Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENT -

IHAVE TO AD­MIT that I have loved watch­ing the re­nais-

sance of the bike leg in our sport over the last few years. Those of us who have been in the sport for a while can re­mem­ber when ITU races of­ten fea­tured large packs of ath­letes cruis­ing around the bike course wait­ing for the chance to rip out an amaz­ing 10 km run in search of the podium. Our very own Si­mon Whit­field was a big part of chang­ing that dy­namic – he was keen to have Colin Jenk­ins on the Cana­dian team for the Beijing Olympic games in 2008, not so he’d have some­one to sit be­hind, but be­cause he wanted Jenk­ins to help him make the bike ride as hard as pos­si­ble – he wanted ev­ery­one to start the run as tired as pos­si­ble.

Alis­tair and Jonathan Brown­lee have con­tin­ued that trend over the last eight or so years, dom­i­nat­ing the last two Olympics and numer­ous ITU races thanks to ag­gres­sive splits in the swim and bike, fol­lowed by suf­fer-fest runs. Flora Duffy has been vir­tu­ally un­beat­able on the ITU race scene for the last 18 months thanks to in­cred­i­bly ag­gres­sive rid­ing – she rou­tinely pulls away from the rest of the field on the bike and then re­mains ahead through the run.

It’s not just in short-course rac­ing that we’ve seen a shift in the sta­tus quo. While the old “bike for show, run for dough” adage con­tin­ues, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to win an Iron­man race these days un­less you’re very solid on the bike. Re­mem­ber those days when the chase pack would

trail a few Ger­man uber-bik­ers to T2 on the pier in Kona and then run them down? Those days are long gone. (Yes, I hear you – Pa­trick Lange’s sub-2:40 marathon splits in Kona over the last two years have net­ted him third- and first-place fin­ishes, but it’s not as though his bike splits aren’t up to snuff – last year he set an over­all course record in Kona af­ter a very cred­i­ble 4:28 bike split.)

What ex­cites me about this trend is the fact that to ex­cel in our sport its never been more im­por­tant to be pro­fi­cient in all three legs of the race. Lionel San­ders might not have won Kona last year, but who would have thought that a man who was dead last out of the wa­ter at a 70.3 world cham­pi­onship would, three years later, lead the chase pack at the end of the swim in Kona and come oh-so-close to tak­ing the ti­tle? San­ders’ re­cent “school­ing” (his word, not mine) by Jan Fro­deno at Iron­man 70.3 Ocean­side once again proved that to win at the high­est lev­els you sim­ply must be an ex­cel­lent swim­mer, cy­clist and run­ner. Fro­deno led the en­tire day in Ocean­side, dom­i­nat­ing all three dis­ci­plines on his way to the win.

Fresh off a solo break­away win at the ITU World Triathlon Se­ries opener in Abu Dhabi, Henri Schoe­man didn’t ex­actly do a ton of work in the break­away at the Com­mon­wealth Games (prob­a­bly know­ing that Alis­tair and Jonathan Brown­lee weren’t in their nor­mal run shape and had to push on the bike), but was part of the lead group of six. Only an in­sane 14:36 5 km split got Ja­cob Birtwhis­tle to the sil­ver medal. The women’s race on the Gold Coast also saw the race won on the bike – Duffy and Eng­land’s Jes­sica Lear­month turned a 42-sec­ond gap out of the wa­ter into a 1:20 lead off the bike to take the first two spots.

Can Lionel San­ders beat Jan Fro­deno in Kona later this year? He learned how hard that will be if he’s a bunch of min­utes down af­ter the swim. Can any­one beat Flora Duffy at a WTS race? Un­less she crashes, as she did in Abu Dhabi, the only way that seems to hap­pen is if that per­son comes off the bike with the Ber­mu­dan star.

It’s an ex­cit­ing time in our sport, one in which you have to swim, bike and run to earn your dough, ex­actly the way it’s sup­posed to be.



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