Saturday, March 29, 2008

TeamTBB's For Real

It's the eve of Oceanside 70.3 getting set to go to the Triathlete magazine/Zoot Sports/Timex party tonite, and I see all the action about Andy Potts and Craig Alexander. It was an epic battle. To see Crowie dig in and catch Potts in the last mile was amazing. Andy said it best: "those that think they can't seen an awesome race in a 70.3, they're wrong."

One thing nobody's talking about, maybe they didn't ask (I did) : is Andy considering doing Kona? Not only is he considering, he's doing it. I'll say it again: Andy Potts is racing Kona this October. There was a brouhaha about WTC taking away the pro slot to Hawaii for winning the 70.3 World Championships. Andy tells me they didn't take it away when he won. They offered it to him. If he didn't take it, it didn't roll down. So Andy's taking it (no word on Mirinda Carfrae, tho). Given his stacked Olympic qualifying plate this year, I'm surprised he's going for it, but he doesn't want to pass up an opportunity to race in Kona. I wouldn't either. What a great guy to get to see in the mix come October.

Posting a pic of Andy from today's race. Note his Floyd "Praying Landis" position. I'm due to chat to Andy in a few days, so will really want to know about comfort there.

So that was a good race, we all agree? So what of the women's race? You had a former Hawaii Ironman champ (Michellie Jones), a former 70.3 World Champ (Sam McGlone), the current reigning 70.3 champ (Mirinda Carfrae). You had Catriona Morrison, 2007 ITU Long Course duathlon bronze medalist. Who else...oh, how about former ITU World Champions? (Leanda Cave and Jones).

I had a little U-pick-em for the race, and one person picked Erika. In the interest of full disclosure, I had it on good source (my wife, as one of Erika's Team TBB training partners) that she'd probably raise some eyebrows.

Hello, eyebrows of Slowtwitchers? You just saw a phenomenal performance today in one of the strongest womens fields you'll see all year, and all you can come up with is "Crowie's better than Andy/No, Andy's better because he races ITU?" Please. Brett Sutton is a guy who has not gotten the credit in his career that he's due. This guy can take average talent and make it good, and good talent and make it great. He's a champion-building machine, simply put. Who else puts together camps that run all year on the only true team in this sport... in an era where TriDubai and came in like a lion and out like a lamb?

Victor Plata's Team Kinesys did it this way, and it got one of their own, Vic, to the Athens Games (though I think most everyone was hoping for Doug Friman to get on there too) before the ITU killed the trade team concept in ITU racing.

But long-course racing isn't held to such ridiculous standards fortunately, and athletes are permitted to make a living. I give credit to TBB for changing the paradigm of what a tri team is, and making waves along the way. Like Chrissie Wellington. Like Reinaldo Colluci (another underappreciated talent). Like Andrew Johns. Erika's just one of those waves today. It's a 12-foot peeling A-frame, and the chatrooms are letting it pass... for two-foot, mushy stuff like "Crowie's better than Andy." How funny.

Granted, it's the first race of the year. And yes, some like Jones were training through the race. (In fact, MJ looked really good and steady today despite a fourth-place finish, and I'd put good money on her at Ironman Arizona in two weeks time_she's where she needs to be, I think).

But consider that a.) Csomor finished third here in Oceanside two years ago, before working with TeamTBB and b.) she's been working with Brett Sutton honing her game and really developing her swim. I'm just sayin, I'm surprised there's not the chatter there ought to be with this girl, or this team. She didn't just win some race. She smacked a heap of stars in a race that wasn't just a pushover race—you think Sam McGlone, one of the most bloodthirsty girls on the circuit, wanted to be shown up?

Based on the solid swim, the amazingly powerful bike and the masterful, steady 1:20 run.. Erika's arrived on the scene. She's no longer a great duathlete—she's a great triathlete. Plus she's just really friendly and fun (see the shot of her above, being really "serious" as she chased down Sam and Mirinda) which goes miles in my book. And a total antithesis to her nickname, "Morcos" (a play on letters in her last name) spraypainted on her Red Bull aero helmet... a word that means "grumpy" in Hungarian. No, she's super cool.

Csomor was also training through for Ironman Arizona. Based on her display of fitness today, I look forward to seeing what she can do in two weeks. Maybe she won't be such an unknown quantity.

Talk about a bailout, though: my friend Andrew Block of Beaker Concepts product sponsors Erika with his HydroTail. Due to a miscommunication, Erika took away a Hed Stinger rear race wheel with a Shimano freehub body for the race, not noticing until she tried to load up her... Campy cassette. Andrew, a hotshot wrench around here, swung in with a Wheels Manufacturing cassette. Matt Hoffmann, another local hotshot wrench, loaded it and dialed Erika's bike at the booth at the expo. Otherwise, she'd have been racing with her training wheel. Talk about "whew"—I'm sure she was glad to have her race wheel on as opposed to a beaten trainer.

On the race course, I took great pleasure in watching Steve Larsen make his return to the pro racing circuit (I even told him as much—it's just fun to watch him turn the cranks... his position is so dialed, power so naturally raw, it's unlike anything that anyone, from Normann to Torbjorn, turns out on a bike. It's just... right) He told me he hopes to find the time to do some more pro races, and hopes to get back to Kona. But it all depends on workload back home in Bend, which is his priority. He's thinking about Half Vineman. Watching him slice through the packs of riders so seemingly effortlessly was a treat to watch, and I was glad I got to see it again. I remember listening to a podcast with Steve after his retirement from triathlon during one of my ultramarathon long runs two months ago and thinking "triathlon had a legend in its midst and we didn't appreciate it enough." I should have videotaped it for you guys, he's that much a joy to watch ride. Next time. Well, I hope there's a next time.

Steve was rolling a tried-and-true Cervelo P3, as well as a brand-new set of Edge Composites wheels. One of the founding engineers at Lew Composites (Jason Schiers) and some of the other brainpower from Reynolds Composites (Jim Pfeil) merged to create this new brand with more experience and real engineering than most brands out there. Don't be surprised to see more pros strapping these on. They're strong and aero from first glance, and we're looking forward to checking them out. Larsen said he love them, that they were strong as he wanted. If they're strong enough for his watts... Check 'em at

OK, off to our party....

Friday, March 28, 2008

Oakley's new Endure on show in Oceanside

Amazing the news you can come across in a day's time. Well, maybe not when you're in the vortex of the first expo of the race season.

I'll keep this quick as I have to get to bed and up to cover the Oceanside Ironman 70.3 tomorrow morn, but wanted to unload a few pearls on you. First one came while chatting with SRAM product manager Alex Wassermann, who is here looking after his newest fleet of SRAM-sponsored athletes racing tomorrow, including Michellie Jones, Samantha McGlone and David Thompson. He just picked up Torbjorn Sindballe as well, but the Great Dane ain't here this year.

Anyway, idle chat with Wassermann:
Me: So, looks like I'll be out for your media presentation at Sea Otter.
Alex: Cool.
Me: So, what's up with the new bar end shifting system that was talked about last year and kinda went away?
Alex: (sly grin) I guess you'll have to wait until Sea Otter.

I couldn't get anything else out of the guy except that they were working on advancements to a number of elements, and he didn't deny the shifters were a component they're evolving. The initial (but unsubstantiated) chat was that it was a very different shifting method. Can't wait till Otter to find out what's up.

The pros did their pro panel and pro meeting today, and it looked like a world championship; reigning 70.3 champs Andy Potts and Mirinda Carfrae, Kona runner-ups Crowie and Sam McGlone, Former Hawaii champ Michellie Jones (above, signing autographs for fans), former 101 Series destroyer David Thompson, ran into duathlon world champ and Team TBB pro Erika Csomor (shown at above right)... Steve Larsen, Bjorn Andersson...heaps of talent at a race that has a typical prize purse. I guess everyone's keen for the season to start.

Also ran into one of the hardest-working coaches in triathlon (eliciting fellow scribe Tim Carlson to call him the James Brown of triathlon), Muddy Waters. Muddy is head of the ALCiS Triathlon Team (ALCiS being a killer anti-inflammatory cream). I saw him at so many races and in so many airports, he's known by everyone. Everyone's got a coach, but few coaches look after their athletes as keenly as Muddy. Great coach, even better guy. I'm sure be at an an airport in Warsaw and he'll be there.

Ran into former Kona champ Greg Welch, now the Oakley representative for triathlon. He gave us a first look at a new women's race optic, called the Endure. It has a bit of Half Jacket flavor with a more feminine cut, but has the one-piece shield lens like the Radar. Oakley pros like Carfrae, McGlone and, next weekend, new Oakley-sponsored pro and reigning Hawaii Ironman world champ Chrissie Wellington will be debuting the Endure at Ironman Australia. This new sunny looks pretty sweet.
Stay tuned for a video interview with Welchy that will explain the Endure, as well as interviews with Mirinda Carfrae and Bjorn Andersson.

I'm out, but will have some good post-race stuff in a few days....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

O'side Season Kickoff and Jamie Whitmore Fundraiser

We're jazzed around here about the season kicking off officially with Oceanside 70.3 this Saturday. It's blessed with stacked fields, and for once, I think we're gonna get some nice weather... there has been morning coastal fog, but it burns off by 9:30 or so. I think people are going to be able to get through this race without rain and cold for the first time in years. Be sure to stay tuned to this spot, as I'll have some behind-the-scenes interviews with athletes as well as some looks at the pro bikes for the beginning of the season.

Meantime, tomorrow (Friday), former Xterra World Champion Jamie Whitmore is due to go into surgery to remove a pelvic tumor. She's long been the face of Xterra and one of the nicest girls in the sport (well, not unless you're Mel McQuaid, her sworn enemy/archrival on the Xterra circuit). I know Mel would rather have to deal with Jamie on the course this year. (In fact, Mel put together a cool little YouTube montage that you can find at Jamie's website,

Considering she's not racing, the bills are stacking up for her. Please check out her website and if you can, kick in to help her get through this tough. It's tough enough on her emotions, but for their wallet to take a big hit is as difficult. Jamie's bike sponsor, Cannondale, is among others that are kicking in some raffle goods for the event, to be held April 5 in Auburn, Calif. They're giving away a brand-new 2009 Cannondale Rize 4, a $2,500 bike. Yes, a 2009 bike.

Help out Jamie and in turn get a chance to get a new ride. Kick in by either showing up and doing this ride if you're in the area, or by just making a donation. As much as she's brought to the sport with her speed and enthusiasm, let's try to give back a bit to her in a time of need.

You can reach Jamie through her website as well. She's been corresponding with her fans from her bedside for the last while, and being the chatty girl she is, loves to hear from all of us.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sneak Peek: Guru's Limited Edition PK Cycling Crono

Had to put this out asap, because.... wow. Just, wow.

OK, lemme explain. Everyone throws around limited edition whatever. I was at an Adidas outlet and saw Kobe Bryant jerseys with a special patch on the bottom, eliciting that it was limited edition—No. 684 of 5,000. Wow, really exclusive.

Then a frame showed up in our office from Guru today. The folks from Guru up and Montreal and I been talking about something special: a true limited edition model of the Crono, which is Guru's flagship full-carbon tri bike. The project is actually a collaboration between Guru ( and Bay Area bike fit "guru" and longtime Triathlete contributor Christopher Kautz of PK Cycling out of Fairfax, Calif. Kautz's fittings at his immaculate studio ( have hosted athletes ranging from pro triathletes to pro cyclists, his boutique environment a model for what should be any triathlete's first purchase when buying a bike... before pedals, helmets or carbon water bottle cages.

So, they were to do a limited edition bike based around a Kautz fit, and I would get to do a test. Usually it's "OK, cool," but I'd tested a Guru Geneo road bike before, so it was more like "OK, sweet." Ride quality for a Guru is remarkable, and the organic aesthetics, from the tube shaping segues to the paintwork artistry would put arguably as one of the most visually pleasing bikes in the world.

Back to this afternoon: I've been watching first round action on my computer all day, waiting for my Arizona Wildcats to play tonight. Those that know me know the NCAA tournament is all-encompassing. I'm insufferable about it. I was kicked out of high school algebra for bringing a mini TV to watch the Cats play back in 1988. Whatever. Nothing changes. I make the day as productive as possible, but find myself watching the action in the background of the monitor. It takes a lot to tear me away from any game this time of year.

So then this frame showed up.

I've seen limited edition bikes here and there, but this was the first time I'd seen anything like this. I'm giving you a sneak peek of the bike, which we'll be featuring in our July issue as a special review. What you see is a small taste. When we took back the foam padding, the first words were "holy s--t." The next were a flurry of adjectives during a call to Kautz, who has yet to see the creation, to tell him just how unbelievable this bike looks. I've been to a few strip clubs and have a wife that kicks their asses in the "easy on the eyes" category, so I know what gorgeous is.

What's impressive is that Guru founder Tony Giannascoli is one of the master painters who pushes back from his desk, dons a mask and applies coats of brilliant paint and clear coats to any of the bikes, as he did with our test rig. Talk about a man of the people.

So what's behind the curtain? Here's a taste.

The concept: make the finest tri bike, from function to aesthetics. Guru created its new benchmark foundation version of the Crono, then left creative control to Kautz. He wanted the bike to do certain things (which I will discuss in my review), but he had a look he wanted as well.

That look has a lot to do with motorsports. Particularly, McLaren Racing. Lewis Hamilton is the hottest F1 racer, but it's his ride that is visually striking. So, Kautz said: see this car? I'd love you to make that. Guru loved it.

To get an idea of concept inspiration that Kautz envisioned, do a bit of Googling on McLaren and the MP4-23. Meantime, here's a look at the mast and a bit of the seatstays.

Really, though, the pics don't do it true justice. The colors: indescribable, striking, gorgeous. Technically, it's a vermillion orange, and Guru reportedly had nightmares with it, not only mixing the right amount of candy apple red and candy apple tangerine to make it. Then there was the silver, which presented its own set of challenges.

The end result is easily one of the most remarkable paintjobs I've seen, whether on a bike, car, moto, boat, anything. Guru's reputation for elegant, aesthetic perfection was seemingly trumped by their own challenge. This bike has to be seen to be believed. We'll have it thoroughly explained and reviewed in our July issue, with our photog John Segesta giving it due photographic treatment next week at his studio.

And the limited aspect: This specific test bike is not part of the series, as it's only a test version. But there will be a limited, serialized run of just 25 bikes. The bikes will be professionally fit by Kautz, custom-created—as all Guru bikes are—with a special layup (I'll talk about this later), and spec'ed as Kautz sees to be the ideal spec. Again, more on this later. Every buyer will recieve a headbadge keychain with the specific serial number of your bike, as a memento.

Price: $11,000. Guru's motto is one soul at a time. This takes it to the n'th degree. So, what price for a soul that is yours alone?

This particular test bike is set up with the same treatment any PK/Guru customer will get in this bike, as Kautz took my measures a month ago.. my last emails to Kautz about fit were Feb. 12. And here it is: a full-carbon Crono, sitting in my office, with my exact custom measures, just a few days over a month later. Unreal turnaround for a custom carbon fiber bike. I don't know how they do it Montreal, but our managing editor, Cam Elford, got a tour of the factory up there, and will explain his facility tour in our July issue as well. Selfishly, I wish I'd seen it. I cannot tell you how excited I am to build and ride this bike.

Stats on this one, which is about a 56cm? 4.14 lbs, or 2.2 kilograms for frame, seatpost, headset, uncut Alpha Q fork with uncut carbon steerer and Ritchey WCS carbon stem.

Meantime, I thought this was too stunning to let sit while the games are on...there's no big upsets yet and my bracket isn't too tarnished, so I ain't missing that much. And if your team lost, well at least you have the hint of what this bike might ultimately look like to take your mind off it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peter Reid's Tucson Tri Camp a.k.a, Peter's Farewell Flight

Since I started with Triathlete magazine in 1999, the only time I'd see Peter Reid was every October on a little island in the Pacific. Seeing the guy pre-race was akin to an Elvis sighting; he was out for requisite sponsor obligations, but outside that, he was under ground, super-intense, and ultimately, breaking a ritualistic coffee fast, unreal fast on race day.

Now that the three-time Hawaii Ironman world champion has retired from the game, well, he's still fast. But seeing him in a more relaxed setting, as I and a group of triathlon campgoers saw in early March, is a unique opportunity few are afforded.

I'm not going to go into how bitchin Tucson is, I've already gone there, I think we're all clear on the fact that Boulder and San Diego need to bow down to this true training Mecca. But Peter has long known the wonder that is training in Tucson. It's in this town where he's craftedIronman world titles. It's where he could just get away from it all and focus 100 percent on training. So it was no surprise he's been hosting camps out of Tucson the last few years, and where he conducted a spring camp early March.

Peter was joined by his friend Clint Lien (in the yellow shirt at right) and coaches Paul Cross and U.S. National Team coach Cliff English. This braintrust assembled to give a bright collection of campers tons of knowledge from some of the best in the sport for the Endurance Specialists camp.

Aside from the instructors and celebrity having Peter in attendance, there were a few special guests: fellow Canadian Samantha McGlone (2007 Hawaii Ironman runner-up and Cliff English's fiancee), made the trip to Tucson, as did powerhouse biker and newly-sponsored Specialized athlete T.J. Tollakson (2007 Eagleman 70.3 champ), who's in town prepping for Ironman Arizona. The campers had some of the best ride partners you could dream up.

There were classroom sessions aplenty, but being that it was early March, there was ample outdoor training at our doorstep. Thus, while Atlanta deals with freak winter twisters and the midwest deals with snow, we were riding without arm warmers.

The one day I joined the campers, the camp had scheduled an easy loop out Tucson's east side, up ruler-straight Freeman road then six miles up Mount Lemmon to Molino Basin turnout. It'd been years since I'd ridden up Lemmon, so I was pretty rapt about riding up this beautiful, sweeping incline.

But coming to Tucson, I didn't know the ride plan. I brought my tri bike with and wished I'd brought my road bike. Still, bombing downhill at 44mph on my Specialized Transition—the first time I'd done that descent on a tri bike—was pretty impressive, super stable and confidence-inspiring.

The coaches delivered daily lectures on nutrition, Ian from Specialized delivered some fit info to the campers, and the campers soaked it up like sponges. Between that, they trained, with rides over Gates Pass and runs at Saguaro National Monument east. To run and ride being dwarfed by saguaros, and flanked by chollas and prickly pears is one I never take for granted—just don't get too close.

But the opportunity to catch Peter was one I was looking forward to. There was much talk about a return to racing last year at Ironman 70.3 Monaco, but an injury derailed that plan. At this point, he said there will be no return to racing, period. He has found a new passion, one that he's as myopic about as he was with triathlon: flying.

He's been up in British Columbia training to fly pontoon planes, and finds this to be his unequivocal new love and career path. I asked how flying would earn him a salary and he explained: the flights would be to deliver such things as blood, body organs or mail, small urgent or basic necessities to and from tiny outcropping towns around B.C. As he talked about it, you could tell he truly is excited about where this will take him, the sheer joy he gets in flying. I was stoked he was so rapt about it. From it I could also gather that no, there won't be a comeback. He enjoyed his career, but has full closure and is moving on to the next chapter of his life. It happened to Brett Favre just as it happened to Peter: both were at the top of their game, but the pressures, the stresses and expectations, whether personal or external that came part and parcel with training to such a high level, were just too much. So it was time to go out, on top. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks he could take another title or two in Hawaii, but it comes down to desire to put in the ungodly work to earn that title.

I for one am truly happy for him that he has found something that made him as happy as racing. You can find a bit more about Pete's new path in my interview with him in my mini interview at right. Peter has always been one of my favorites, and the one guy who out-tech'ed me when it came to tweeking about bikes. I was stoked to see him at Interbike a year ago for the first time. I knew it was a place he'd wanted to go, but that damn race in October was always in the way every year.

While I was there at camp, I had a look at Sam and T.J.'s rides, which I posted for you to check out below—T.J.'s Specialized Transition S-Works on the left, Sam's Argon 18 Gallium on the right. Sam recently signed with SRAM for groupset, as well as Zipp for wheels, hence the Zipp-made Flashpoint FP60 training wheels. As for T.J., he told he he much prefers clinchers over tubulars, hence his using the Zipp disc 900 with its bulged rim section. That was before the hype of the negative drag Sub-6 Pro came about. I reckon he was on to something.

Meantime, I think Peter's time in triathlon, even in this camp capacity is soon coming to a close, on his terms. And it's his right and is well deserved. Thanks for the great ride, Pete. It's been a pleasure to watch you do what you do best, now some lucky Canadians will have a world champion delivery pilot on their hands.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

BrainBike '08: Eight Lucky Consumers See Cervelo's Skunkworks

Two weeks ago just after the Tour of Cali, I was invited by Cervelo to the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel. It wasn't the first time they've had me there, but it was with one of the most unique reasons. Yes, there was one pro there: Christiane Soeder, the Austrian from the Team Cervelo-Lifeforce women cycling team and bronze medalist in the time trial at the UCI world champs last year, doing some aero testing.

No, this focus was time on the consumer— a lucky handful that got to check out the behind-the-scenes of not only how and why Cervelo makes the bikes it does, but also aerodynamics testing in general. And with chainstay namesakes Gerard Vroomen and Phil White, Cervelo's founding engineers delivering the education.

As you'll see in the video chat Phil and Gerard to the right, they explain the purpose of this particular two-week stint in San Diego (And they also reveal that yes, the P4C is the next tri-TT bike in development, with a release date of.... TBA.)

So, back to the consumers. The two weeks were spent largely catering to Cervelo dealers, helping educate them on what goes into the bikes—Cervelo calls the conference Brainbike 2008. But at its website a month before BrainBike was to take place, Cervelo sent out a call to its buyers: a limited invite to eight lucky Cervelo owners. The offer: if you can fly yourself to San Diego for a few days, Cervelo will put you up, feed you and take you to the wind tunnel to not only see the testing, see the prototyping process (absent key pieces of a true prototype) of the P4C, and learn not only about Cervelo, but learn in general about aerodynamic testing of bikes, tires, wheels and bottle placement. Learn about carbon manufacturing in terms of layup schedules that create a ride characteristic. Learn about geometry and fit. Learn about bikes, from the ground-up.

And the P4C, supposedly on display? Perhaps those other journalists and bloggers in attendance were misled, but there was certainly no P4C on show. Attendees were not permitted to take photos of the prototyping bits on their frame skeleton but that said, what they had on show was certainly not a final product. The jigsaw puzzle capabilities of the steel skeleton for the P4C meant Cervelo could assemble any iteration of a bike from their testing for show to the dealers. And the bike on show was not anything they'd call a close iteration... they're smarter than that. So any inference to "a BB doing this" or "a downtube or seattube doing that" is erroneous at best. When Cervelo is ready to show us something, it won't be some shady look. We'll know.

It was an opportunity that people would pay a few thousand dollars to experience, with Gerard and Phil doing the instruction. Eight were selected, eight made the trip.

Much of what was learned is contained within a glossy, black book passed to dealers and the lucky eight that, even to myself as a journalist that has "seen it all," has incredible value. Again, within it is nothing about the Cervelo model line. It's all about educating the dealer, or in this case, the lucky consumer. If you have a Cervelo dealer nearby, ask to leave a credit card or a car or a child for collateral, take it home and have a read. It's truly enlightening, a unique collection of relevant bike education.

So, these eight—including Kylie Evans, a computer programmer from Monrovia, Calif. and Maj. Richard Lawson, a military test pilot from Maryland, got the opportunity of a lifetime. "You see 800 opinions online, but it's nice to see a company that shows that their bikes are developed and tested in the wind tunnel. It was great to see things tested," she said. "Of course, they talked highly of their bikes, but they weren't afraid to say where things might be close, or if an aero bottle was any good—the fact that they told us things that had nothing to do with their bikes was cool."

Said Lawson, a roadie and triathlete: "It was such a good deal, I thought they were kidding when they advertised it. The reason I ended up buying a Cervelo was all the blood, sweat and tears they've put into it.

"I'm active military and an engineer dork by trade. This is the stuff I do for a living on the military side, so it's really fascinating," he added. "I was shocked they had this opportunity. Gerard and Phil are amazing folks."

It was just another example of how Cervelo continues to push the envelope—not just in their product development, but in the education of the consumer. Because it's those that best understand what goes into the bike that have a deeper appreciation in the bike they choose—the very definition of an educated decision. In a market of smart buyers (that's us), deep tubes and sexy paintjobs only go so far.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

TriFest '08: A New Paradigm

After stomping around for 10 hours, 55 minutes during a 50-mile trail ultra in Southern Arizona last Saturday (remind me to never do that again), I recovered by heading up to Tucson to check out the final day of TriFest, an event that stands to become a key event in multisport, and one that should have you booking a trip to Tucson this time next year.

What's TriFest? If you're like I used to be, you chase around local shops for someone to float you a media badge to Interbike, for a first look at the new goods, as well as a chance to chat up the big names, from athletes to engineers, the movers and shakers in our sport. You'd never find such a collection of cool stuff and cool people together. Until TriFest. I wanted to get them to explain it, so check out my little chat with TriFest event coordinator Oley Sheremeta and conference coordinator Debbie Claggett in the interview clips on the right.

The inaugural TriFest, a four-day event held last week in Tucson is Interbike for triathletes, and you don't need a pass. Just two cans of food, donated to the Tucson Food Bank, and you're in to see 62 vendors and their 2008 product within a 10,000 facility. You'll get to not only see (and test) new '08 gear, but also to talk to the industry players. Manning their booths were guys like Steve Hed and wetsuit queen Karen Sing, creator of the Zoot Sports' Wetzoot.

The four-day event was assembled by Sheremeta and Claggett. It was supported by, the massive online triathlon retailer co-owned by Claggett and her husband, Seton Claggett. But the event was totally independent of the store, meaning anyone could show their wares. And they did.

The beauty of this event? Let me count the ways:

First, there was no race in the periphery of the event. That is, there was no missing seeing cool stuff because you have to stay inside with your legs up for race day. Want your first look at the Specialized Transition or the '08 Guru Crono? The two not only had them, they had them available to test. Guru even had a massive motor home, a massive Crono emblazoned across the side, at the event, running test rides out of it.

Second element: like Interbike, it expanded beyond the expo component by incorporating lecture sessions. And it wasn't with some rinky-dink local. No, it was Mark Allen delivering a keynote. It was Dan Empfield discussing bike fit. It was Cassidy Phillips talking about body biomechanics. Sally Edwards talking about heart rate training. It was Hed, discussing aerodynamics. If you wanted to learn something, Tucson was the place to be.

Hell, Steve Hed even had a first look for us: the new Jet Disc. a carbon cover over a spoked wheel. Hed told me it's capable of being built up stiffer than a flat disc, can be easily trued and will be available at under 1,200 grams in clincher or tubular. I also get a chance to test the Vantage 8 aerobar, the bar I picked as one of my top four products from Interbike last fall in our magazine coverage. Sorry Riccitello... sounds like I took yours, homie. It's also where you can learn some news.. like that T.J. Tollakson, present with Pip Taylor in Tucson representing Tyr, will be riding Specialized bikes this year. (I had a feeling riding that Specialized aero helmet all of last year might lead to something.)

Third: It's Tucson. The fact that Tucson is my hometown notwithstanding, there is no better place to train in the world, full stop. The best trail running anywhere, any kind of riding (from flat straights to Kitt Peak to long grinding rises to Madera Canyon to true mountain ascents like Mount Lemmon), killer masters workouts at Hillenbrand with Jim Stites presiding on the deck, and less traffic than Phoenix. There's a reason Peter Reid, Sheila Taormina and many pro road team have all found Tucson a great training ground. And it's part of the reason Jimmy Riccitello and pro cyclist Gord Fraser call it home. TriFest organized group rides each morning that were nothing less than star-studded. Do you need any other reason to jump on a plane, leave snowy Toronto or grey and cold Philly or rainy Seattle, bring your run shoes and bike and get some sun on your skin?

"You've got the best cycling in North America out your back door here, " said Steve Fleck of Nineteen Wetsuits. "The group ride up Mount Lemmon was unreal; how often do you get to do a ride with Steve Hed, Dan Empfield, pro triathletes like Paulina Allen, Mark Van Akkeren and T.J. Tollakson? It was a great event with great potential." Never mind that the ride was fully supported, by Fluid and Guru Bikes. That's T.J. on the right.

Cassidy Phillips, president of Trigger Point Therapy, concurred. "If we can create an Interbike for triathlon, it's good for the sport."

Sheremeta was thrilled with the debut. "It was a great showing, we couldn't have asked for a better first year," he said. "To get the shapers of the industry, from vendors to athletes to race directors in one place for one event the first year was great."

It worked out nicely that I happened to be in town to catch the first year of something I think is going to be a bigger deal in the coming years. No more need to chase after a pass to the show in Vegas. Just bring a few cans of food on your trip to Tucson.