Lionel’s Kona Changes
AS HE RACKED HIS BIKE AT IRONMAN 70.3 OCEANSIDE THIS YEAR, EVEN AS GREAT AN ATHLETE AS LIONEL SANDERS WAS IMPRESSED WITH WHAT HE SAW.
“I racked my bike next to [Jan] Frodeno and I thought, Holy crap – that bike is optimized, that position is optimized. Nothing is left to chance. Every ‘free watt’ has been taken,” Lionel Sanders said. “I’ve had people message me every year telling me I should be making all kinds of changes on the bike to improve aerodynamically. I’ve never done anything because I was following the approach of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’”
That race in Oceanside, where Frodeno won in impressive fashion, served as a wake up call for Sanders. In fact, Frodeno might come to regret having shown his hand so early in the year – the Canadian returned from Oceanside determined to make changes that would dramatically improve his chances in Kona this year.
“I’ve never even been to the wind tunnel,” Sanders said, in contrast to Frodeno who has spent lots of hours dialing in his equipment and position at various wind tunnels. “I just make all this crap up. I’ve given no thought, for instance, to bar choice. Or crank choice. Or pedal choice. Where you position things. Your position in the first place. I’ve given no thought to this stuff. The days of that are over. When you’re going against guys who will control every piece of the puzzle – you can’t afford not to control things.”
As soon as he got home, Sanders immediately took apart his wife Erin’s bike and started to build that up as a new race machine. The smaller Garneau Gennix TR1 frame allowed him to get into a lower position and enabled him to use a new TriRig Alpha X handlebar to get himself into a more aerodynamic position. Sanders also changed pedals, opting to use the same Speedplay pedals he saw on Frodeno’s bike in Oceanside. Hydration comes in the form of X-Lab’s Torpedo water bottle on his handlebars, and he also uses the X-Lab Aero Pouch 300 around his seat-mounted rear water bottle, where he also stores tubes and a C02 cartridge. (Sanders fixed a flat last year at the ITU World Long Distance Championship in Penticton and was still able to win the race – a lesson to all those who don’t feel they need or should take a spare with them while racing.)
Those initial changes certainly seemed to help. Always one of the strongest riders in any event, Sanders blasted through the bike course to take wins at the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship in St. George, Utah, and did the same for his wins at the Challenge Championship in Samorin and Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant.
Sanders is planning on refining his position and equipment even more heading into his race at Ironman Mont-Tremblant and the Ironman World Championship, so look for an even speedier set up on the Big Island in October.—KM
ABOVE Lionel Sander’s bike setup