How do you avoid a drafting penalty on this narrow flat course?
Tim O'Donnell 2009 ITU long course world champion whose race here last year was marred by a drafting call that threw him out of the top 10 I fell victim here last year -- the first penalty of my professional career. And having it happen in the World Championships was very disappointing.
It's a narrow course for the most part and packs tend to group up despite good intentions. So what to do? You want to stay honest. But you are also on that thin line. You're riding near the front of a group of guys and they will all cut in front of you if they think your gap is too big. So I'm just going to be super cautious. If I have to fall back of the pack because other guys are cutting in - even though I think they should get a blocking penalty -- I'm just going to have to take it. I'd rather come off at the back of the front group than start the run 5 minutes back. That's my plan,.
Matt Reed: Finished third last year I think with the swim being in the ocean, it will be very different from last year when it was in the [protected] bay and there was little separation of the good swimmers from the field. Also, the field was bigger and there were a lot more good cyclists as well. That made it hard for breakaways to happen. If someone took off, there were a lot of good cyclists to chase him down. So the pack ended up being 50 or so -- and some women in there too. This year hopefully the swim will make a difference and the gaps will open up straight away. Hopefully it will just be small groups of guys and not just one big swarm.
Q Is it a good idea to race Clearwater a week before trying to qualify for Kona at Ironman Arizona?
Matt Reed and Leanda Cave are doing it
Matt Reed: The training I do day in and day out is really hard and wearing. I'm used to a lot of hard work. And this is not a hard half Ironman -- the bike is dead flat. And I will have a good full week of recovery. When you race long course, you lose the ITU Olympic distance speed I had. So this is a good chance to sharpen up at race pace. And it's a World Championship, too. I don’t want to miss a chance at a World title.
Leanda Cave: Like Matt Reed, I am doing Ironman Arizona next week. Like Matt said, Ironman training tends to reduce speed. But I try to mix speed in my training. In this sort of race, you never know when you need a bit of speed.
What do you think about the Ironman 70.3 World Championship leaving Clearwater?
Julie Dibens: Clearwater has been a great venue for 5 years. It's a beautiful place. But I think we're all excited to go to Vegas. We're all itching to get on a hard course, a nice hilly course on the bike and run. It's been great here. It’s flat and it's record fast. But there's been a lot of talk about all the drafting that goes on. So it's not been the fairest race out there. And it's good for the sport that it is moving to Vegas, where the best athlete will definitely win the race.
What will it take to win here Saturday?
Magali Tisseyre: Who finished third here last year It's such a tough field I think it becomes a mental race at the end. I think it’s going to take a great swim from me. Because I have to be up front on the bike. Then if I just have a solid bike, a smart bike, so I can run real well. To improve my result, it's going to take a really good run.
Angela Naeth: For me it is the same as Magali. I'm hoping for a very strong swim. I've been working on it all year and I'll continue to work on it this winter. I'm learning to be a triathlete rather than the strong biker. I'm learning to stay strong on the run after the bike.
Last year Daniel Fontana, a two-time Olympian, surprised many with his second-place finish. What has he done different this year?
Daniel Fontana: Last year was a surprise for me. I knew I was in top shape for the  Olympic Games and I was still fast on the run last year at Clearwater. This year I did two Ironman races. I finished third at Ironman South Africa in 8:30. At Ironman Hawaii, I had a very good swim and first half of the bike. But after I got a 5-minute penalty for blocking, I tried too hard to close the gap and I exploded. I really want to do better here.
Last Michael Raelert had a 21:30 swim, 1:59 bike and 1:09 run and broke the course record by 6 minutes in 3:34 - a perfect race. Brad Culp asked Raelert, 'Can you go faster?
Michael Raelert: It is possible. But it will depend on the currents in the swim, and the wind on the bike. So on the run I will have to go faster. To be honest, I'd even go slower if I could. It all depends how we all get off the bike and push ourselves. If I could make it without running 1:09, I'd be perfectly happy.
Does Michael Raelert care as much about this race as before?
Michael Raelert: I had a good year [he won Oceanside, Wildflower, the European 70.3 Championships and Ironman 70.3 Switzerland] and look to keep it going on Saturday. To be honest, this race means everything to me. All the other races were nice and I am happy to win them. But my season comes down to the 70.3 Ironman World Championship and I've waited and prepared 364 days for this. I'm ready to go and I can't wait for Saturday.