On April 17, 2022, Cameron Wurf was part of the winning team at the fastest ever edition of the cycling world’s toughest one-day race, Paris-Roubaix. Just a few weeks later, the 38-year-old found himself in St. George, Utah, as one of the favourites at the Ironman World Championships.
Not many riders would have considered going for a run after racing a six hour Monument, but Wurf is not like other riders. Nick Busca caught up with the Australian in the USA to find out more about how he manages to be world class in not one but two of the most highly demanding endurance sports in the world.
"You wanted to be the big guy who said you could do both sports? I'm not gonna let you sit on the couch in Andorra, telling me what you could have done. Man up and do what you told everyone you wanted to do."
Cameron Wurf's wife Fallon knows her husband, and she knows when he needs a bit of locker room chat to do something that most professional athletes would think is crazy.
On Sunday, April 17th, Wurf helped his teammate Dylan van Baarle win a tough edition of Paris-Roubaix (the fastest in the history of the Monument). Then, two weeks later, after the team confirmed he would not be participating in the Giro d'Italia, Wurf suddenly had the chance to jump on a plane to St. George, Utah, and race the Ironman World Championships.
The Australian is a tough cookie. Not only is he a strong domestique at Ineos and the guy who led the team and the whole peloton over the first cobbled sections at Roubaix, he is also a professional triathlete who set Ironman bike-course records all over the world, including in Kona, Hawaii, where the Ironman WC is normally held.
"I'm really grateful to be here in St. George", where a non-conventional post-Covid edition of the Ironman WC is being held, says Wurf. "It's a huge privilege. When I started racing as a professional cyclist and triathlete, I always thought about the prospect of being able to do both sports at the highest level. And I feel like I've got a chance to be competitive on Saturday after the experience I had just a couple of weeks ago on the road bike. I can't wait to get stuck into it."
Cameron Wurf has ridden for Ineos since 2020 (Credit: SWpix)
Wurf's whole athletic career has been anything but conventional. Before returning to the professional peloton in 2020, when he was offered a place at Ineos Grenadiers to replace the rock steady Vasil Kiryienka (who retired because of heart issues), he was already a professional triathlete. He had turned pro in 2016, a year after he decided to focus on triathlons as an amateur.
But before that, he had already been a professional cyclist and had raced for Liquigas, Androni Giocattoli, Fuji Servetto, and Cannondale. His last race appearance in the pro peloton was in 2014, when he moved away from cycling because he didn't find his place. Before that, Wurf was a rower: in 2003 he won gold in the lightweight coxless four at the U23 World Championships and in a year later competed at Olympic Games in Athens.
Fast forward to 2017, when – as a pro triathlete – he started to train more and more with Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas (in LA, Australia and Europe), and Ineos found out that Wurf still had plenty to give to the sport. So they decided that the best man to replace Kiryienka in 2020 was the unconventional but reliable Aussie.
I'm about to blow up like a cheap watch
Wurf relished his chance to play a key support role at this year’s Roubaix, only his second participation in the Hell of the North and one which came 12 years after his first.
"When we got there, and from the car radio, they told me to take it easy a bit because I was gonna lead the guys on the cobbles for the first few sectors. I got goosebumps," he says. "When I hit the cobbles, it felt like being in Kona [at the Ironman WC in Hawaii], when I broke away from the other guys, and I was on my own."
But even before heading on the most iconic sectors of Roubaix before everyone else, the 38-year-old Aussie had done a lot of work to control the first moves, and then blew the race apart.
Wurf leads the peloton onto the pavé (Credit: Zac Williams/SWpix)
"Early on, I was chasing a lot, as my role was chasing down the attacks," he says. "Then, after 30 to 40 km from the team car, they said that pace was hard for the back of the peloton, and everyone was struggling. I was like, 'That's great news because I'm about to blow up like a cheap watch'. And then, you chased another couple of moves, and I had lactate coming out of my eyeballs."
At that time, he realised that even the biggest favourites of the day, like Van Der Poel and Van Aert, had missed the front group. "We just got together, and [Luke] Rowe decided we could force a gap, but it was pretty special to have a front group of 50 riders and your whole team there."
Since his comeback at the WorldTour level with Ineos, Wurf has been permitted to train for triathlons at a high level while also training and racing for the team. And often, after one-day races, or long days in the saddle, he puts his sneakers on and goes for a run.
"This year after Roubaix recon, Dylan wanted to ride back to the hotel, which was an extra two hours," Wurf says. "And I said to the director, OK, put it into the plan that I'll do the extra bit with Dylan, so he doesn't feel like he's doing it on his own. Then, when we got back, he asked me how I was doing, and I said I was doing pretty good, so I went for a run, and that day I trained for six hours."
But although he had a pair of sneakers on his team bus ready to be used after Paris-Roubaix, the post-victory celebration derailed his triathlon plans for once.
"I think I had three beers after the race before getting to the bus," he says.
And for Saturday, he has no plans other than to go full gas from the start. He's also brought his wife, son and even dog to St. George. Because you never know, if he wins the Ironman WC, it's good to have the family around.