Paula Findlay took the plaudits for her well-merited victory at CHALLENGEDAYTONA®, but Haug caught the eye with a stirring performance.
Despite battling to second place in one of the strongest fields ever seen in triathlon, Haug refuses to relive the rollercoaster of emotions she experienced throughout the race.
She explained: “I never watch the races I’ve participated in because I know what I’d be doing or how the race unfolds, so I was just happy to be back again in Germany and enjoying my time a bit, having a season break and getting mentally refreshed.
“I don’t like to watch myself, to be honest. I can’t change it anyway. I know what I’ve done wrong and what I want to do better for the next race, so that’s what I’m taking with me and I try better next time.”
Haug revealed that prior to CHALLENGEDAYTONA®, she had never been penalised during a race, but after being handed a two-minute time penalty during the bike leg, she was left wondering where she went wrong.
“Officially, I don’t know why I got that (penalty) still, so I assume it happened in the overtaking process, because I’m always a bit at the back in the swim and I can’t hold back. I want to have the fastest race possible.
“So, I didn’t care if in front of me there was a whole bunch and I took the risk to overtake them. Obviously, it’s a corner, like a track, and the corner came and because you have to be 3m apart, I had the outside, so the longer way to go, and after I finished that I got the whistle.
“I thought ok, it has just happened. Because I was still 3m apart from the others, it can’t be a drafting fault, so I thought I maybe took a little bit too long for overtaking.”
Haug’s reaction to the penalty encapsulated her steely determination to compete at the highest level of triathlon – she simply brushed off the disappointment and set about atoning for her error.
“First, I thought please, please don’t let my number be on the penalty box, but when I passed the penalty box, I just saw the guy writing my letter and I said ‘oh, what a nightmare’,” she laughed.
“But then I was ok. You can’t change it, there is no, like, room for discussion and I have to take it and make the best out of it.
“So, I thought ok, that’s the situation, when is the best way to take it? And I decided to take it straightaway because I didn’t want to interrupt my run.”
From fifteenth to second
Haug fought through the pain barrier to recover from 15th position, overtaking several world-class athletes on the run as she put the frustration of receiving a penalty behind her.
“I didn’t have any other options,” she remarked. “I know from my short distance times that I always have to catch up.
“And even if my legs are burning after the bike, you have to go as fast as possible and if I’m in the race, I always think there’s a chance to win.
“Even if not, I’m here on the start line to give my very best performance and just because you stand two minutes in the penalty den, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good performance.
“I wanted to show that I’m a good runner and I wanted to show that I was the best possible. I had good motivation because I was in 15th and I definitely wanted to be on the podium.”
Haug was full of praise for CHALLENGEDAYTONA® winner Findlay – an athlete who has been plagued by injuries over the years but appeared back to her best at the PTO 2020 Championship.
“It was a well, well-deserved win for her and I’m so happy for her because she was such a great ITU athlete,” Haug beamed.
“She was a world champion. I mean she won five WTS races in a row and then she had a really, really tough time to fight back after such a long time and still believe in herself, so I’m very happy about her development.
“That’s a really, really great effort, not just physically, but mentally as well, and I really love such stories as well – coming back after such tough times.
“So, a very, very well-deserved victory and just a very controlled performance. It was a perfect race I think.”
Collins Cup dream very much alive.
Haug’s attention now turns to the 2021 Collins Cup in Šamorín, Slovakia, as she looks to fulfil her aspirations of competing in what is shaping up to be a very strong Team Europe.
“I hope I will be a part of that because it’s a big goal of mine to be in that team,” she reasoned. “Obviously, I think Team Europe is the strongest around and just to make the team means you have to be the best possible, because the competition is just so high.
“But I think that’s the reason why we are so good – because we have so much competition and everyone really has to work hard to be on the team.
“Šamorín is a big, big goal for me and I hope I can make it, maybe with other German team members as well – that would be fantastic. I train hard to be on it.”