Normann Stadler’s Kona Meltdown

Ironman world champion Normann Stadler learns a tech lesson the hard way.

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Ironman world champion Normann Stadler learns a tech lesson the hard way.

This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.

All eyes were on German überbiker and reigning world champ Normann Stadler at the 2005 Hawaii Ironman. In 2004, “Stormin’ Normann” did what no man had ever done before—win the race on the bike. His bike split, 4:37:58, coupled with a 2:57 marathon, gave him the victory with more than a 10-minute gap over runner-up Peter Reid.

In 2005, triathlon pundits predicted the same powerful breakaway on the bike, but luck wasn’t on Stadler’s side. Before the race, he took his wheels to an unfamiliar bike shop. “They glued the tubulars but with way too much glue,” reflects Stadler. He got a flat coming back down from the turnaround at Hawi, and with the television cameras on him, frantically tried to pull off the tubulars. In his frustration, he yelled, “Too much gluuuue!” (which is still a triathlete catchphrase today).

“I was used to having no glue on the rim opposite from the valve, but it was glued everywhere,” he says. “I couldn’t get off the tubular when I got the flat. That’s the reason it looked so funny on TV.” He waited for tech support, who swapped his wheel with a 36-spoke training wheel, and he rejoined the race.

Then, around mile 90, Stadler got a second flat. In his frustration, he threw his bike into the lava fields and started crying. When tech support showed up, he told them, “I’m done. I have no power.” He says of the second flat, “I quit because I was empty—body and mind.”

That wasn’t the last the Big Island heard from Stadler. He came back the following year and reclaimed the crown, but he gained a valuable lesson from his 2005 experience. “I learned a lot from that flat, and I still love to watch it on YouTube,” he says (search for “Normann Stadler Total Meltdown”). “After Ironman 2005, I always glued my tires personally or my bike shop did it. It was just wrong to change the preparation before the most important race in our sport. I never did it again.”

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