Issue ID: August 2012
He’s the most famous domestique in tri history. But how did Canada’s Colin Jenkins propel Simon Whitfield to silver in 2008? And what does he make of GB’s implementation of the tactic?
220: Why did Canada apply the domestique tactic in 2008?
Jenkins: In 2006 we were told that Triathlon Canada was thinking about incorporating a team concept for the 2008 Olympics. Simon Whitfield won gold in Sydney and was a favourite for the 2004 Games. There was a breakaway during that race and Simon ended up in the chase pack with no one working together and losing time every lap. Who knows what would’ve happened if that breakaway never happened? Triathlon Canada didn’t want a repeat of that situation.
How did your role as Whitfield’s domestique come about?
Knowing that my strengths were swimming and biking I knew that as a domestique would be my best chance of making the team. Over the next couple of seasons I was aggressive on the swim and bike to show Triathlon Canada that I was strong enough for the role.
Was professional cycling the key influence?
Seeing how a whole team in pro cycling set up their team leader for a win is the idea that we wanted to incorporate. There hadn’t been too many examples of team racing in triathlon to the degree of what we were doing.
How did you adapt your training?
Starting in the off-season between 2007-08, Triathlon Canada Head Coach Joel Filliol (also the coach of GB from 2009-11) started having me bump up my swim and bike training. We continued that throughout the 2008 season even before the team was announced because we wanted to be ready for the role. Once the team was announced in June ‘08 my run training really took a backseat. I was actually hit by a car six weeks out from the Games but it didn’t hurt my swimming or biking. So I was basically exclusively swimming and biking leading into the Games.
The British team has opted for domestiques just two months before the Games. How long was your preparation time with Whitfield?
I was a training partner of Simon’s from 2005. We did all of our training together with our squad since Filliol trained us both. So you can say that we’d been preparing for the role since 2005. For the races leading up to the Olympics (Hy-Vee, Vancouver, Ishigaki) we practiced our tactics to see what worked and what didn't.
Is the influence of domestiques overstated?
A domestique can be a very powerful influence. Everyone knew what my role was in Beijing and that played with athlete’s minds. People don’t want to breakaway when they know that there’s someone behind them that’ll do anything to chase them down. And I would’ve given everything to chase them down. Of course, you can’t chase every breakaway so knowing who the favourites are – and making sure they don't get away – is the key.
Do the Brownlees really need this option?
The Brownlees are the most dominant athletes in the field but the Olympics are the most important race. Having a domestique for them can be thought of as an insurance policy to give them every chance of ending up on top of the podium. The last thing you want is for something to happen during the race and then afterwards thinking that having a team racer would’ve helped out.
What have you been doing since Beijing?
Beijing was actually my last triathlon race. I moved to Ontario to finish my degree in Physical Education and Health. I have a 16-month-old daughter who keeps me busy and I’m also a firefighter for the City of Toronto. I wanted to start a family with a career that you actually make money doing. I was never good enough to make a living at tri with sponsorship being very hard to come by in Canada. I’d made it to my childhood dream of the Olympics so it was time to move on from the sport. Over the past two years I’ve been the athlete representative with Triathlon Canada. I still love watching the races online and miss it but I knew that it wasn’t sustainable.
For a full analysis of domestiques, look out for issue 276 of 220 Triathlon, out on 24 July.
Image: Delly Carr/ITU