Triathlon Magazine Canada


Can Lionel Sanders Figure Out the Kona Conundrum?


Armed with his brand-new, custom-painted Canyon Speedmax CFR that was delivered just a few days before the race, Lionel Sanders blasted through his fastest-ever full-distance race at the Tri-Battle Royale in July (see p.54), but despite that 7:43 clocking, it’s still up in the air as to whether we’ll see the Windsor native at the Ironman World Championsh­ip this October. That’s because Sanders had a “tough day at the office” at Ironman Coeur d’Alene at the end of June – after arriving at the race as the prohibitiv­e favourite and putting together an excellent swim and solid bike, he struggled through the marathon and eventually was forced to walk across the line.

“Admitedly today was very frustratin­g,” Sanders said after the race. “It was probably the best Ironman preparatio­n I’ve ever done, the most consistent. No overtraini­ng, just very good quality, to the best of my knowledge. [The] Team agreed. I even practiced nutrition – everything, [but] I seem to be struggling with the fourth discipline right now, nutrition, and I don’t have answers, for whatever reason.”

“I got really weak at about six and a half hours and started to lose muscle function,” he continued. “[I] started to cramp up and, honestly, I spent the final five miles actually wondering if I was going to finish because I was having trouble walking and I was having trouble holding my own torso up.”

“That’s something I’m going to continue to stew on and its just really, really frustratin­g when you devote your life to something,” he said. “I can’t even get mad at myself, ’cause I did a really good job, to the best of my knowledge, and it failed.”

Ever since his runner-up finish at the Ironman World Championsh­ip in 2017, Sanders has been working hard to figure out the final key to the puzzle that would help him move one step further up the Kona podium. One of those changes involved his ride. Since 2015 every men’s winner in Kona has ridden a Canyon Speedmax (which isn’t hard as it might seem, since it’s been just two athletes – Jan Frodeno and Patrick Lange). Sanders decided he needed to get on the Canyon bandwagon, too, “It’s time to hone everything from equipment to position choices,” he said in December, 2018, when the move was announced.

That new approach to position and equipment really came to the fore last fall when Sanders embarked on an ambitious project to set a new Canadian one-hour record

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