Former ITU Sprint World Triathlon champion and three-time Olympian Barbara Riveros has developed a reputation as one of the world’s most versatile triathletes, with outstanding performances over many years in the high-intensity sprint formats, IRONMAN 70.3 through to ITU long course racing.

The Chilean is heading to IRONMAN Western Australia to put herself to the ultimate test, making her IRONMAN debut in Busselton against her former training partner Caroline Steffen.

Barbara is a graduate of the ITU Development program and has a long connection to Australia, basing herself in Wollongong for many years under the guidance of coach Jamie Turner, who she credits with giving her the confidence to believe she could race at the elite level.

Her last-minute entry into the IRONMAN Western Australia was the suggestion of her current coach, the European based Australian guru Brett Sutton who guides IRONMAN World Champion Daniela Ryf and was coach of IRONMAN legend Chrissie Wellington.

“This is the first ever full-distance IRONMAN for me. This year I did the ITU Long Course in Denmark and that is the longest event that I have done. So, IRONMAN Western Australia is going to be a big challenge for me.”

“This year has been a real mix. Earlier in the year, my focus was on the South American Games which is like your Commonwealth Games and it is every four years. It is a big thing for the government of Chile and I had to defend my title there that I won in 2010 and 2014. They were very keen for me to compete and get my victory there. So that was the emphasis in late May.”

“After that Brett moved the focus to 70.3 and the ITU Long Course in Denmark and then, not having raced ITU for two years, we started to do some World Cups. I did Lausanne, then 70.3 Zell am See-Kaprun, then World Cup Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. I went to the ITU Grand Final in the Gold Coast but I didn’t 100 per cent prepare for that, it was just to get some points. The form was there but I got lost on the second lap of the swim, which made things a lot harder. Then I finished up with two World Cups in Salinas in Ecuador and Tongyeong, Korea, so it has been a bit of everything.”

After a week break, coach Sutton dropped the IRONMAN bombshell when he said, “What about doing Busselton?’.

“It was only this month that Brett decided I was racing. I haven’t put in too many weeks of training, we will see in Busselton how my body adjusts to all the changes. When I raced in Denmark it was three-quarter of the distance of an IRONMAN and I had never ridden 120km hard and run 30km and I thought I would probably die in the 30kms but it wasn’t too bad. That was six hours of racing but in an IRONMAN you have at least another three hours, 60km ride and another 12km on the run. It is still a long way to go and my biggest concern is how my nutrition will go and that is something we will see in the race.”

“People say pacing the IRONMAN is a difficult thing to learn but I never run to a tempo with a Garmin or anything like that. All my 70.3 races I have done without a Garmin and it was the same in Denmark, I just run by feeling. I asked Brett did he want me to run with a Garmin so I could keep an eye on my heart rate and he said, ‘No, just what you normally do’. I definitely control my tempo on the bike but then on the run, I will just try to hold the pace. I know it will be hard and might make a mistake but hopefully, it will be a small one. Hopefully, I don’t die too much,” Barbara laughed.

Caroline Steffen is definitely the pre-race favourite but despite her inexperience, with her outstanding speed on the run, Riveros is a genuine threat.

“Caroline and I trained together earlier in the year in St Moritz for six weeks and it was great to meet her little boy Xander. We did some rides and runs together. She knows exactly what she is doing, even if she hasn’t raced IRONMAN for a while, she has a lot of experience and is a lot stronger now than earlier in the year. I know she is going for the win, so we will see what happens on race day.”

Barbara has heard a lot about Western Australia from her former training partners, Perth locals Ryan Bailie and Felicity Sheedy Ryan and she is looking forward to experiencing the West first hand.

“I have never been to Perth or to Busselton but I have done some research and I will get a car. It is definitely good to do a new race in a new environment. I have heard a lot about Perth and I have also been told there are good wineries down near Busselton in Margaret River. Plus, my friends have told me that Margaret River has a big mountain bike race. I will see how the body is feeling after the race and if it is okay, I will get out and do some tourist things. Maybe I can bring some nice wine back to my Aussie family. That would be a special treat,” she said.

To find out more visit IRONMAN Western Australia


Photo Delly Carr