Racing in the Wind: Ironman Lanzarote
Three-time European Ironman champion Timo Bracht gives his advice on dealing with the crosswinds in Lanza
Location: Club La Santa, Lanzarote
Three-time European Ironman champion and regular Kona top-10 finisher Timo Bracht knows more than a thing or two about long-distance racing. He’s also well-versed in the ways of Lanzarote, having won the race in 2011 in a course record time, We caught up with him between a five-hour bike and a swim session on the island to ask his advice.
“The Ironman here in Lanzarote is a special race in a special place,” he explains. “It’s a real experience and, of the 29 Ironman races I’ve run, it’s still one of the most memorable events of my career.
“When you think about this race, you need to know the wind is the main factor on the island. Because there are no trees or flags on the majority of the bike course, you don’t ever see it, but you definitely feel it. And when you’re riding, you really hear it. Sometimes it can be pretty horrible and dangerous, especially the crosswind, so you need very good bike skills for this race, particularly if you want to attack the downhill sections in an aero position. Really strong bike confidence and handling is at the heart of success on Lanzarote, so putting in a lot of bike time in all conditions is a must.
“The wind also puts extra pressure on your whole body as you ride so, when you run, you’ll feel muscles you never felt before.”
Bracht also recommends hitting the hills in training to prepare for the conditions in Lanzarote. “In training, your aim on the bike should be to give your legs a lot of miles – the stronger your legs are on the bike, the better they’ll feel on the run. You should also train on hills. I was riding 600-700km a week before the race, including the hills. I’d recommend 20-40min uphill repeat sessions of between three and five reps, all done pushing a big gear.
“Spending weeks training on the island before the race isn’t essential, but one week will help a lot to give you a feel for the island and the race’s unique structure.”
In battling the wind, making the right equipment choices becomes extremely important, too, so Bracht has some practical advice for age-groupers taking on the challenge. “In terms of bike position, 10 years ago the roads were pretty bad and everyone rode regular road bikes,” he explains. “But now the roads are much better, it really is best to have a TT bike with a moderate position. You don’t want to be too deep as you’re on the bike a long time.
“I also wouldn’t recommend an aero helmet. I need one so my sponsors have more space, but for age-groupers it isn’t necessary, as it can become very uncomfortable.
“Deep rims are fine as long as they are new ones developed for use in crosswinds. Otherwise avoid them. Discs aren’t recommended, although the British racer Matt Belfield did win the race here using one in 1999.
“For gearing, I use an 11-23 or 11-25 cassette. This allows you to climb well, but also leaves power for the downhills too – don’t forget to pay attention to these as you can make or lose a lot of time here. Many other pros and age groupers use this same gearing.
“The swim and run are really nice, although you need to be prepared to go wide for the turn in the swim that happens at around 300m from the start. On the run, if you get a headwind, be positive – at least it will be cooling you down!”