The glamour of life as World Champion. Straight off the blue carpet and into anti-doping for two hours, a quick dinner with the parents, a scroll of the socials and then onto a transfer at 5am to fly to the USA. Follow that up with a training bike crash that derailed her plans for a belated barbecue celebration, and you could say Beth Potter has yet to really get to grips with the fact that she is the world’s best female triathlete of 2023.
The win in the Championship Finals Pontevedra had all the signs of an athlete at the top of her game, at ease with her preparations, her form and her ability to win. And, as she discusses in the latest World Triathlon Podcast, at ease with the possibility of defeat. Throw in the recurring pre-race insomnia and roulette wheel of top-level triathlon, and nothing was being taken for granted at the Championship Finals – listen to the full interview on Spotify, Apple and Google.
“I was about 40 minutes from home, but I was at the end of a long ride. I was four hours in, and I was jet lagged, and I was probably a bit tired, and the reaction times were probably a bit slow. And there was an oncoming car that just was too big for the lane, that didn’t stop in enough time. I had to go to the hospital to get my knee stitched up… there’s like a big chunk missing in the middle.”
It’s a typically matter-of-fact assessment of the situation just a week away from racing in Neom from someone that has had not just the most successful season in their career so far, but also the most high-pressure. After illness at Rio 2016 hampered her chances in the 10,000m finals and Tokyo 2020 came just too early for her ambitions to hit the squad, there were always two big targets in 2023: Paris Test Event and the Championship Finals.
British Triathlon rules meant that a podium in both races would guarantee Potter a place on the start list, a place she has been laser-focussed on ever since joining the Brownlees and co at their training base in Leeds in 2017 on a mission to fulfil her potential at the highest level. At first a swimmer, then a runner, the biking was the final piece of the puzzle to click into place, and learning the craft from some of the best in the business has clearly paid off.
“I think just with having the memories of Rio and not being well and people had come out to see me and I was disappointed and so I think, I just want a different Olympic experience this time. I mean, eventually it was the reason I decided to lead athletics, so I don’t want that to be the case with triathlon.”
By her own admission, Potter’s running speed off the bike was something that hadn’t been consistent in previous seasons. In Pontevedra, she’d had to work hard on the first lap to bridge to the leaders and then faced one of the best runners in the business in a 10km shootout for the title. Step one was to have a good T2. It gave her the edge she needed.
“I knew when we were running into T2 that Cassandre was on the wrong side, and I was a bit confused by that. I was like, ‘I need to cut across you because my bike is on the right hand side and yours is on the left’, So I was like, maybe she’s a bit confused about where she’s going here. And then I had a very quick transition I knew that she wasn’t there.”
It transpired that it was Beaugrand who was struggling to find her rhythm through cramp on that first lap and it afforded Potter a window she knew she could capitalise on.
I was getting information that she was a couple seconds behind. I think she’d made contact by the end of the hill, but then on the downhill, I knew that’s where I was going to be better at running. So I made sure we ran that quite hard.”
“I did a lot of cross country when I was younger. Running cross country and especially hilly cross country that have tight bends and then in the Spanish streets it was on kind of sort of cobbled ground and it was lots of kind of sharp right handers and as you’re running quite uphill in a narrow, kind of through narrow streets as well. I like that sort of running and I guess somewhere like Paris and maybe Hamburg is more sort of flat and you can get into a rhythm and I think that’s what Cass is really good at.”
Hear the full interview below or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
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