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Tri Riding In The Wind

You can race stronger in the wind by following some basic guidelines.

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Lance Armstrong was famous for thriving in foul weather, and although he spent countless hours honing his skills, he mostly credited this edge over the peloton to his mental preparation. He knew the others would be suffering so he chose to embrace the rain, wind or extreme heat.

Even if you don’t have Lance’s skills or extreme mental toughness, you can race stronger in the wind by following some basic guidelines.

VIDEO: The Big Island’s Mumuku Winds

Headwinds. Do not check your speed! As savvy power meter users have learned, now is the time to keep your energy output steady with no concern for how slow you (and everyone else) may be riding. Stay aero, pedal smooth circles, maintain your high cadence and keep a close eye on your power meter, heart rate monitor and/or internal perceived effort gauge. Keep the effort right around your goal average for the entire bike leg, or a 5–10 percent increase as you might do on an uphill section. When you escape the headwinds, you are able to maintain your average power output with faster speeds all the way to T2.

Tailwinds. Stay aero as long as you are comfortable in that position at increased speeds. While it’s tempting to sit up and act like a sail, you are simultaneously presenting a larger profile to the air in front. Unless the wind is faster than you, it still creates a headwind. The pedaling effort should be similar to the game plan in a headwind, but this time you should go with 5–10 percent less power as you might on a downhill section. Here’s your chance to recover a bit for the rest of the bike leg and the run while still zooming along at high speed.

Sidewinds and Gusts. Loosen your upper body and don’t be afraid to lean the bike in the direction the wind is coming from to ride as straight as possible. Aim to stay aero and “small,” but don’t hesitate to move your hands out to the cow horns if you feel more comfortable. Scan the road ahead for signs of gusty winds such as other riders’ sudden reactions, bending grass and blowing leaves, and a break in natural and manmade barriers like trees, hills or buildings. Keep a healthy buffer between you and other riders.

Wheel Choice. Pro triathlete Michael Lovato offered me this straightforward advice when I began racing: Buy a disc wheel and use it in every race. With all the weight over the back of the bike (I weigh 155 pounds), and the rear wheel’s inclination to roll straight ahead, my bike really hasn’t moved around much in some rather nasty wind. The front wheel is a whole different story! Be more conservative with rim depth up front. Note: Discuss this subject with your bike fitter, as he or she may offer personalized advice based on your actual front-to-back weight ratio, riding style, experience and competitive goals.

Scott Fliegelman is the owner and head coach of FastForward Sports (Fastforwardsports.net) in Boulder, Colo.