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Pro Support: Specialized Athletes Get Special Treatment At Wildflower Triathlon

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Specialized is helping raise professionalism among pro triathletes by taking care of the little things—at Wildflower and beyond.

By Aaron Hersh

If you walk by the Specialized tent at a big triathlon, there is a good chance you will see a guy with a buzzed head, tattoos, and board shorts working on bikes. He looks like he would fit in better at a down-hill mountain bike race than a triathlon, and in fact he does spend most of his time at mountain bike races, but don’t be intimidated by his look. This scruffy looking character is undoubtedly one of the nicest people you will ever meet at a tri, and he’s helping many of the sport’s best athletes race to their potential.

His name is Benno and he is a mechanic that supports Specialized athletes at races. Pro mountain and road cyclists are accustomed to having their sponsors bring mechanics, tools, food, and shelter to their biggest races. “At a mountain bike or cyclocross race, you see the guy finishing 40th with a tent to sit in and support,” says Specialized athlete Jimmy Archer. But that level of assistance is nearly unheard of in triathlon.

Specialized is helping change that by bringing a semitrailer packed with every race necessity—from a pump to spare cables to recovery shakes—and some of their best mechanics, including Benno and others, to support every one of their triathletes at their most important races. Providing this support allows the athletes to focus on the race, rather than their equipment.

“Having the support makes [traveling to a race] ten times better,” says Desiree Ficker. “My biggest concern at these races is that you fly, open your bike box, and hope nothing has happened. If anything [is wrong], you’re by yourself and have to deal with it.” But having the Specialized van on site alleviates those concerns because it allows them to fix every possible problem without scrambling around town looking for a bike shop. “It makes you feel so much safer,” says Ficker.

The support truck is set up in the Avia Wildflower expo area this week, and in the time we walked through the truck, Tenille Hoogland, Desiree Ficker, and Jimmy Archer—three Specialized-sponsored athletes—had their derailleurs adjusted, helmets checked, changed their clothes, and even grabbed a maté. All the necessities are in one place. Specialized says that assuming these responsibilities from the athletes helps them focus on winning the race, rather than their tire pressure. And the athletes agree.

In addition to the mechanical support, the semitrailer serves as a sheltered hangout to get “away from the mayhem,” says Ficker.

The Specialized support team is on site to help their athletes, but it’s common to see them turning a wrench on another brand of bike owned by an age grouper or a pro. This morning, they tightened the headset on a Quintana Roo that an age-grouper will be racing on this weekend.

This incredible level of support affords their athletes the freedom to focus on the race and raises the level of professionalism among elite triathletes.