Practically no one picked Manny Huerta to punch his ticket to the Olympic Games this past Saturday at the ITU WTS race in San Diego, Calif. To do so, he needed to do one two things: beat every American on the start line or beat the majority of the world-class field to finish in the top nine. Huerta ran better than ever before, saying it was the “race of my life,” to take ninth place, second American and earn the right to represent the country he immigrated to at the age of 13 at the 2012 Olympic Games. His spectacular run wouldn’t have been possible if not for a patient, effective bike ride. He came out of the water in the third pack, far from contention for that all-important top-nine finish, but his group eventually caught the leaders, thanks in large part to the work done by Chris McCormack. Huerta set up his historic run aboard this Orbea Orca.
Like just about every ITU racer, Huerta competes on a true road bike that resembles a Tour de France machine, not the all-aero bikes ridden in Kona and other non-drafting events, because the bike leg of an ITU event is essentially a road race. Many elite draft-legal triathletes install a pair of small clip-on aerobars in case they have to catch a lead pack or break away from a group, but Huerta uses a standard drop bar—the Pro Stealth EVO—with no clip-ons.
The only concession to aerodynamic positioning is his seatpost. Rather than a standard set-back post that positions the saddle a few centimeters rearward, Huerta uses a zero-offset post, which clamps the saddle directly in line with the frame’s seat tube. By situating himself slightly further forward than some pure road set-ups, he is able to crouch down into his drops more comfortably. His Stealth EVO drop bar is integrated with the stem, which creates a smooth and stiff junction. The tops are ergonomically shaped and offer a fairly flat surface should Huerta decide to lean over into a mock aero position, but he wouldn’t have anything to grab on to. The stem is situated in the lowest position on the steerer stack, directly on top of the upper bearing dust cap. He has three centimeters of spacers pilled above the stem; either Huerta adjusts his position substantially or he should probably get this unsightly extension chopped off before boarding the plane to London.
His componentry is all Shimano. Dura-Ace C35 carbon tubular wheels, Dura-Ace Di2 shifters and derailleurs, Dura-Ace SPD-SL PD-7900 carbon-body pedals and a Dura-Ace 7800 (older generation) SRM power meter outfitted with current 7900-series chainrings. The Orca frame comes with a BB30 bottom bracket, but his crank-based SRM power meter requires a different bottom bracket standard, so he uses the FSA Road M3 adapter to mount his crank. He also uses a K-Edge Chain Catcher—an aluminum obstacle that prevents his chain from falling off to the inside.
Huerta even raced in Shimano TR52 tri shoes. To facilitate a smooth and fast transition, Huerta suspendes his shoes horizontally instead of allowing them to dangle by looping rubber bands through the shoes’ heel loops, then lacing them around the front derailleur and rear quick-release. Since transition speed is so essential in ITU racing, Huerta carefully positions his helmet to rest on his shifters facing upward so he can quickly grab and flip it onto his head. His sunglasses are stuck in the helmet, allowing Huerta to put them on after getting up to speed. He situated his chain in the big chainring and the second easiest gear on his cassette. This combo lets him spin up to speed, then quickly shift his rear derailleur into a high-speed gear so he doesn’t waste time with a front shift. Like many pros, Huerta races aboard super-supple Vittoria Corsa EVO CX tubular tires. The London course is flat and fast, just like the one in San Diego, so expect to see Huerta racing a similar setup in Hyde Park.