As the countdown continues to this year’s Arena Games, Alex Yee says competing in Super League Triathlon has helped him become a better triathlete.
Yee was crowned Super League male champion in 2021 as part of a stellar year in which he won individual Olympic silver and team gold.
And as he builds up towards the first Arena Games – a concept pioneered by SLT – in Munich on April 9, the 24-year-old insisted he still has plenty of improving to do.
“I still feel very much a child of the sport,” Yee told the Arena Games Triathlon Shorts / Short Chute podcast powered by Zwift.
Talking to Will McCloy he said: “I still feel like I am learning. I still go to the swim and get smashed by other people, ride on the bike with other cyclists and get smashed.
“I really enjoy that feeling of being challenged and stretched. I still very much feel that I’m not the finished product.”
The fourth discipline
The condensed Super League format means there is greater focus on transitions and Yee feels this is an area he has really sharpened up.
Yee said: “For me, this was actually more magnified by the mistakes I was making. It made me realise I was losing time.
“I think you see in the first episode of Every Second Counts, little things like forgetting to have my hat and goggles on for the first run of the second leg of the triple mix really cost me. I also ran past my shoes in Munich.
“Going into Jersey for the third race, I was like ‘if I can just eliminate all of those and make as few mistakes as possible, then I will really give myself a good chance to stay up at the front and hopefully going into a running race in the last leg’.
“I really feel like I learned from the things I did wrong and rectified them. I think that was one of the strengths of my campaign.”
The different structure of Super League races and the timing of the 2021 series coming soon after the Olympics meant Yee had no real expectations for the month-long championship.
However, he improved as he went on, securing the men’s title after winning the final two rounds in Jersey and Malibu.
Yee said: “After the Olympics, we went straight away to Edmonton for the Grand Final. After doing all the media stuff and having that overwhelming phase of craziness, I think I probably got a bit overwhelmed and run down going into that race.
“I didn’t race my best and probably struggled a little bit. So, apart from London, which was a home race, I really didn’t go into the Super League with much pressure or expectation.
“I really just wanted to enjoy the event. If I could learn something from each race and bring it on to the next week, it is only going to make me better.
“My main aim was just to keep getting better at what I’m doing and learn from the others because you can learn a heck of a lot from what the other competitors are doing around races.
The 2022 Super League season begins with the Arena Games event in Munich on Saturday, April 9.
The promotional material has understandably pitched Yee in a rivalry with Belgian Marten Van Riel, who he memorably pipped in last year’s Super League finale in Malibu. Van Riel however had the edge in the Arena Games format, with a winning double in London and Rotterdam in 2021.
Van Riel has since started his season in eye-catching style with victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai.
And talking specifically about the Arena Games, Yee said: “There’s definitely a lot of strong racing guys but I always go into every race wanting to race to the best of my ability.”
‘That’s a political answer!’ was McCloy’s response on the podcast, prompting Alex to add: “Hopefully that will mean a win but we’ll have to see what happens. Marten was incredible last year and will be a tough guy to beat but I’m really looking forward to giving it a good crack.”
The warm temperatures Van Riel encountered in Dubai are very different to some of the winter training Yee has faced and he’s been a big fan of Zwift, which will feature on the bike and run at the indoor Arena Games.
Alex explained: “I suppose we like to think we are quite hard and will brave most conditions. I have a great group here in Loughborough who brave the elements with me and I really enjoy that camaraderie, but sometimes you physically can’t go outside if it’s too icy or too snowy.
“For us that’s where Zwift becomes really, really handy and helpful. I remember times even three or four years ago when you were watching YouTube or something like that, just hoping the time goes by, with no idea of what power you are doing.
“Zwift brings together the really enjoyable bits like riding with others and also keeps your training quite consistent with the metrics they use, with the power and heartrate and stuff like that.
“Also, to have the changes in gradient and intensity and that real feel is really good. For me, it almost became a bit of an obsession over lockdown when you couldn’t go outside at all.
“I started watching YouTube videos about the fastest bikes and where to attack on courses. We had all the Zwift pro races and I planned almost more meticulously for these than I did for a triathlon bike course because I just had that time to really look into it.
“It became this new challenge and I was really excited.
“The challenges keep training fresh. As much as I like riding outside, when we have to ride inside, I still enjoy it just as much because we have that extra layer with Zwift.”