St. George, Iconic Race and a Look Into the Future; Coloradans do Well!

By Bill Plock

The authentic joy Lucy Charles Barclay beamed to the world the second she broke the tape is something I’ll never forget. It gave me goosebumps and seemed deep seated, especially as she came to hug her husband with tears running down her face. I have never seen or felt such happiness.

Barclay, like all the athletes battled very unusual weather with a down pour of rain and hail and lightening that threatened the race. With a Barclay comfortably in the lead all day, she knew she was having “a day” and said at the press conference recalling her thoughts, “they better not cancel this race!” 

Gustav Iden of Norway didn’t quite lead the entire way but went to the front of the pack on the bike part way through and never looked back. Fellow countryman and gold medalist Kristian Blummenfelt was in that lead group when he suffered a serious mechanical failure with his wheel and fell out of contention. Boulder’s Sam Long, with a solid swim battled hard to ride into second place never did catch Iden. Iden won by 5 minutes retaining his World Champion status he gained after winning in Nice in 2019. 

The second place finishes for Long and another Boulder resident, Jeanni Metzler may be a glimpse into the future of the sport.  Just two years ago Long finish 26 minutes back and has kept a poster of Nice in his “pain cave” as motivation ever since. Metzler has been climbing the ranks and finished 3rd in Boulder a few weeks ago behind Taylor Knibb and Emma Palant Brown, but in St. George she beat both of them. 

Metzler passed Knibb just a few minutes out saying later, “I didn’t want a sprint finish with Taylor as I don’t think that would’ve gone well.” Knibb finished about 30 seconds back and the two training partners and friends shared exuberant hugs in the finish area . 

It felt like the finish area was filled with camaraderie and respect unlike any race I had seen before. This wasn’t “new blood” so to speak, but in way it felt like a new group of champions and future champions were making their mark in St. George. At the press conference, the top five male and female finishers all were under the age of 28. It’s a young group who genuinely seem to enjoy each other. 

Of the ten, eight raced together at the Collins Cup just four weeks prior. When asked if that played into the feeling of camaraderie, Sam Long said, “I do think we all got to know each other there. It also could be because we are all pretty young, it was a bit of a different atmosphere. And I also think the sport is changing, where you can talk smack but in a friendly way and at the end everyone knows it is for fun.”

Besides Coloradans, Long, Metzler and Knibb, several age group athletes made it in the top five. In no particular order. Collin D’Reuck, Diana Hassel, Mike Wein, Eric Long (Sam’s dad), and Sandi Wiebe. 

So what about Kona maybe moving to St. George? 

St. George is an iconic venue with massive hills to run up and down. And the ride up Snow Canyon provides a separation point (along with an amazing picturesque backdrop) just before athletes start their run. There is speculation that the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona will move in the future and St. George seems primed to be a top choice. It has all the features that make a world championship course with hills, weather exposure, and a welcoming community and a downtown finish with plenty of potential to the house larger crowds seen in Kona. It is certainly more accessible than Kona and far less expensive for athletes, spectators and industry supporters. 

Sand Hollow reservoir is great for the swim with plenty of room for transition. In Kona the iconic pier is busting at the seams with room (barely) for 1,800 athletes. In St. George 4,200 athletes competed. Undoubtedly the age group women probably don’t love the current format with the last group starting their swim at almost 10 o’clock. In normal years that would force them to be running at the hottest part of the day. This year, some had to be pulled out of the water with the rare thunderstorm that rolled through. 

In previous years, the 70.3 Championship features two days of racing—one for the men and one for the women. In St. George that seems a difficult task with races not generally taking place on Sundays in Utah. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future. Next year the 70.3 Championship will return to St. George along with a full distance race in June. We shall see!

But for now, the young group of pro’s stole the show and perhaps this race will serve as a springboard for future success for all of these athletes as they scatter into the world doing more races. In fact, watch this coming weekend in Chattanooga where Sam Long will attempt defend his title as champion and battle rival Lionel Sander—keep an eye on that!

Preview of the Showdown in St. George at IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships

By Bill Plock

303 is heading to St. George to bring you in-person coverage of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships. With no Kona this year, all eyes are on the desert of southwest Utah. With a hilly run course, fast bike and a predicted temperature near 100 degrees, the real sizzle isn’t the rubber meeting the road, it’s the clash of top triathletes on heels of the Collins Cup that has no doubt sparked some rivalries.

In the women’s field in particular, the match up of Daniela Ryf and Taylor Knibb seems most intriguing. At the Collins Cup they went head to head and Knibb had the biggest victory of the day of all athletes crushing Daniela by double digit minutes. But Daniela reportedly wasn’t feeling her best and we all know of the four time IRONMAN World Champion capabilities. No doubt she is looking for some revenge. Obviously as the championship, the field is stacked. Maybe there is a chink in Ryf’s armor? Maybe not, but Lucy Charles, Ellie Salthouse, Sky Moench, Paula Findlay and Jeanni Metzler, all with great races in Slovakia could be in the mix at the end. No doubt there are others like Holly Lawrence who crashed in the Collins Cup could fight for the podium.

The mens field offers similar drama with Sam Long, the top ranked American and one of the favorites will have stiff competition from Lionel Sanders, Gustav Iden and fellow Norwegian and Olympic Gold Medalist Kristian Blummenfelt. Last May, Long and Sanders battled shoulder to shoulder in St. George and the two have had some fun social media banter in the last 12 months. After the race in May, Long said he knew he could take advantage of the downhill with his long stride and he did so almost winning so it will be interesting to see what happens. 

The Norwegians are going to be tough to beat. Both Iden and Blummenfelt have had fantastic seasons. Iden handedly won his race in Slovakia and Blummenfelt has focused on training for St. George since winning Olympic gold. With no Jan Frodeno, putting odds on this race is challenging. There are many podium worthy contenders like Chris Leiferman, Rudy Von Berg, Alistair Brownlee, Ben Kanute, Javier Gomez, Sam Appleton and maybe a dark horse to watch is Collin Chartier from Louisville, Colorado. 

Collin was a guest this past week on the 303Endurance Podcast and talked about his experience at the Collins Cup and his preparation for St. George. He has had a breakthrough season and narrowly finished second in his race in Slovakia. If he hadn’t had some stomach issues, he may have won. He is doing some special preparations on his bike with shorter cranks and gear ratios designed to open his hips for a faster run in St. George. Have a listen here to learn more: https://303endurance.libsyn.com/collin-chartier-collins-cup-recap

Off to the desert, stay tuned! 

Pro Bike Express – Wildflower Triathlon or IRONMAN 70.3 St. George?

Wesley is in a pickle. With all the athletes in the Rocky Mountain Region and so many races around the corner, there are two that fall on the same weekend. The Wildflower Triathlon and IRONMAN 70.3 St. George.

Obviously he can’t transport bikes to both races, so this is where you come in.

Go to the Pro Bike Express website and register for bike transport for your respective event. The race with the most registrations will decide who gets the best bike transport and support. Pretty simple. Spread the word, tell your friends, and make it happen!

 

Tri Coach Tuesday: Team vs. Individual

by Madeline Pickering

 

Five Vixxens put their early-season training to the test this past March at Ironman St. George 70.3. With an age group podium, three top-ten AG finishes, and a course PR, race day was a strong start to the season for many on the team. But how did we get there? Early season races are challenging given the winter limitations of riding and running outside and necessary time off after the fall. We spent some time talking to Eric Kenney, the Performance Director of Vixxen Racing and Coach of EK Endurance, about preparing for early season races and the growth of the team.

 

YOU DID ST. GEORGE RACE PREP WITH THE VIXXENS LAST YEAR. WHAT’S DIFFERENT THIS YEAR? HOW HAS THE TEAM CHANGED?

One of the main things that is different from last year is that there are new athletes that bring up a different dynamic because of their backgrounds and strengths. The team grew this year, so there are a wider range of backgrounds. The veteran athletes have more experience, so they’re approaching St. George with a lot of knowledge from last year. They know that the perfectly mapped out training rarely happens – you’re always having to execute it in the real world – so they’re ready to roll with those unexpected situations.

Also, last year it was snowing, raining, and cold the weekend we tried to do a simulation so we had to do something inside to get some heat. The race ended up being cold and rainy anyway. This year we had good weather and were able to get an outside race prep in.

In terms of the team goals – those were the same. But how we actually implemented them were different because of the weather, timing, and athletes themselves.

 

WHAT KIND OF PRE-RACE PREP DID YOU DO WITH THE VIXXENS THIS YEAR?

We did a brick workout leaving from Tom Watson park in Boulder. I choose a bike route that was hill-heavy towards the end like St, George. It was designed to break the athletes’ rhythm, to force them to change their efforts. I chose that because I wanted them to face those things before the race and get out of their comfort zones. They needed to get used to that varying terrain. The fitness part was secondary – it was more about being prepared for pacing and varied conditions.

One of the things I talk about with race execution on the bike – and in general – is being in control. Everything you’re doing should be on purpose – watts, RPM, nutrition. The route I selected was made to challenge the athletes’ ability to be in control of their effort and pacing. We wanted a distance close to the distance of the race, but also dealing with the options we had. We focused on time instead of distance.

I told the more advanced athletes that the course was shorter than in actually was to throw a wrench in their mental game. We don’t want things like that to get in the way on race day. There are so many variables and if you let those small potential changes get to you, it can throw you completely off.

We followed up with a 4 mile run at race pace. I tracked the athletes’ heart rates to see if there was any cardiac drift. Being in control of their pacing on the bike can help them prevent issues during the run.

The main goal of this workout was to get them mentally prepared for the unique challenges of the St. George course – it’s hilly and can be hot and there is the Snow Canyon climb. Especially for the new athletes, learning to be control in those conditions can be a challenge

 

Kelly Emich cruising down the race course at St. George 70.3.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE COACHING A TEAM AND ALSO PROVIDING INDIVIDUAL FEEDBACK?

We all came together to meet for our race prep workout, but I gave different instructions to athletes based on their experience and fitness. They all rode at their own pace and we met at the end. More advanced athletes were given specific wattage and efforts in different portions of the ride while the less experienced focused on paying attention to controlling effort on the changing terrain.

Each athlete’s race execution comes down to their specific physiology and fitness level and they should treat their training that way. For example, if an athlete is a weaker runner, they need to be more cautious on their exertion on the bike independent of their biking abilities. To be a successful triathlete you have to take into account how each sport affects the others.

After giving individualized instruction, I’m also able to give individual feedback based on an athlete’s heart rate and power data, especially the difference between the bike and run efforts.

 

Original post from Vixxen Racing here