They say life begins at 40 but when you’ve slogged through the miles and the races that Craig Alexander and Greg Bennett have in their extraordinary careers they are both entitled to hang up their bikes and put their feet up.
But not these two “40 something’s” – two of the greatest triathletes in the history of the sport and the two highest prize money earners will again go head-to-head at the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in Weihai, in the Shandong Province on Sunday.
The Sydney born boys who would eventually come together to take on the world at home and abroad as they forged their triathlon careers and win over every distance in the sport and in some of the richest races and who have both resided in Boulder, Colarado.
After their extraordinary careers, which has seen them take on and beat the best, their paths are always destined to keep crossing.
And as usual it won’t be a walk in the park for two of the world’s finest endurance athletes – Alexander at 41 and Bennett 42, will cover plenty of ground –in fact it’s a four-kilometre swim; 120km bike and 20km run – the official Long Distance course – and nothing unusual for them.
Three-time Hawaiian ironman champion, Alexander, has been working on his bike positioning to help overcome back pain in his return to Kona for this year’s Ironman World Championship, and is making his return to ITU racing for the first time since 2006.
A 2004 Olympian, Bennett, who made his Kona debut in 2012, has a list of 70.3 victories to his credit in a career made famous for his six ITU World Cup victories and his five-from five in the Life Time Fitness Grand Prix in 2007.
But there is now one fundamental difference when you scroll down through the start list on the ITU website – Alexander is still listed as Australian, while Bennett, who married 2008 and 2012 US Olympian Laura Reback, is now wearing the stars and stripes of the USA.
Bennett came to Weihai last year and finished with the silver. Alexander won’t be making life easier for him this year as strives to beat his old mate, who still commands the utmost respect, no matter where his allegiances lie.
A keen student of the sport, Alexander has reflected over his and Bennett’s amazing careers.
“I am fortunate because I came through in a golden era in the sport,” he said in a well documented feature interview.
“When I started we had Greg Welch, Brad Bevan and Miles Stewart.
“Then I came to the US and sunk my teeth into the non-drafting scene, I had Simon Lessing, Craig Walton, Simon Whitfield, Greg Bennett, Andy Potts, Hunter Kemper, Bevan Docherty and Hamish Carter.
“I’ve had to race them all – it’s been my honour. Inside Triathlon named the 10 greatest triathletes of all time and Greg (Bennett) and I keep joking about it, because we’ve raced practically all of them. It’s our generation. The athlete you become is because of who you race. It’s sink or swim.”
There have been 20 ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, and Denmark and Great Britain leading the overall medal tally with six titles each. Denmark has five men's and one women's, while Great Britain have five women's and one men's. Although this year marks the first time China has hosted the World Championship event, Weihai has hosted four ITU Long Distance World Triathlon Series Events beginning in 2010.
After hosting ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Series Events the last four years, Weihai, China will for the first time welcome the discipline at the World Championship level this weekend.
The men's and women's start lists each feature a fresh mix of short course and long course talent lining up with names like Alexander (AUS), Bennett (USA), Bertrand Billard (FRA), Laura Bennett (USA) and noted ITU Standard Distance star Andrea Hewitt (NZL) on the start lists. The race will be held over two-lap 4km swim in the ocean, followed by a gruelling three-lap hilly and technical 120km bike and will be finished off with a four-lap 20km seaside run. In addition to the elite titles, the event will see age group and paratriathlon races contested.
About the race:
Elite Men & Women - Sunday 21 September - 08:00 (UTC/GMT + 8) (10am AEDST)
There will be live results and live streaming of the event available on triathlon.org/live.
TOTAL PRIZE MONEY:
$85,000 USD (equal for men & women)
COURSE PROFILE: Long Distance
Swim (4km) - Possibly requiring wetsuits, the swim will take place in the ocean over two laps.
Bike (120 km) - A technical and hilly course, athletes will bike three laps of 40km each.
Run (20km) - Set alongside the sea, athletes will run four technically challenging laps.