a lot of good, relatively young, long course guys that I think are on the brink of a breakout season or race. Steve Kilshaw, Trevor Wurtele, Sean Bechtel, Brent Poulsen, Wolfgang Guembel… are really poised to throw down in the last months of 2011 and 2012.  I will be equally as stoked for them when they have that breakthrough because I know how hard I worked for mine. Hopefully my result in Vegas will be a confidence booster for them.
Just like a lot of triathlon stars you have a cross country background, can you explain why athletes coming from that sport have a lot of success in triathlon? Because it’s tough. I think Cross-Country rewards runners that have strength more so than the track does.  I think this strength aspect tends to be similar to what it takes to succeed in triathlon.  Steeplechase also seems to be an event that sets you up well for triathlons.  I think this is more because of the running through complete and udder discomfort that is common to both sports.

Who are your sponsors? How’s life for a pro triathlete these days? I probably shouldn’t comment on that too much as I am still investigating my options but I’ll just say that the response has been absolutely incredible. I have had some  amazing companies approach me and I am in a position now where I can setup a dream team to help make myself and the companies successful for years to come.  What is great is that the companies are interested not only because of my result but because of the excitement and passion in my finisher photo from the race.  I am very proud of the passion that I have for the sport and the best part about triathlon is that you get to meet others that share that passion. Two sponsors that I will definitely continue with are my coach Kevin Cutjar of www.EndurancePlanner.com and my work The Bike Barn.

Anything else we should know about Jeff Symonds? My last name rhymes with Diamonds and other than that the finisher photo from Vegas says everything there is to know about me.

Né à Poissy, France, exilé à Montréal, Canada, Alexandre cherche perpétuellement à déchiffrer le sport d'endurance ainsi que son élite. Designer graphique de formation et passionné pour le triathlon suite à la performance de Whitfield à Bejing, il considère le sport comme vecteur de vie. alex@trimes.org

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