Abu Dhabi calling Ben Hoffman

Ben Hoffman had a great 2010 season with wins at 70.3 Branson and Ironman Lake Placid. The Durango, CO resident will be heading to Abu Dhabi in a few days to show that there is more to come.

Slowtwitch: Are you well and ready for Abu Dhabi?

Ben: Thanks for checking in, Herbert. I’ve been hard at work here in Tucson to build some early season fitness for Abu Dhabi. This is the earliest I’ve ever trained this hard, so I feel ready. Barring any major travel hangover, I should be prepared to do battle!

ST: When are you flying over there?

Ben: After discussing the layout of my early season goals with my coach, we both decided it would be better to make this a quicker trip. I’ve always been a fan of getting to know an area beyond just the triathlon event when I travel, but I will be arriving the 9th and leaving the 15th. With Oceanside, potentially New Orleans, and then Ironman St. George coming up after, I want to be back and rolling with my training sooner than later.

ST: Do you think other folks are keeping an eye out for you there?

Ben: Honestly, probably not. With all the superstars toeing the line, like Macca, Crowie, Rasmus, Eneko, etc., it’s likely that my name isn’t being tossed around too much. That said, I do think my fellow athletes know a bit more about me after last year, and will be somewhat aware of my presence. I don’t want to sell myself short, but it’s actually kind of nice to be coming in "under the radar."

ST: How much longer do you think you'll be able to fly under the radar?

Ben: Hopefully not too much longer! I guess asking other people where they thought I stood in that sense would be a more accurate gauge of whether I'm really stealth anymore or not... I'm not a world champion yet, but I know that people are beginning to take notice. I suppose winning Abu Dhabi might be a good way to answer that question definitively...

ST: Why Abu Dhabi versus another longer race this early in the season?

Ben: I like the idea of patronizing events outside the WTC realm, and especially events that roll out the red carpet for professionals, like the Abu Dhabi Triathlon does. The athlete support at this race is truly spectacular, the venue and distances are unique, the prize purse is representative of what I think other races should have, and it's a chance to see a new part of the world that I might not otherwise visit. I feel like I can't go wrong. Also, I love to ride my bike, so I'll do my best to enjoy the 200k segment!

ST: How do you feel about these "odd distance" events in general?

Ben: I feel every race is a little bit of an odd distance when you think about it... Ironman has become a standard of sorts, but even it is a collection of somewhat arbitrary lengths, so I like the idea of moving beyond that construct. I would love to see more events that put emphasis on different disciplines just to shake things up a little. Why not give athletes an evolving platform for showcasing their talents?

ST: When you look at the starting list, what comes to your mind?

Ben: It’s pretty clear that this is one of the strongest fields outside of Kona, or any other world championship event. It’s impossible to know how well every person has trained for an early race like this one, but if even half the guys come with good fitness, it will be a spectacular race. It’s almost easier to think of the start list in terms of who isn’t there…

ST: What do you expect from yourself at the Abu Dhabi race?

Ben: My expectations are realistic, and tempered with an outlook to other races that are true season goals. I expect to give my very best effort on the day, and to look for opportunities to exploit the long bike. With swimming still being my relative weakness, I am looking forward to seeing what gains I have made over the last few months, and will give everything to stay in contact with the lead swim group. This race will be an interesting challenge, and I look at it as an opportunity to get some more early-season fitness, and to gain more racing experience against a class field without paying the toll of Ironman.

ST: Looking back at 2010, you must be quite happy with your season.

Ben: I had a great season of racing, easily my best to date. I achieved my goals of winning an Ironman and 70.3 event, and was competitive in nearly every race I entered. It gave me a ton of confidence for continuing to pursue this as a career, and I had a lot of fun; there is nothing quite like the feeling of winning an Ironman race!

ST: Who will win the women's race in your view?

Ben: Without knowing how each athlete has been training, I would say that I like Julie for defending her title. The distances suit her well, but I have a feeling she will see some major competition from my Specialized teammate Melanie McQuaid. We did a nice training ride here last week and she was going well. The race really could go to any number of the talented women, including Caroline Steffen, Leanda Cave, or Amy Marsh too. Just like the men’s race, it promises to have some fireworks!

ST: Your season highlight of 2010?

Ben: Winning Ironman Lake Placid was the coolest thing I have done in my short career, and undoubtedly the best part of 2010. I had my family and friends there for support, had an incredible training block to get me ready, and then executed my race when it was on the line. Sharing the moment with my parents, the awesome crowd, and all my friends was beyond words.

ST: What does the rest of 2011 look like?

Ben: I will be spending some time at Specialized in California after Abu Dhabi which will see me racing Xterra Real, racing Oceanside 70.3 right after, possibly New Orleans 70.3, and then Ironman St. George. If it works to race an Xterra Cup, I would love to do that too, but my year will probably end up looking a lot like last season. I have never been in the position to defend an Ironman title, but that will likely be a focus for the second half of my season. Finally, racing a series of world championships at the end of the year would be fun, especially with the new venue for 70.3 Worlds. I don’t know if the 70.3/Kona/Maui/ITU Long Course lineup is realistic, but I’m not ruling it out!

ST: Any news in terms of sponsors?

Ben: There is actually some really big news, Herbert! I recently joined the Zoot Tribe, and I will be racing in their gear head to toe this season. I feel very fortunate to have this partnership, as Zoot represents an inspiring commitment to the triathlon lifestyle. The quality of their products, coupled with the dedication to innovation and athlete support is going to be an amazing asset for me this season. I am also continuing my relationship with Specialized, who I think exemplifies this same passion for excellence and cutting-edge technology. Also onboard The Hoff Express will be Zipp/SRAM (best wheels and components in the game, hands down), CLIF (delicious, healthy training and race nutrition), and Tri-Bike Transport, who will take the headache out of traveling with my bike to all these races. I will also be joining the incredible lineup of athletes over at Wattie Ink, so I know I am in good hands on the management side. I feel truly blessed to have relationships with these companies who share my values and provide phenomenal support so I can pursue this incredible lifestyle.

ST: So what is you weapon of choice for Abu Dhabi, Shiv or Transition?

Ben: I will still roll on the Transition for this race, as I have not had proper time on the Shiv to feel confident over this distance. By the time I race Oceanside I should be on the Shiv. I have ridden it enough to understand it's obvious advantages in the weight and stiffness departments, and the numbers from aerodynamic testing speak for themselves, so it will be nice to have that peace of mind when I get my position dialed. That said, the Transition is a still a great bike, and I'm looking forward to putting yet another good race together on my trusty steed.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Ben: I’m looking forward to another year of living the dream life, being part of the amazing worldwide community of triathletes, and going full gas! Check my website at www.benhoffmanracing.com, twitter @bhoffmanracing, and I’ll see everyone at the races! Hoff out!