The Iron Couple Ready For Challenge Henley 2013.

Stephen-Bayliss-wins-challenge-henley

Stephen Bayliss won the event last year and is returning to defend his title

This September sees two of the UK’s most successful long distance triathletes once again going for the win at Challenge Henley. Stephen and Bella Bayliss – known in triathlon circles as The Iron Couple – boast an impressive 19 Ironman-distance wins between them. Over the course of their glittering careers, Bella has secured more long distance crowns than almost any other athlete in history (15 titles – and an ITU Long Distance World Championship, too), while Stephen has four wins, including Ironman UK and South Africa and the 2012 Challenge Henley crown.

Having competed at Challenge Henley in both 2011 and 2012, Stephen is familiar with a course that has been dubbed the ‘Fastest in the UK’: “I have done both Challenge Henley races so far.  The location is fantastic for a memorable day, with great enthusiastic crowds in the town and a superb course. The swim in the Thames is fast, and the run is really nice along the banks of the river and on some nice paths to give your legs a break from the concrete. I have really enjoyed the whole race week of Challenge Henley. It is a great family atmosphere.”

These days, family is the operative word for the Iron Couple. In 2011, Bella gave birth to their first son, Charlie, who now travels with them as they tour the World training and racing. Needless to say, it takes a bit of juggling to balance the demands of both parenthood and the toughest single-day sport in the world: “Life is very busy,” reflects Bella. “Stephen and I both look after Charlie and both of us are training for Ironman.  But it is amazing how much you can fit into one day! Every minute of every day is used.  We do have help now so at least Stephen and I can both train at the same time, and that gives us more time to spend with Charlie and sometimes a bit of resting too!”

For most pro athletes, long distance triathlon is a punishing, all-encompassing pursuit. Preparing your body to be able to survive the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run is hard enough. Preparing it to win the race is something else. But that preparation is something that both Stephen and Bella are familiar with. As is the expectation placed on Stephen’s shoulders of being the returning champion. “I don’t feel anymore pressure being the defending champion.  I will treat it like all my other races.  I will try to prepare and race to the best of my ability.”

The first part of Stephen’s preparation involves recovery. After finishing a disappointing tenth at Ironman Lanzarote earlier this year, Stephen is only now getting back into the swing of his training after : “At this moment I am just building back into some solid training after being ill for a few weeks following Ironman Lanzarote.  I will be trying to work on getting my swim, bike and run as good as possible for race day.”

They are sentiments echoed by Stephen’s wife, Bella. The Ironmum is hoping to go one better than her second-placed finish in 2012 – the year that she returned to the sport following the birth of their Son. “Of course I would love to win Challenge Henley.  I will do my best in my training to be the best I can be. Since last year I have simply been trying to get fitter, I hope that shows at Challenge Henley 2013!”

If you want to join Stephen and Bella on the start line of the 2013 Challenge Henley there’s still time – and spaces – available. You can enter at www.challengehenley.com. To keep up to date with Challenge Henley follow us on Twitter @challengetriuk or like us on facebook.com/challengehenley

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