MOOLOOLABA'S Caroline Steffen is eagerly anticipating next year's Ironman 70.3 World Championships on home soil after defending her Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast title in strong fashion yesterday.
The 36-year-old produced an impressive display over the 1.8km swim, 90km ride, 21.1km run to finish in 4hrs9min25sec, ahead of Australian Annabel Luxford (4:12.01) and Czech Republic's Radka Vodickova (4:15.09).
While Steffen celebrated the victory, she already has one eye on 2016.
"I'm super excited to have the world championships here next year," she said.
"I feel really confident on this course. The run course really suits me so I really hope they don't change it."
Steffen clocked 1hr18min43sec on the run leg yesterday, which featured four ascents of Alexandra Headland. Her split was easily the fastest among the women.
While the course suits Steffen, so does the atmosphere.
She competes for her native Switzerland, but has lived on the Sunshine Coast for the past six years. The cheers from the crowd motivated her yesterday.
"This race (Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast) is really important to me," she said.
"I'm Swiss but I feel like so many people welcome me here and I feel like a local."
As one of the world's top triathletes, Steffen said there was some anticipation for her to do well yesterday.
"I wouldn't call it pressure but a lot of people expect me to win," she said.
Steffen's time was faster than last year (4:12.06), despite a season hampered by illness and injury.
She is bound for the Ironman World Championships (3.8km swim, 180km ride, 41.1km ride) in Hawaii next month.
She has finished second in that race twice.
"We'll see how it goes," she said. "I've missed out on a bit of training this year, was injured a bit and was sick as well.
"But to see how well I went here....I'm actually a bit surprised."
A lighter work load this campaign may actually help her at Kona.
"Sometimes I think injury can be a forced rest and sometimes it's not too bad for you," she said.
"I'm known for being a really hard trainer, sometimes a bit too hard. I know last year I was a bit overdone when I went to Kona.
"(This year) I feel much stronger. I hope I'm going to be fresher for it this time."
She said she will take a more relaxed approach to Kona this time around.
"I think in the last few years I put a lot of pressure on myself. This year I'm not one of the favourites."
Steffen has won four 70.3 races in 2015 but said the likes of Miranda Carfrae and Daniela Ryf were the ones to beat.
1. Caroline Steffen SUI 4:09.25
2. Annabel Luxford AUS 4:12.01
3. Radka Vodickova CZE 4:15.09
4. Sarah Crowley AUS 4:16.50
5. Kirralee Seidel AUS 4:17.50
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