Big Waves & Torque Wrenches
It’s a high-tech bike shop with a superb ocean view. In the days before the Ironman® World Championships in Kailua-Kona, SRAM technical staff turns the side yard and car port of a beach house into an area to service the bikes ridden by the biggest stars in triathlon. These include the high-tech machines ridden by Jan Frodeno, Sebastian Kienle, Melissa Hauschildt and others.
All photos © BrakeThrough Media
We talked with Jason Phillips, a former pro cyclist who’s now director of SRAM Road Sports Marketing, about how he and colleague Dan Stefiuk prepare pro bikes for Kona:
When your team services the bikes of professional triathletes before Kona, what are you doing beyond just general maintenance?
For a world championship, you’re always replacing the chain. Here it’s a pretty specific course, so they might have a different cassette requirement compared with other races. We basically go through the whole bike, check the bottom bracket, gear adjustment, brake pads, bar tape. It’s pretty much a full service. We try to get our athletes in a week before the race and do a full makeover on the bike, and then they train on the bike like that, and then we’ll do a last minute race tune. That involves new tires because, with the amount of punctures people have here, they don’t train on their race tires very much.
Do you ever work with the pros to make very small tweaks to set up, maybe where they have their computer mount or their SRAM RED eTap Blip remote shift buttons?
The Blip placement very rarely changes at a race like this. Even if it’s a new bike it will be set up the same as the one they’ve been racing all year. They very rarely ask to change the Blip placement. The computer is mounted on the aero extensions. Because hydration is such a big thing there, we might need to put something in a different position for them because they have more hydration mounted on the bike. Some also add hydration systems behind the saddle.
What can age-group triathletes do to make sure their bike is ready?
What we see is a lot of people at last minute rushing around trying to get stuff done. Perfect preparation prevents poor performance. If your bike is good to go when you get to the island, for an age-grouper you want to have your final tune three or four days before and then be ready for the race. As much as you can avoid last minute stuff, the more relaxed and confident you’re going into the event.
It sounds obvious, but even simple things like bringing plenty of spare tubes or valve extenders is important.
We’ve seen here on the island before CO2 cartridges just sold out everywhere because of the amount of punctures people are getting. If you’re riding on the highway when there’s traffic on there, you can’t ride in the middle of the lane like you would be in the race when it’s a closed road. There’s quite a bit of debris on the side of the road. It’s pretty much puncture heaven out there.
Several SRAM and Zipp sponsored pro athletes will be riding the new Zipp 858 NSW Carbon Clincher wheelset. How did you introduce that new technology to the athletes?
Already in July, we had Jan Frodeno and Tony Martin (pro cyclist with Team KATUSHA ALPECIN) riding the 858 NSW. Sebastian Kienle was added for quite some time now. He raced on it at the 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Tenn. We’ve added a few more athletes onto the 858 here, Josh Amberger, Melissa Hauschildt, Nick Kastelein, and Annabel Luxford. We got them on the wheels on Monday-Tuesday so they’ve had the whole week to get used to the wheels.
What difference has working with eTap, an electronic wireless groupset, made when it comes to servicing pro bikes?
Having half the cables that we used to have in the frame, now it’s just the brake cables. That’s an amazing time saver for us not having to fish things through aero bikes, which depending on the frame can be a super complicated process.
Are you starting to educate SRAM sponsored pro triathletes on emerging technologies make their way into triathlon bikes such as hydraulic disc brakes with the introduction of the SRAM S-900 Aero HRD Disc Brake?
They’re all pretty interested in disc brakes and if they’re going to take over. At the moment, you only have a few brands making a TT or triathlon bike that’s suitable for this race. We will work together with the athlete and the bike sponsor to coordinate the best setup for the bike. If that’s with disc brakes, we have a great solution with eTap.