Thursday, March 26, 2009

Extra Extra: Raelert to ride Blue Competiton Cycles

I could see this coming, but I had no idea who would win the grand prize: the chance at a guy that my colleague Brad Culp and I agree upon as the future of Ironman racing (the singular time we actually agree on something): German Andreas Raelert.

The bike signing became official at TriFest, when Blue Competiton Cycles marketing manager Chance Regina pulled me aside to announce the news; Blue had just signed recent Ironman Arizona champ Andreas Raelert to ride Blue.
Just who is Andreas Raelert? If you don’t know by now, you’re in for a lesson in the next couple years. His early claim to fame is having raced on the ITU circuit, competing in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens games (finishing 12th and sixth, respectively).

Last year Raelert quietly won Ironman 70.3 Monaco (the hardest 70.3 in the world… sez me) before he nearly ran down Terenzo Bozonne at Clearwater 70.3 Worlds to finish second. Just a couple weeks later, Raelert was at fall Ironman Arizona, taking part in his first Ironman. He summarily destroyed the field, beating Chris Lieto and Jordan Rapp en route to a dominant Ironman victory. I shook my head at the apparent ease and poise in which he won that race—it was as if he had done it all before. Speaking with him after the race, he was one of the nicest guys I'd come across.

I also recall after interviewing him, the collection of triathlon brand peeps who descended upon the guy, businesss card flicked out to the friendly German. He was a hot commodity. I imagine he had quite a few bike companies pitching him, but am glad to see growing Blue (with their Triad as the rig he’ll be using in long-course racing) be the winning suitor. This kid’s stock is on the rise, and that bike is serious business.

“We’re really thrilled to have Andreas with us. We wanted to put a top-name athlete on a Blue,” Regina told me. “With this signing, it makes us a true contender for Kona, in our fifth year as a bike brand. We’re already working closely with Andreas, and will be doing some custom paint for him in some coming events, “

He makes his debut on the Triad at St. Anthony’s Triathlon. He’ll be doing some ITU races in Europe during the summer, and will be riding the RC8 in those races. While his debut at the Hawaii Ironman is a focus, so is a top finish at Ironman German in Frankfurt in July.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Camping without the tents: Triathlete visits Cliff English’s Mad Miles Tri Camp

The travel season has begun, as have racing and camps. I’ve had barely a breath this early season currently in Thailand (was in Bangkok, now in Phuket) for a work junket (and squeezing in training and, currently, "enjoying" a bad sunburn thanks to a snorkel trip, 92-degree temps and a blazing sun, hold the ozone layer). But before that, I was in Tucson for TriFest, a weekend of riding, running and general triathlon stimulation.

But before that, I spent a day with coach Cliff English of Cliff English Coaching in Tucson, Ariz. He and his wife Samantha McGlone (she of 2006 Ironman 70.3 World Champ win and 2007 Hawaii Ironman runner-up finish) along with fellow coach Paul Cross, were leading a diligent group of triathletes through the biggest day of the “Mile Madness” training camp held in Tucson; a 100-mile ride, from the East side of Tucson to the tiny ranching town of Sonoita, Ariz.

I pulled into the host hotel on ride morning and was greeted by Cliff, Sam, Paul and fellow Tucsonan and ITU pro Doug Friman, who was helping out with the camp. There were several camps being held the week before and week following TriFest, but I wanted to tag along and see Cliff’s operation. I visited with this camp last year when Peter Reid made an appearance.

This year, I simply wanted an excuse to hang out with a group of the coolest cats in the coaching (and racing) game, and ride in the sag van with Doug. Cliff, Sam, Doug and Paul are some of the nicest guys you’ll ever come across, but what draws me to hang out is the low-key element of the class. There’s no powerpoints about heartrate zones. Yes, it’s covered, but in a way that makes it easy for a guy like, well…. me, to understand. To boot, the camp was also hosting running coach Bobby McGee, someone I was looking forward to meeting as well.

The small group of athletes received as much attention as they required or wanted; on the ride, Sam rode with a group of hammerheads at the front, while Cliff and Paul settled into groups that went at a more sustainable pace.

I had a chance to meet one of the age-group “hammerheads” at the front; Dean Harper. Dean was not only a Bay Area pro back in the 80s, he has the distinct honor of gracing the very first issue of Triathlete magazine. “ I remember Bill Katovsky asked if he could take some pictures of me in my garage for his magazine,” Harper recalls. “He said he wanted to get Dave Scott on the cover, but was too intimidated. So instead I got the honor!”

The group of athletes finished their long ride at Saguaro National Park East. After a quick change into run kit, everyone was ready for a breakdown of their run form by McGee, as he rode alongside runners who had that funky form you only find after nailing a 100-mile ride—the one that looks like the legs are detached from the body.

For those who wonder how Sam McGlone is going after injuries kept her out of the Hawaii Ironman and the 70.3 World Championships last year, let notice be served; the Canuck is healthy, fit and ready to race.

“I love coming to the camps here,” McGlone said. “This year is a really good level; there were some guys putting some work into me today. A long supported ride with my 12 best new friends, it’s a great way to really get my season going—it’s been a long road.”

All told, it was just what I would want out of a camp: a good time, good education (how can you not when you have Bobby McGee analyzing your off-the-bike run form?) with good training in great winter weather. There’s something tangible to have in your back pocket 180 miles of good, outdoor riding in a matter of a few days, knowing the rest of the country is in deep freeze. Cliff and his cronies host their camps in the spring (before he’s full-time with many of his elite charges and is getting his wife ready for the Ironman season), so check out his site for those camps at

Friday, March 13, 2009

Eastbound and Down; a visit with Vittoria tires

I had another “you know you’re in SoCal when driving to work this morning; looked in the rear-view and there it was, that ubiquitous yellow; the Mavic team car. Did I miss something? Is there a Tour of California, Round 2? If I experienced a flat tire, would they go NASCAR-style and come out with a spare and start turning the four-bar to get my wheels off? Too funny.Speaking of “tahrs” (that’s tires in southern drawl), I am getting set to meet up with Rudi Campagne of Vittoria tires. I am a guest of Rudi, Vittoria North America’s Ryan DeLong, and Vittoria to do something I’ve long wanted to do: tour a leading tire production facility. This trip will take me to their production facility in Bangkok, Thailand for a tour next Friday.

Rudi and I met two or three years ago at the San Diego Wind Tunnel; as a supplier to then-CSC, he was there with Cervelo and Zipp testing tires as they relate to wheel and rim shape. Tire pairing with rims is without a doubt the next frontier in aerodynamics. It’s the very first thing the wind sees, and smoothly transferring wind from the tire onto the aero sidewall of the rim is a true science. And Vittoria is, really the only tire manufacturer that I have seen paying attention to and developing around it.

This year, Vittoria is working with Cervelo Test Team, which is no surprise; Phil White and Gerard Vroomen only paired with those brands that are endeavoring to optimize the ride. Those two don’t go after slick marketing; they go after testing results, and let that speak for itself.

Not to kiss anyone’s ass, but speaking as a guy who still buys his tires, Vittoria has long been one of my favorites. While Conti has always been a default day-to-day ride due to its longevity (it just seemed tougher), when I really, really wanted to treat myself, I’d buy a set of Vittoria Corsa CX’s. There was something about the silky casing and the ride it provided—I still haven’t found a tire that as closely replicates the ride quality of a good tubular.

I’m looking forward to seeing whether Vittoria has an answer to my durability question. A tire as light, flexy and silky as the Corsa CX couldn’t possibly be as flat-resistant as a denser, heavier tire… can it? Of course, I held onto my Corsa CXs without a casing or tread cut, so, maybe I’ve subconsciously proven it to myself. Yet I still auto-default to Contis for training…

So as I get set to take off Tuesday night and arrive Thursday (damn international date line), I’m putting it out there to you: what do you want to know about Vittoria’s tire production? Casing? Tread? Rolling resistance? Aerodynamics? Puncture resistance? File tread versus slicks? I already know what I want to find out, but if you have any burning questions, hit me up, and I will hit up Mr. Campagne himself, as well as his engineers. I’ll hopefully get to take a bunch of photos during production, so hopefully it’s an enlightening experience as to what goes into the rubber that hits the road.

I’m also looking at a side trip to Laguna Phuket; just an hour flight from Bangkok, I’ve never been there for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, but from everything I have heard from the pro triathletes that have been there, the race is brilliant, but the venue is second to none. One of the race hotels, the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket Hotel, was listed last year by Conde Nast Traveler Gold List as one of the best places to stay in the world. I am sorting things, but I think me and my hosts will be staying there. Shame that I have to fly an hour south to get in my training for Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, on the Laguna Phuket Triathlon course, eh? At least I’ll be heat and humidity acclimatized!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tested: New First Endurance Optygen Prototype

I gotta keep this succinct because a.) I need to hit the road and ride home before dark (well, thanks to daylight savings time I have a bit more), and b.) I don't have much info for you.

But I have this: a new prototype version of First Endurance's Optygen HP.
There is a lot of study about Cordyceps Sinesis and Rhodiola Rosea, both adaptogens used first by Tibetan sherpas on Everest climbs. Those studies have shown the stuff helps drop lactic acid levels, raises oxygen utility and raises aerobic threshold.

I've used the Optygen HP since it came out, but was surprised when I received a package with bottles, for both myself to test, as well as my wife Donna, who's sponsored by First Endurance. To say I love the stuff is an understatement; I am full-on into training for a half, and Donna has just finished an Ironman a week and a half a go and is doing another in a month. I would say my energy levels, and effort levels are much higher, and Donna has said the same.

And the new prototype?

I don't know what they have done, but they have kicked it up a fair bit. There is some data on the label, which Mike Fogarty of First Endurance asked me to sit on—for the time being. He said that Astana was using this prototype in advance of and during the Tour of California, and the feedback from guys like Levi Leipheimer, they said, was nothing but super positive.

Of course, anything I could say would be anecdotal, but man, I did a hard ride last weekend to Dana Point, wanted a sustained race pace, with a little t-run afterward. No lactic acid, no drama at all...nothing but power. I am the king of sitting on wheels (well, only that of my wife), and I was getting uninvited limpets that day. Now I understand her plight of the wheelsuckers.

So yeah, First Endurance has something cooking. If you don't believe in performance supplements you should believe in this one... I wish I could be a bit less graphic, but... the shit works. It really does. When this new blend comes to market, it'll be worth a try. Heck, the existing Optygen HP is worth a look if you've not tried it.

Anyway, it's fun to be a writer who gets first looks at this, and gets to test it alongside the likes of Astana and the few sponsored pro triathletes that have their hands on it. I'm looking forward to seeing how it pans out for the next month; I have a race April 5 in New Orleans, and am glad I have this stuff in my arsenal. After all, I have a colleage to beat, and a case of beer to win.