Former professional cyclist Laurent Jalabert will swim, bike and run in the 2007 Ironman on Hawaii, which takes place tomorrow, Saturday, October 13. Jalabert has continued with sports after the end of his active pro cycling career and has finished three marathon events so far, all under three hours.
Jalabert told French paper L'Equipe that he simply does the race, also known as "the longest day," out of "pleasure." The Ironman, a grueling event of a 3.8-kilometre ocean swim, a 180-kilometre bike ride along the windy island and a full-fledged marathon in the end, has the name for a reason. Whoever survived swimming in the waves and riding along the monotony of the endless lava fields will then still have to run 42.195 kilometres to the finish line.
Jalabert explained that when he stopped his career in October 2002 he "wanted to spend more time with my family after all those years in the peloton. And that's what I did at the beginning of my retirement. But I gained weight and I missed the sport. So I started training for triathlons with a friend."
Jalabert also works as an advisor and commentator to French television, especially during the Tour de France. He did jokingly answer a question from a ten-year old girl during this year's Tour, saying "that sitting on a motorbike is a much easier way to see France." But clearly, Jalabert keeps up with his workouts and his marathon performances will help him along to finish well tomorrow.
He did well with his first competitions and his first full triathlon, the Ironman in Zurich, Switzerland. The Frenchman finished a respectable 21st. That was in June and gave him the ticket to Hawaii. But he insists that unlike in the pro peloton, where he wanted to be first over the cols and win the bunch sprints, the triathlon is "simply a personal desire. I participate like an amateur and I am not jumping in to compete for victory, I just want to please myself. I keep track of the times I do at every event. The goal is to improve little by little. The only goal is the victory over myself, while having fun."
Most triathlon specialists agree that Hawaii is the most difficult triathlon. It seems like a "hell on earth", fought out on a "paradise island." Other cyclists that have finished the event include Udo Bölts who was still actively racing at the time, and Kai Hundertmarck.
At 38 years of age, 'Jaja' is getting ready for one of his biggest beatings. To withstand, he will have to give it his all and be able to suffer tremendously. Just for pleasure.