Just call him Markus “Blitzkrieg” Rolli.
Like the unstoppable lightning-quick offensive employed by the armored units of the German Army during the war, Rolli rode his competitors off the road in the bike and then hung on in the run to claim the victory in the past Alveo IRONMAN 70.3 Davao.
Rolli came in second to Bahrain’s Eric Watson in the swim. He zoomed through the roads of Davao on his bike to post an eight-minute, three-second lead over Sam Betten at the end of the bike ride. He then ran well enough to preserve that lead and win the race over a hard-charging Craig Alexander who placed second.
It was a risky gambit which could have cost him the race.
“In a race like that you have to take your chance if you get one. My strategy was to (get ahead and) stay in front for as long as possible. And I got the win. So I’m really, really happy,” said Rolli.
“I had a great race. The swim was perfect for me. I came out on the front. On the bike, I took the risk and rode away. I pushed really hard at the beginning here.”
A triathlete swimming strong and following it with an all-out effort in the bike runs the risk of tiring too soon allowing his competitors to eventually catch up.
“The run, it was just really tough. From the beginning I started to suffer and my legs hurt. The muscles really hurt from the hard bike ride. In the bike, I just took the risk, broke away and pushed really hard. I think I over-biked a bit. I went too hard. But I ran it home,” said Rolli.
“The run was really tough. They (audience) just pushed me through the pain. I suffered big time in the run. I was not feeling well but I got a big gap when I started it, around eight minutes. So, I just gave my best and brought it home So it was a great day for me. I’m really happy to win here.”
The 27-year-old German confessed that he did not have high expectations entering the race because he was up against a stellar field.
“I’m a little bit surprised of course. There were many tough athletes. I’m really, really happy to win. There were many good athletes. The defending champion Mauricio Mendez of course. IRONMAN legend Craig Alexander. Tim Reed. It’s a big honor for me to race against these guys. A few years ago I just dreamed of racing against them. And now I actually beat them. I’m just happy,” said Rolli.
Starting strong in the swim, building on that lead in the bike and then hanging on in the run in the hope of going on to win has always been his game plan. It hasn’t always brought him success.
“It’s usually my strategy because I’m a pretty good swimmer and bike is my strength. I usually hammer the bike and just hang on during the run. I try my best to bring it home, just like today. That’s really my strategy but I’m really working hard to get better in the run part,” said Rolli.
“It feels great. The people here are amazing. They were cheering on every meter of the race course. It was a great experience. I’ve been doing triathlon for 10 years. But I turned professional just two years ago. The eight years before I was just doing a little bit, for sport. But two years ago I turned professional and it became a business. When I turned professional I raced in the IRONMAN 70.3 in Phuket and I won. This is my second win.”
Preparation and acclimation also played a big part in Rolli’s victory. He was among the first athletes to come to Davao to familiarize himself with the terrain, the course and most importantly the hot weather.
“Where I come from in Germany it was very cold. Here it was really hot and humid. I had a training camp in Phuket. Then I came here six days ago. I was in the city. In an apartment and rested up for the race. And then put it all down today,” said Rolli.
He also had a support group in his family who no doubt lifted his spirits even more.
“My parents are here with me. They’ve been here for a week. And they were here on race day of course. Big thanks to them as well,” said Rolli who expressed his respect and admiration to another world class race organized by Sunrise Events with the help and cooperation of the Davao local and Philippine national government.
He said racing in Davao was an exciting experience. The biggest surprise was the support of the people. Hundreds of fans lined the route to cheer on the participants.
“On race day it was a great course. Fast. There were many spectators. They were just everywhere. Not like races in Europe. There were 100 times more spectators on the course here. It was just great. I hope I can come back. It was a great race. Thank you very much Davao,” the appreciative Rolli said.
Rolli’s blitzkrieg style of going all out on his bicycle and trying to ride his opponents off the road has not always led to success. In two years as a professional it has brought him just two 70.3 wins. But during the Alveo IRONMAN 70.3 Davao, at least. It was enough to bring him a victory.
For details about the race visit the website www.ironman.com/davao703 as well as the Sunrise Events Website (https//v2.sunriseevents.com.ph), Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Accounts.