SRAM Force 22 “Hold
It was an early morning ride along the Queen Kaahumanu Highway on the Big Island of Hawaii and Paskins had set me up on a road bike to try out the new sram Force 22 group set. We’d turned a corner and, while I was still in the big chainring, I shifted to my easiest cog. At the top of the hill I looked down and realized that I had just done something that would have made all kinds of noise on my five-year- old group set at home.
“The new Force has Yaw,” Paskins replied to my question, once he’d caught his breath from the climb.
“Who?” I replied, wondering if Paskins was suddenly acquiring a Texas drawl due to a lack of oxygen.
“Yaw – the same rotating front derailleur we have in Red.”
Suddenly it occurred to me that for the first time in recent memory a marketing rep hadn’t put me on his company’s top- end product when given the opportunity to show off his company’s best products. Being able to use gears I wouldn’t normally have access to suddenly made me realize that this group set might be a game changer.
sram’s Force gruppo has always been known for its great value and durability, offering many of the performance of high- end groupsets, but for considerably less money. For the last few years the team I work with has specced the bikes for its junior road riders and triathletes (who aren’t exactly easy on their equipment) with Force components, and the group sets have performed and lasted well.
When it comes to components, something needs to be sacrificed to justify the difference in cost between the various groups. In years past those who saved money by picking Force instead of the top of the line Red were adding some weight to their bikes and missing some of the latest innovations. This third Force iteration, Force 22, has set a new standard, though, offering all the developments from sram’s flagship Red gruppo. That means you get the innovations of sram’s top groupset, including 22 usable gears, for a lot less money and only 160 g of weight.
As I learned in my Kona test ride, I can emphasize usable because Force 22 includes a Yaw rotating front derailleur (first introduced on the 2012 Red gruppo), which enables the chain, crankset and chainrings to work together as a unit. Remember the days when you tried to use your easiest cog with your biggest chainring (or hardest cog with your small chainring), only to hear and feel the chain rubbing against the derailleur? They’re gone. Until sram came up with the Yaw system you could only enjoy that benefit in an electronic system like Shimano’s Di2. Now it’s available in a mid-level mechanical system.
The carbon fibre crankset has an aluminum spider, making it a bit heavier than the high- end Red version, but it seems to perform every bit as well and looks very sharp. The beefed up aluminum chainrings are very stiff – even the biggest gear- grinding triathletes won’t have any problems getting maximum performance from them. The bottom bracket is compatible with the Red ceramic version, which is a great upgrade for those wanting to shave off some weight.
The rear derailleur offers extremely quick action. During my ride and with our review gruppo, the Force 22 bar- end shifters weren’t available, so we tried things out as a road setup with sram’s double-tap brake/shift levers. If you haven’t ever used the doubletap system before, it takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have the hang of it you’ll find it’s pretty easy to move up and down through the gears. Short taps on the lever move you one gear harder, while a long press moves you to an easier gear. Holding the lever in will move you up a number of gears at once, which is a nice feature for those days when you come around a corner and find yourself on a steep climb – as I did that morning in Kona.
In addition to all the other mechanical innovations, sram has spent a lot of time dialling in the ergonomics of the lever hood in this gruppo. Paired with sister- company Zipp’s Service Course SL-70 handlebars, the hoods form a straight line off the edge of the bar for an extremely comfortable hand position. The large paddles are easy to get at and the long brake levers are completely and easily adjustable, so even those with smaller hands will be able to find a comfortable fit. The 11-speed cassette uses an aluminum spider with steel cogs. It offers the same spacing and spline as Shimano, so various parts will be cross compatible. Braking is easy and smooth thanks to the dual-pivot brakes.
We’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of the tri-upgrade for the gruppo that will include bar- end shifters and some larger chainrings for the Force 22 group set, which is due as we go to print with this issue. That is sure to make this a popular option on mid-range tri bikes. ( We’ll make sure to post a followup on triathlonmagazine. ca when we do.)
There was a reason Paskins hadn’t felt a need to set me up on sram’s more expensive road gruppo. When it comes to performance, there’s not much more you could ask for that what you get from sram’s Force 22. For the price it’s amongst the highest performing and lightest mechanical group sets around.– KM
$150 With a 59 litre capacity and every feature you could ever want, the Endurance 9.0 is like the Cadillac of transition packs. Made with lightweight and durable rip- stop nylon, the Endurance 9.0 easily converts to a backpack with adjustable shoulder and sternum straps, but it can also serve as a great over-the- shoulder weekend bag. There are separate compartments for all your needs including a large main compartment and an additional end storage pocket with a lockable crush-resistant moulded eva armoured pocket on the top that protects sunglasses. Ogio has pulled out all the stops with this bag, including an expandable helmet pocket, a wet/dry compartment with 360 degrees of ventilation for sweaty gear or wetsuit, a separate ventilated shoe compartment ( large enough to hold both bike and run shoes) and two insulated hydration bottle pockets. An interior Tech Vault keeps your phone and electronics free from harm and a hanger clip lets you hang your bag while setting up transition.– TMC
Signited when he took part in the youth triathlon series Kids of Steel. Could Merrell’s Schools in Motion inspire the new Whitfield? Merrell and Triathlon Quebec bring triathlon to kids who might never encounter the sport, much less take part in it.
Schools are selected based on their access to a pool for race day and training, and the program relies heavily on dedicated triathlete teachers who volunteer to coach the students and cheer them on throughout the race. Schools in Motion has put together an extensive guide that outlines everything host schools need to know, from how to set up transition to how to secure officials. Merrell and Triathlon Quebec both supply two staff members for race day. Merrell also subsidizes most of the event including a truckload of competition essentials such as the finishing arch, way-finding signs, cones, fencing, and bike racks for transition. Canadian Tire even donated bikes for those kids who need one – these, like the finishing arch and race day gear, are shipped from school to school for each event.
“We believe at their age it is important to make the sport about participation rather than competition. It’s about getting to that finishing arch which the kids love because it makes it very official. It’s amazing to see the self- esteem we are building in those kids who never thought they could do something like this,” explains Triquet.
In the pool and on the racecourse our varied cultural beliefs and differing socio- economics can coexist and this, Triquet insists, is just one way triathlon is transformative.
How tough is Xena? This is a woman who powered her way through a 4:34 bike split at the Asia- Pacific Ironman Championship Melbourne two years ago (riding with the second men’s pack, no less), on her way to an 8:35 finish time, making her the second fastest woman ever over the Ironman distance. At last year’s Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, Steffen was strongly favoured to win the race, but ended up getting sick.
“Your girl isn’t going to finish,” Craig Alexander told her boyfriend on the course. “I just saw her throwing her guts up on the Queen K.”
Xena warriored on, though, running an incredibly quick last 20 km of the marathon to move herself back to fifth.
As tough as she is in races, there’s also a reason why her former coach, Brett Sutton, used to emphasize the “princess” part of her nickname. Chat with her away from a race and she’s incredibly soft- spoken. Despite all the time in the spotlight, the 35-year- old is quiet, unassuming and shy. Sentences are punctuated with a smile or a soft laugh. Even if you’re a fan of one of her competitors, a few minutes with her and you can’t help but like her.
Spend over an hour interviewing her and you start to realize that in addition to her quiet disposition before the gun goes off, Steffen is, at some levels, a hopeless romantic. How else do you describe a young woman with barely any English getting on the phone to her employers at the road engineering firm in Switzerland, where she’d worked for a decade, to say she’s not coming back after a training camp in Australia because she’d met a guy, Australian David Dellow. (If you think that call was hard, imagine the one to her parents.) When she met Dellow her English was so weak she could barely understand him, but it became pretty clear that he truly believed she had the ability to become one of the world’s best.
“Dave gave me this chance,” she says. “He said, ‘ I believe in you and we’re going to stick together and do this.’” They have.
DELLOWknow she had. Even now, with four Ironman titles, a Challenge Roth win last summer along with two itu long course titles, you won’t get her to admit that there’s any natural ability.
“I’m just fighting,” she says. “I keep pushing myself. I don’t give up. If I had more talent I’d be even better with the work that I do. I have to work really hard to get the results I have.”
She’s always excelled by outworking those around her. After chasing her older brother and sister around for years, as a child her mother put a motorcycle helmet on her head on the ski hill because she would go down the hills so fast without turning. Those years of outstanding swimming? Two-a- day workouts for 10 years. On the bike she was an aerobic machine, often being designated to work as a domestique for her team. One day when they told her she could go for it and not have to work for anyone, she took off halfway through the race and cruised to her first pro win.
Before that bike career, though, there was some multi-sport success. After waking up one day and realizing she didn’t want to swim any more, Steffen took a couple of years off sports. Then she entered a crossSwitzerland race that included swimming, mountain biking, inline skating, road biking and running. After leading through the swim, she found herself in dead last during the inline skating before moving herself up through the ranks on the bikes and run to finish fifth. Realizing her strength was in the water, on two wheels and then running, she looked for a triathlon she could make as her next challenge.
“What’s the craziest thing I can do in triathlon,” she asked herself. The Ironman Switzerland race in nearby Zurich was the quick answer. Her 9:58 finishing time netted her second in her age group and qualified her for Kona, where she finished third and rode an impressive 5:12 bike split on a road bike without aero bars.
The next two years were spent on the cycling team before she decided once again it was time to
head back to triathlon. She signed up for that fateful triathlon camp and hasn’t looked back since. Well, maybe for a while during her introduction to Sutton, who spent the first few days at their first training camp together in the Philippines virtually ignoring her and just taking notes. When they finally started to talk, though, the results were impressive. Her professional debut in Kona included a runner-up finish to Chrissie Wellington. A year later, after dominating in Frankfurt, Steffen finished fifth in Kona despite to a foot injury that hampered her run training. Then came the 2012 disappointment, where Steffen led for much of the run, only to find herself passed by Leanda Cave in the last five kilometres.
“It was like giving a chocolate bar to a kid and then pulling it away and saying it’s not yours,” she said of the race, where she would finish second by just 65 seconds. “It was hard to get over it.”
After an uncharacteristically slow start to the 2013 season, Steffen’s build to Kona seemed to be going perfectly. She won Challenge Roth and then, following a similar plan to that used for Wellington before her first win in 2007, cruised to a full- distance win in Bintan, Indonesia six weeks before Kona.
“In the lead up [to Kona] I felt really good,” she says. “All the times were better than before. I was really confident with all the work I did before the race.”
The day began perfectly, too. She swam with the large lead group, then found herself in a group of nine that f lew through the first half of the bike, reaching the turnaround in Hawi at an average speed of 40 km/ h. Not wanting to lose time to that group, Steffen missed her special needs bag and couldn’t get the two bottles she’d prepared with her own drinks, which might have been why she started to feel sick through the rest of the ride.
“I thought about stopping in T2,” she says, “then I stopped one km into the run. Leanda came by and encouraged me, so I started to run with her.”
She struggled through the first 22 km of the run, then had the epic throw-up session that Alexander witnessed. From there she felt better and ran well, finishing the last 10 km faster than she ever has in Kona.
“It was a lesson,” Steffen says. “I learned a lot about myself. I am still sure I can win this race.”
All of which provides some solace, but …
“Isays. “That’s what keeps you going.” Then comes that smile and a bit of a laugh as she finishes the thought. “And I always picture myself looking back to make sure no one catches me.”
Welcome to the life of being a rabbit. When you’re amongst the strongest swim/ bikers the sport has ever seen you spend a lot of time running with a target on your back. When one of those chasers, like 2013 Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae, is capable of a 2:50 marathon, you inevitably find yourself looking back a lot.
“If she’s going to run a 2:50, that means I have to ride a 4: 40,” Steffen says. “She improved so much on the bike, too – she was so strong riding on her own. Her 2:50 was game changing. Even on my best day I would have been second again. I have to step up another level to beat her. It’s great for our sport.”
Moving up another level, though, won’t be easy in 2014. Steffen had decided that she was going to leave Team tbb in August, but planned on continuing to be coached by Sutton. In addition to the dramatic news last November that Sutton was also leaving Team tbb, he had some more news for Steffen: he wasn’t going to coach her any more, either.
The upside to that news is that Steffen and Dellow won’t have to live out of a suitcase chasing their coach from Asia to Switzerland to Mexico for six months of the year and can now enjoy some time in the house they recently bought on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. The downside is that she’s now in need of a coach. Even if she can’t find someone willing to take her on, though,
she’s not overly worried.
“I know what I did the last four years,” she says. “It might be a good opportunity to take responsibility and get it done.”
“It” no- doubt means the win in Kona. She’s also likely to finally take Abu Dhabi, too, where she’s finished second, third and fourth over the years. Unlike countrywoman Natascha Badmann, a six-time Kona champion and the oldest Ironman champion ever, Steffen has no intention to stay in the sport for another 11 years.
“If I am 46 and still on my bike, please just pull me off,” she laughs. “I don’t know how she does it.”
So how long can we expect to see “Xena” racing? The answer comes from Caroline, the non-warrior.
“I’ll do it as long as possible. I like to swim, I like to ride my bike, I like to run. The racing is just a bonus. I don’t train to race, I train because I love it. If I wake up one morning and decide I want to stop, I’ll stop. I did the same when I swam, I did the same when I was on a cycling team. If I don’t like it anymore I’m not going to do it.”
Unfortunately for her competition, once the gun goes off a different Caroline Steffen seems to appear. One who takes no prisoners, who will do everything she can next October to come off the bike with a 12-minute cushion so that she can run a three-hour marathon and still have some time to enjoy the finish line as she runs down Ali’i Drive.
Will that be enough? Can all that happen without Sutton’s guidance? Stay tuned for this year’s season of Xena. During its four-year run it’s been quite a show. Season five promises to be every bit as exciting.
a panacea for injury prevention provided you have enough to perform the goal task.
A great way to tell if you have sufficient mobility for swimming is to talk to your coach about your form. Are you struggling to get into the positions you need? Perhaps you lack shoulder range of motion but make up for it by arching your back. These individual circumstances might help us determine where stretching is valuable and needed. Stretching or other means of increasing mobility may hold value when we evaluate and prescribe mobility in an athlete- specific manner and look for athlete- specific mismatches.
It may seem counterintuitive, but stiffness is good. Stiffness is free muscle energy. Stiffness is the resistance of a muscle-tendon to stretch. Surprisingly an athlete can be stiff and also f lexible. When this is the case, athletes have good range of motion but muscles and tendons act like strong springs that take energy to deform them. In sports that have repetitive motions (run, bike and swim), we load up the springs and release energy during every step, pedal or swim stroke. In research, we see elite athletes with stiffer joints than their sub- elite peers.
Increasing levels of stiffness are associated with improvements in running and cycling economy and power development. Interventions that transiently decrease stiffness can lead to deficits in some markers of performance. An argument can even be made that heavy resistance exercise, explosive exercises and plyometric exercises work to increase performance by modifying tissue stiffness rather than only increasing strength. Endurance sports don’t require huge amounts of muscle strength, yet we see improvements after strength training in running, cycling and swimming efficiency after strength training. Could it be that it’s these passive changes in muscle stiffness (i. e. free energy) rather than just a stronger muscle that drive the performance enhancement?
Current stiffness and flexibility research emphasizes strength, explosive and plyometric training rather than stretching for performance improvements and injury prevention. Stretching and mobility regimes should be reserved for individual cases when the mobility demands of the task are not matched by the mobility of the athlete. Putting Plyometrics to Work At its simplest, plyometrics are a form of jump training. A plyometric exercise consists of a rapid lengthening then explosive shortening of a muscle. The aim is to produce as much force as possible in the shortest amount of time. Imagine, for example, the high jump. Just before take- off the ankle, knee and hip bend quickly and then the athlete explosively straightens the launching leg. Plyometrics require the ability to produce force quickly.
The beneficial effects of plyometric exercises for endurance athletes have been demonstrated for decades. Plyometric training leads to increased running and cycling economy and efficiency, and increases in overall strength and power. Studies have also shown that plyometrics decrease the altered and
Beginners can modify these exercises by merely doing some of the movements (squats, one leg squat, split squats) quickly without launching into the air. Advanced athletes could incorporate weighted jumps into their plyometric routine. An example would be performing a deadlift/squat type motion with a Trap bar with an explosive movement leading to a jump.
Plyometrics are a great way to add strength and power to your routine. They don’t require a gym and can be performed as a complement to your strength training regime. If you do add plyometrics work with your coach on managing the loads and stresses you place on your body.
How to Get Better The main way to improve is to spend more time outside on the bike. Too many athletes spend too much time riding inside (usually from October to April). This means it’s very hard to progress from season to season. Change that by going to a quiet parking lot and use the painted parking lines as a guide to help you practice 180 degree turnarounds ( like the ones you encounter in many races). Pick a point to turn around and practice staying with the lines. As you get better, you can make the turning space narrower and narrower until you can do a 180- degree turn within the width of one parking spot. To practice cornering on your own, find a quiet street with a 90- degree corner that you can see around and progressively build speed as your comfort increases. Line The best line for corners is to start wide then cut in at the apex of the corner then out wide to exit the turn. Of course it is essential to keep eyes on traffic and never to cross the centre line , either heading into or out of the turn.
The bike can handle far more than we tend to think it can. A great exercise is to ride on the grass with some friends and practice bumping and touching elbows to see how that feels while going slow and with a softer landing should you happen to go down. The key is to keep arms bent and loose so that any bumping is absorbed by them.
Even bike maintenance plays a role in making bike handling easier. Make sure that your bike is in good working order. Good brakes that are set up properly make a huge difference; it will allow you to brake with confidence and let you carry more speed into corners and on descents. Group Riding In order to ride safely the group needs to work together and you should be riding either single or double file, but never three or more abreast. Be predictable and always hold your line. The person leading sets the tone for those behind. Drifting back then having to accelerate to catch up, or weaving side to side, will endanger other riders, particularly when there are cars around. Good bike handling skills can make a big difference in performance. They help riders be more energy efficient and confident. With no purchase required, it really is free speed.