Josh Amberger a well RED Student of Tri
On the homepage of his personal website, pro triathlete Josh Amberger states his ambition quite clearly – become 70.3® World Champion. It’s an ambitious goal, for sure, but one the young Australian is working toward with determination. As if triathlon weren’t enough, he’s also working toward a degree in history and international relations. We were happy to catch up with Josh as his season is set to start.
(Top photo: Josh Amberger during a visit to SRAM and Zipp's Indianapolis facility.)
Tell us about your 2015 schedule. How it is designed to help you achieve that goal of winning the 70.3® World Championship?
I haven’t published my 2015 schedule, but it’s pretty much ready to go. I’m based in Australia from January to May this year, but will then head over to the US & Europe until the 70.3 World Championships in August in Austria. While I’m at home, I will start small with races in Asia such as the Philippines, Putrajaya and Vietnam 70.3s. These races are great form finders, and are a lot closer to home, which is the vibe I like to chase early on in the year. As the season starts to progress, I will set my sights on Escape from Alcatraz and the ITU Long Course World Championship in Sweden, and then it’s straight shot to the world champs after the European 70.3® Championship in Wiesbaden early August. So I guess the idea is to race local and small while the fitness isn’t as developed, and then build into the bigger races with the goal to peak by late August.
Josh enjoys the adventure of road riding as part of his training, including headed off road a bit to keep his handling skills sharp.
Last season, you had five significant victories and other podium finishes. You also finished 28th at the Mont Tremblant 70.3® World Championship World Championship. How would you sum of last season? What did you learn?
Last season was a great year, but it lacked that key result in the World Championships. The standard for winning a World Championship in our sport rises each year, and for a developing athlete like me I believe it takes an ‘all or nothing’ approach to be on that top spot. You can play it safe, conserve and perhaps nab a podium spot, but to me it’s all about taking to risk to win. Running is my weakest leg, so I typically have to build a buffer on the bike to win a race. In Mont Tremblant, I gave it a definite shot, but it just wasn’t good enough and I tanked. I showed over again that with the same tactics I can win other races by minutes, so I will return to Worlds this year with the same attitude to see if I can make it happen.
Josh and his bike. Photo ©Nils Nilsen N2PHOTO
You start the season March 8 in Subic Bay 70.3® World Championship. You’ve also decided to also focus on ITU Long Course Words to test a distance between 70.3® World Championship and Ironman70.3® World Championship. Do you feel as if you’ve found your ideal distance? In what way have you evolved as an athlete where maybe different distances appeal to you?
I love the 70.3® World Championship distance. But triathlon offers so much more than just that, so it’s always fun to try new things along the way. The idea with ITU Long Course Worlds is to find a middle distance between 70.3® and Ironman and see how I handle that extra race time rather than just jumping straight into Ironman. If all goes well, I will look at coordinating an Ironman into my schedule in 2016, but if not, I’m happy to continue the focus on 70.3® racing. I really get a kick out of doing classic short course races like Escape from Alcatraz and the new and challenging Beijing International Triathlon, so I never limit myself to just 70.3® racing. I might not be as dynamic as someone like Javier Gomez, but I feel it’s important to race different distances and formats to keep it fresh and exciting. I love to seek out new challenges and to put myself out of my comfort zone. As far as finding my ideal distance, I’ll know the answer to that when I’ve raced my first Ironman. I would love to see what kind of potential I have at that distance.
Josh rides SRAM RED 22 with a Quarq power meter, a Zipp Super-9 Disc-808 Firecrest front wheel and Zipp aerobar. ©Nils Nilsen N2PHOTO
Beyond triathlon, you’re a student. You’re studying History and International Relations. What drew you to those fields of study? Are you working toward specific degrees?
With my bachelor’s degree running into its eighth year, you could hardly call me a student, but yes I do study from time to time! I’ve just got one subject to finish until I have my Arts degree with double major in History and International Relations. It’s been increasingly hard to get it done as I build my professional triathlon career. Last year I raced 16 times, and I think 10 of those were overseas. I enjoy the studies when I get into them. I just love to understand the world and where we’ve come from, as well as the way it all works. The idea is to avoid a normal job for as long as I can with triathlon, but should I need to I would probably like to seek further study in the international relations field. My favorite areas of study are globalization, and power and order within the global political economy.
Josh uses his Quarq power meter to dose his effort to either go for the win, or dose his effort to save energy for the run. It's all about using data to read the race in real time. Photo ©Delly Carr
How does your strength on the bike affect your race day strategy, as far as pacing, dosing your efforts or trying to improve your run? How do you use your Quarq power meter to do that?
Being a strong cyclist is always going to be advantageous. You can make athletes race on your terms rather than being a weaker athlete always looking for shelter and always having to respond to other athletes’ moves. Swimming is my most consistent strength, so typically when I win it’s after I’ve built a significant margin on the swim and the bike combined. The Quarq power meter is essential not only as a tool to get to race day in peak shape, but knowing your capabilities in real time against the competition and assisting with rational decision making in the pursuit of a win. For instance, when I can see my power is on target, but the competition is either getting closer or further behind, I can adjust race tactics to save some gas for the run, or go all-in in pursuit for a wire-to-wire win. I couldn’t ever imagine training or racing without my Quarq.
Josh says RED 22 is fast and reliable.
What is your favorite thing about riding SRAM RED?
Red 22 is the ultimate mechanical groupset. It shifts gears fast and reliably to where I need it to be. Coupled with the R2C TT shifters its functionality is supreme, and I can put all my trust in this groupset come race day when everything needs to be perfect. I’ve raced some really demanding courses on Red 22, races such as St. Croix, Wiesbaden, Las Vegas, and Escape from Alcatraz all have incredibly dynamic terrain. I have experimented with 55/42 chainrings with an 11-28 cassette for these hilly courses, or a simple 53/11 with 11-25 for flat courses. No matter the combination, I always have 22 workable gears with Red 22.
Josh looks quite comfortable on his road bike, riding wheelies or hammering away.
During your photo shoot with us last year, you pulled a pretty nice wheelie. How much time do you spend on your road bike? What sort of specific training do you do on the road bike vs. aerobike? Has road riding improved your on-bike performance in other ways?
I think I was lucky that it looked like a good wheelie in the split second the photo was taken. I’m no Peter Sagan, but I can definitely say we triathletes are probably better skilled than our reputation suggests. It’s hard for me to take two bikes when I leave Australia for months on end, so training on the roadie is more of an offseason thing, but something I really enjoy. I typically do easy or long rides on the road bike, but I always try to have fun with it. If I’m riding by myself on the roadie I occasionally turn off down some single track, or recently I tried riding up a 2 mile dirt climb at 10 percent seeing how long I could ride without hands on my bars but I washed out on the third corner. I guess just having fun with riding is great for building skills, and riding on dirt on my road bike is great for understanding how you can manipulate your pedal or steering technique to ride faster or push more power, no matter what road surface you’re on.
Follow @JoshAmberger for updates directly from Josh.
Follow @SRAMRacing for insight and fun from SRAM techies at the races.
Follow @SRAMRoad for all info on SRAM Road.