Sebastian Kienle Talks Kona Bike Strategy

Now the German who may be the heir to the title of Strongest Ride in Triathlon is going back up in distance for his first stab at Hawaii.

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Sebastian Kienle ripped through the Ironman 70.3 World Championships bike course en route to winning his first world title, leaving Crowie and everyone else in his wake. Now the German who may be the heir to the title of Strongest Ride in Triathlon is going back up in distance—he owns a 7:59 IM personal best—for his first stab at Ironman Hawaii. We caught up with him at Lava Java. 

How have things changed since you won the Ironman 70.3 world championship last month?

Hopefully not much. I mean it’s obviously a little bit of media attraction, but to be honest I hope I don’t change too much… It didn’t change much, but it’s very cool to see that the other guys have, you can sense a little bit of fear some times. I enjoy this, of course.

How has it changed the way the other pros approach you? 

When you hear interviews with other guys, the media asks them about me and they have me on the radar now.

Do you plan to attack this race on the bike and try and get an advantage like you did in Las Vegas? 

Maybe not like I did in Las Vegas because that kind of attack, one where you go hard immediately and want to make a big gap, that’s not going to work here. You have to be a little bit smarter and more patient. I always say that Vegas was the test for the engine, now it’s more like an IQ test. You have to be a little bit smarter. And first of all I have to catch the group [after the swim]. There are more people going harder in the first quarter of the bike, which makes it harder for me to catch up. And maybe they know that I’m coming from behind. Even if I’m maybe not a factor for the win, it’s definitely better for them to not have me in the group. There are a lot of guys who can really run quick so I think they are just waiting to see how the race develops on the bike. I don’t think they have any interest in letting me catch up to them.

As far as tactics go, will you try and catch the leaders as quickly as possible after the swim or will you hold a constant pace? 

I will hold a constant pace. As I already mentioned, I think it’s very fast in the first 40-50k here, so it’s better not to freak out if I go hard and don’t make up any time. I talked to Chris Lieto for example, and he was often like a minute behind after the swim and he said he was going very hard in the first 20k and wouldn’t make up any time on the group and then within 5k he made up one minute. It’s just about going your own pace, hard of course, and being patient and not expecting to catch the group within a certain distance.

Are you thinking of doing what Lieto and Normann Stadler have done in the past– making up a lot of time after the scenic overlook point (90 miles into the ride)? 

That’s a lot of questions. It depends on how I feel, how the others are behaving in the race. I think I’m in a different position than Norman was or Lieto. I think I’m capable of running a sub 2:50 marathon, so the game is not over if I’m not making up a big gap on the bike, so that’s not my main goal. I’m not going to be upset if I can’t make it first off the bike. And I can’t tell you when I’m going to attack. Not because I don’t want to but because I can’t. You have to feel good and be sure that it’s working. Just showing off for another attack on the bike I think is the wrong reason. I’m not here to post the fastest bike split, I want to make a top-10 overall result and if I have to stay in the group because I don’t feel good on the bike, then I’ll stay in the group, but if I’m feeling good, you’ll definitely see me attacking again.

You mentioned finishing in the top 10, how do you have to finish to consider the race a success?

Yes, I think top 10 is realistic. That’s something that is already a bigger achievement in a race with a field like this. For me, this is my first time here. I’m here to make mistakes because I will learn from them for the next couple years. Even if I don’t make the top 10 it will be a good thing because it’s the first race and it’s not about the result. It’s about what you take for the next years. There are a couple things I already know I have to improve. In the swim, I don’t have to race here to know it. There are other things to learn here. Even if I walk, it’s still OK because then I know what to do next year. I’m not upset whatever happens, and the most important thing is to finish it.

Is there anything you’ve changed with your bike setup since Las Vegas?

It’s the same setup that I had in Vegas, but I changed the wheels. I’m now riding clincher wheels. In Vegas I was riding the Lightweight wheels with a disc. Here the disc is not allowed. It’s not too much climbing, so the weight is not the biggest issue, so I chose the clinchers. Zipp Firecrest 808s.

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Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.