Patrolling the Queen K
SRAM was proud to be the Official Pro Neutral Race Support provider at last week’s Ironman® World Championships in Kona. SRAM NRS supports Ironman® World Championship Race officials’ primary mandate to provide safe and efficient technical assistance to the pro men and women fields as these athletes drive the race forward. With brutally hot and humid conditions, the 2015 Ironman World Championship was not a quiet day for many of the athletes on course. Our day starts at 4:30 AM as SRAM NRS techs ready for prep service in the hyperactive bike transition area on race morning and lend a hand for final tire checks and general preparation of all pro bikes before the 6:30am swim start.
All photos ©BrakeThrough Media
SRAM NRS’s four motos and race support car were active all day servicing multiple crashes, flat tires, even a timely assist and transport for defending Kona champion, Mirinda Carfrae, who was forced to pull out mid race as a result of a previous injury. What’s more, eventual second place finisher Andreas Raelert of Germany needed just such assistance at a crucial moment.
SRAM Road Sports Marketing team member Dan Stefiuk (above), part of the SRAM NRS Kona crew, gave this first-person account of the day:
In a way, you kind of hope for a boring day when providing neutral race support. But this year, right out of Transition 1, Nils Frommhold of Germany flatted. The SRAM NRS Motos were staged at the top of Palani Road to see athletes as they exited transition. I slotted-in on Moto-1 after the top 15 or 20 passed once it was safe. As I accelerated to stay with the lead group, I saw Frommhold was 50 meters down the road with a flat, and I immediately pulled over for a service. Frommhold had already removed his front wheel. Fans had already circled the bike trying to assist. “I got it!” I yelled. Just hold the bike!” We got Frommhold back in the race – an exciting start to my day.
The next few hours were pretty calm as the race unfolded. I kept up with the top 10 to 12 pros as they raced along the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway – the famous Queen K – to be in a position where we could service the leaders within 5 seconds. The crosswinds thinned the pack as we entered Hawi for the turnaround. With so many motos on course, and now with the leading women in the oncoming lane, real estate for media, marshals, NRS and athletes was limited. I kept a close distance in the top 10 and did my best to keep the timing car in-sight at all times.
Around mile 70 of the bike leg, the ‘rollers’ started to take their toll. The lead pack began to thin. Positioned at the back of the top 10 at the base of a slight climb, I saw Andreas Raelert raise his hand in need of support. I safely made it to the shoulder and positioned my moto in front of Raelert while verbally confirming with him that it was a rear flat as I dismounted. A total pro, Raelert was calm and collected and had the wherewithal to shift his bike to the 11 to make the wheel change easier. I quickly slotted in a Zipp 808 Firecrest Carbon Clincher and pedaled his bike by hand to ensure all was set. A course marshal approached as Raelert mounted his bike and asked, “All good?” Raelert responded, “I hope so! Now I need to catch on.” He mounted his bike and continued to chase up the climb with minimal time lost.
The service with Raelert occurred as (eventual third-place finisher) Tim O’Donnell’s effort began to put distance in from the main group. At this point the leaders were still in eyesight, although for a time I was relegated to the back of the convoy. To minimize the time that the lead group was exposed, I quickly and safely bridged to the top 3 (O’Donnell, Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle) once the road opened up, and the SRAM NRS Volvo slotted-in behind the field. The three leaders continued to exchange the lead eventually trimming the group to two as Kienle fell off the pace set by Frodeno and O’Donnell.
As the lead men began the run I returned back to the bike course with Moto-1 to sweep the tail of the pro-women’s field as they entered back into Kailua.
Dan Stefiuk was part of SRAM NRS's highly skilled team at Kona with the best equipment available
Wheels and tires in service for Kona