Highlights from the pre-Kona pro press conference.

The countdown to the 2012 World Ironman Championships is almost over. We take a look at some of the highlights from the pro press conference in the build up to one of the biggest races in the triathlon calendar.

Sebastian Kienle: On his recent Ironman 70.3 World Championship victory: What worked in Vegas wouldn’t work here. If I do the same thing here, I think I’d have a nice little walk in the Energy Lab. I’m not here to break the bike record or have the fastest bike split, I just want to have a good finish and do what it takes. If that means being more patient on the bike than I was in Vegas, I hope I could do that.

Jordan Rapp: A newcomer to this race, his thoughts on why he chose to compete this year: More than anything I wanted to come and be respectful of the history of the race, and of the competitors—not just come as sort of a glorified vacation. I wanted to come when I thought I could put down a performance that was worthy of showing up. I thought I had a better run in me than I’d shown, and in Texas I put that down with a 2:46 and I thought OK, I can go and have the race that I know I have in me.

On how he sees the race panning out: I’ll start to think about my finish, in terms of placing, when I have 10K to go. Before that I’m going to worry about just not being that guy that is a 2:46 runner who runs a 4:46 and ends up walking the marathon. I’m focusing on putting together a solid race until I hit the 20 mile mark, then I’ll look at who’s behind me and who might be up the road. It certainly is different being here as an athlete. There’s something pretty magical about this place and I feel privileged to be here.

Andreas Raelert: On whether he thinks having his brother Michael here will help his race at all: It doesn’t make it easier for me, but let’s put it this way, we have 50 professional athletes on the start line, and one of these guys is my friend, my brother. So that helps me. My best guess is we can hold this pressure on four shoulders, not on two.

Pete Jacobs: On what he’s done to take his performance to the next level: The last three years I’ve had injuries, this year earlier in the year. I’ve been building up for this race a lot longer than in previous years. It was great to be back running in April/May. More kilometers in my legs means hopefully I don’t see that pain and that quad shattering I had in the last 10K last year. I’ve had a really good taper and am freshening up really well. A month ago while these guys were racing Vegas I was right on that limit, getting a bit tight, but I moved through that and am really happy with where I’m at for Saturday.

On the duel between Crowie and Macca, and how that sits with him: I look back over the years and say “well, if this or that hadn’t happened on the bike then I could’ve had a lot better result.” Last year I was happy with podium and I got podium. This year I’m a lot more driven to win. Exactly that scenario of getting off the bike and running with Crowie and Macca—I’ve used that in training and in my visualizations. I’m in the best shape I’ve been here in Hawaii.

Craig Alexander: On other athletes building their strategy around him: A lot was made in 2010 about allegiances and this kind of thing. It’s a non-drafting race, and if everyone sticks to the rules it won’t matter. The smartest thing is what Jordan just said. People who do well here race to their own strengths. We’ve all raced each other a lot. You know people’s strengths and weaknesses. If you’re smart, you’re going to race to your own strengths. There is a race going on, but you know your fitness levels, and hopefully you’re prepared to suffer because that’s what it takes. There’s no point in trying to ride with Sebastian. It’s not going to happen.

On being motivated by Lance Armstrong to return to this race, and when his motivation shifted: When I crossed the line last year, in my gut I felt I would come back. It’s inevitable when you’re 38 to have to answer questions about finding a green pasture somewhere and … for me what’s left to do is what there always was to do, becoming a better athlete. Having Lance here was exciting to me. I thought he would bring a level of professionalism we hadn’t seen. I thought what better way? Everyone’s going to have to fine-tune half a percent here and there. That being said he’s not here, and I’m going to have my hands full with the guys who are here. I love this race […] it doesn’t take long to get my juices flowing just thinking about racing here.

Kelly Williamson: On knowing she’s facing a runner like Carfrae: Your guess is as good as mine. I don’t think I’ve run to where I’m capable in an IRONMAN, but I also haven’t really done a lot of them. I feel like I’m a much better athlete now, since my last one 11 months ago. That’s part of the excitement for me, is that I feel like I have a lot of potential that hasn’t been tapped at this distance. Again, for me it’s not just about the run though. If I want to have any hope of being in this race I have to swim and bike well, too.

Rachel Joyce: On her Facebook post earlier this week about not feeling well: I’m feeling much, much better. I’ve had really good preparation coming into this race, until Monday morning. But these things happen, and I’m just grateful that I’ll be able to start. I wouldn’t have chosen to have a bronchial infection, but I’m feeling good, so I’m banking on the work I’ve done over the last 10 weeks.

Leanda Cave: On how much more confidence she has coming into this race after a successful last 12 months: Coming out of Arizona with a sub-3:00 marathon really set the stage for me this year. I feel I can deliver no matter what the temperature and conditions are. I feel I’m ready to race here in much better mental shape than last year for sure.

Mirinda Carfrae: I got hammered early in the year with Caroline and Rachel’s races in Melbourne. These girls are going to be super fast and it’s going to be a great battle. But I’m looking forward to it.

On how she’s been working on her bike: I’m not exactly sure how much better my bike is. Certainly in training the numbers look better, and I’m performing better in similar training sessions as in previous years. While I know I’ve improved, I’m also very realistic, and understand that it doesn’t always scome at six months, t comes at 12 months or a year and a half after working really hard at something. I just hope to continue to have good luck here on the island. I’ve had three really good years here. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Chrissie hurt that way before, and I think the other girls would agree that it’s always good to see Chrissie hurt.

On how she felt last year: I felt a little nervous going into the race last year. Hopping off the bike 20 minutes behind Julie and 14 minutes behind Caroline, when we’d gotten out of the water together, that’s a lot of time to get back on the marathon. Mostly I was focused on Chrissie, but still, Caroline, the girl can run. Anything’s possible in this race and it just shows you have to push until the end.

On how her confidence has been affected by her season so far: I’ve had a quieter year than in the past years, but I’ve made a lot of changes. I think you need to try different things in order to get better, and the result of that has been a bit of mixed bag. I had great races in June and July, but certainly in training is where I draw most of my confidence. Since July I’ve put in a fantastic training block.

Caroline Steffen: On coping with Ironman Melbourne expectations: It doesn’t weigh heavily on me. I felt way more pressure last year because I’d come second the year before.

Triradar.com is the online home of Triathlon Plus. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TriathlonPlus and follow us on Twitter @TriathlonPlus.