Secrets of the pros: Nicola Spirig and Javier Gomez

The top tri tips of the women’s Olympic champion and men’s Olympic silver medallist


Issue ID: February 2013




Thirty-year-old Nicola Spirig went into 2012 as an Olympic contender but, after the third European Tri Champ title of her career and two ITU WTS victories, she dived into the Serpentine as the one to beat. And beat them she did, edging out Sweden’s Lisa Norden by the width of a tri top.


“The swim is my weakest leg, so I’m always working on it. I was doing a lot of strength work in the pool, with paddles and sometimes a tube around my feet or other toys that provide resistance. I also did a lot of speed work and longer distances at race pace. Simply put, I tried to get extremely fit and strong in the swim. I already decided on a technique in 2011 and kept that one. I didn’t do any specific technique sessions, but using paddles helped me maintain the technique I’d chosen.”


“I changed my bike position at the end of 2011, bringing my saddle further forward to get down lower at the front. I almost have a time-trial position on my road bike now. I also shortened the cranks and changed to a saddle that lets me sit right on the nose.
All the way through, my bike sessions stayed short but were very intense.

“Towards the Olympics I trained on very short loops of either 5km or 1.5km, with lots of corners to get out of the saddle. The loops were similar to the course at the Olympics, so I was training specifically for that event and could practise changes of pace and very hard interval sessions. Sometimes I rode two or three times in one day, but never long. The goal was to be able to ride a 40km time trial on my own and still produce one of the best run times off the bike.”


“The run was most likely to be the discipline that would decide the win at the Olympics, so it was very important for me in my training. I started training for it long before 2012, then got more specific in the months leading up to the Games. I practised sprinting for the end of a race over and over again with my training mates after hard sessions.

“My coach [Brett Sutton] and I put in many intense sessions of different types, from very short distances like 200m to longer ones up to 21km. Some were fartlek on the way out, before turning around and holding a very high pace on the way back.

“Runs off the bike were also important, with slow ones to get my muscles used to it and faster ones to improve. To inject strength into my legs, we used to do short hill reps. To achieve that speed, I ran fast times on the track using my training mates as pacemakers.”



2012 was a monster year for Gomez. Not only did he grab an Olympic silver medal and come second overall in the ITU World Series, but he also won the prestigious Hy-Vee Triathlon and the Xterra Worlds
in his very first off-road outing.


“I focused on the swim at the beginning of the season in order to build a solid base, before working on speed for the rest. I don’t have problems on the swim course if I’m located at the top of the course without much contact. But when I’m in the middle
of a group I can be in trouble, because I’m not good at fighting with the other athletes; it’s not the way I race. For me, it’s very important to be in a good position at the first buoy, so I did lots of 50m interval workouts to gain speed at the beginning of the race.”


“I didn’t do many specific workouts on the bike, but as my first race of the season was non-drafting [Nautica South Beach Triathlon, Miami, 1 April], I did more work than usual on my TT bike, which is also good for changing routine and maintaining motivation. Plus, I did some transition workouts on the track with a turbo trainer to get ready for running very fast for the first 2.5km of the run course, which I knew would be key at the Olympics.”


“As I mentioned before, I focused on running fast – incredibly fast – for the first 2.5km of the run course at the Olympics. So I did many interval workouts at the track – 6 x 2.5km, 8 x 1km and so on – and I also added some fartlek workouts [running at different speeds and intensities] in order to prepare my body for that speed without blowing up. I also completed many workouts running up and down stairs to work on my weakness – the sprint – and it seemed to pay off. Look at the Grand Final in Auckland [where Javier out-sprinted Jonny Brownlee for the win]!”


“I’m very meticulous with my physiotherapy sessions in order to avoid injuries, and I schedule in some weeks focusing specifically on treating my tendons and muscles. In terms of nutrition I eat almost everything, though I try to avoid sweet desserts and large meals. Resting well is just as important as training hard, so ‘siestas’ are compulsory for me!”


Image: Delly Carr