Yokohama WTS arguably presents the biggest challenge to athletes so far in 2019. For many national governing bodies, Yokohama will have a strong bearing on the selection of athletes for Tokyo 2020. Whether it be results this weekend providing guidelines for selection or whether certain results guarantees a place at the Olympics, it is the first race of the year that will have significant meaning for much of the field.
With a similar course and conditions to that found in Tokyo, the race, along with of course the test event present ideal indicators as to who will be able to deliver come next summer. Athletes will also be looking to move up the world ranking and gain valuable points and prize money from the third round of the World Triathlon Series.
It will be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t have Mario Mola (ESP) as race favourite, the Spaniard has won the event here in the last three occasions, however Mola comes off the back of one of the worst WTS results of his career, whether this will dent his confidence is yet to be seen.
The Spanish have a triple threat from 5-time World Champion Javier Gomez and Fernando Alarza, both of whom are capable of winning the event. The French also have a strong line up with current series leader Vincent Luis leading the charge. A relative newcomer to the series, but currently ranked in 3rd is Leo Bergere, who will be an outside bet for taking the victory.
Next up is the British contingent. Unfortunately, double Olympic medalist Jonny Brownlee is a late withdrawal from the weekend, however, flying the flag for Great Britain is HUUB’s Tom Bishop and the brands latest signing Alex Yee. Yee recorded his first ever podium at his first ever WTS start back in Abu Dhabi, only bettered by Mola in the final stages. Bishop also heads into the race after choosing to miss out on Bermuda and concentrate on Yokohama. The pair who train together should certainly be firing on all cylinders.
Finally, there is the Norwegian trio of Kristian Blummenfelt, Gustav Iden and Casper Stornes, and these three have the firepower to change the outcome of the race dramatically. The key point of the race will undoubtedly be the swim-bike. In recent years the packs have merged leaving the result down to the 10k, but it’s not to say that this will repeat as there will be athletes out there that want a lead going into the final stage of the race.
Similarly to the men, there is possibly one out and out favourite in the form of Katie Zaferes (USA) who has won the opening two races of the World Triathlon Series.
The previous editions of Yokohama WTS have been dominated by Gwen Jorgensen (USA) and Flora Duffy (BER), however with Jorgensen retired to pursue a running career and Duffy recovering from injury, the race is open to a new winner.
The American team has strength in numbers as well Taylor Spivey, Chelsea Burns, Summer Rappaport, Renee Tomlin and Tamara Gorman also starting. The biggest threat will be in the form of the British trio of Jessica Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Non Stanford. HUUB’s Jessica Learmonth is the athlete in form at the moment with a 3rd place finish at Abu Dhabi and 2nd at Bermuda. Both results have come from breakaways alongside Zaferes so this will be certainly something both athletes will be aiming to repeat. Georgia Taylor-Brown and Non Stanford are two of the fastest runners in the sport, and they will be hoping the field is together before the start of the 10k run.
The race has the potential to be dictated by a breakaway as it has been in the past, which will suit Learmonth and Zaferes, but also a few other members of the US team as well as Lotte Miller of Norway. More than likely chasing from behind will be other favourites, Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) and Joanna Brown (CAN). Again in similarity to the men, the focus will be on the swim-bike, this will be the decisive point of the race.
Jade Hall-Jones is HUUB’s sole representative at Yokohama World Paratriathlon Series in the PTWC category. The 2018 Commonwealth Champion will probably start as favourite in the most competitive round of the WPTS. Jade comes off the back of victory in the National Duathlon Championships and will use this race as an indicator of her shape at the start of her season having chosen to sit out the first round of the WPTS in Milan.
Also this weekend is the ITU Cagliari World Cup which sees a return to ITU racing from Alistair Brownlee (GBR). The course has changed last minute, with a once very hilly and technical bike course altered to an out and back along the seafront. Arguably this is less suited to Brownlee’s strengths, but the double Olympic Champion has and can win on any course. HUUB’s Gordon Benson, Ben Dijkstra and Barclay Izzard are also on the start-list which as it stands looks to be very competitive.
In the Women’s race, HUUB’s Sophie Coldwell will be looking to build on her 4th place result at Madrid World Cup after coming back from injury. Beth Potter (GBR), is also an athlete to watch out for, having competed at Rio 2016 over 10,000m on the track.
There is also an ETU continental cup in Olsztyn, Poland where HUUB’s Sian Rainsley (GBR) will be looking to get her 2019 season underway.
On the long distance scene is Barcelona 70.3 where HUUB’s David McNamee (GBR) will go head to head with Bart Aernouts (BEL). The pair were 2nd and 3rd respectively at Kona in 2018. Elliot Smales (GBR) is also set to start. The Yorkshire athlete has been managing an injury issue in the last month or two but will be happy to get back on a start-line and hopefully he can build on his impressive 2018 season.
The unique design of HUUB's triathlon wetsuits allows the quickest exit from the wetsuit in transition, due to the innovative Breakaway Zipper design.
In this video, HUUB's Deano Jackson shows you how the Breakaway Zipper works.
January saw little racing, however, HUUB found two of the worlds best triathletes to join their ranks. Kristian Bummenfelt (NOR) joined the likes of Alistair and Jonny Brownlee (GBR), and Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) added to HUUB's impressive line up of British female talent, including Helen Jenkins and Sophie Coldwell.
In February, Alistair Brownlee absolutely dominated Dubai 70.3, the first race in the illustrious triple crown series. He led out of the water, powered away on the bike and backed it up with a blistering run. The only thing he wasn’t quickest at was the transitions, but being as he had a 6.35-minute advantage over second place, I think we can let him off!
In March, the World Triathlon Series (WTS) kicked off in Abu Dhabi, and we witnessed possibly the best individual performance of the year when HUUB’s Henri Schoeman (RSA) led from start to finish to take the victory.
Jess Learmonth (GBR), ITU’s breakout star of 2017 also joined the HUUB family. Known for her impressive swimming, Jess had turned heads the previous year as she began notching up WTS podiums. Jess is always seen at the forefront of racing and little can stop her when she teams up with Bermudan Flora Duffy. Jess marked this occasion with a second place at Abu Dhabi making it a double podium success for HUUB in the first race of the year!
The main attraction in April was the Commonwealth Games where many of HUUB’s athletes were present. Last years race saw the distance change from Olympic to Sprint. Schoeman clearly in the best shape of his life pulled off another incredible victory, holding off Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) with Marc Austin (SCO) in third. There was also a similar result for Jess Learmonth after a promising start to the year at Abu Dhabi. Jess and Flora Duffy piled on the pressure through the swim and bike and made it a two horse race as the rest of the field fought for the final podium spot. Flora claimed victory but it was still an incredible performance for Jess who is a relative newcomer to the sport. The Gold Coast also saw victory for Joe Townsend (GBR) and Jade Jones-Hall (GBR) in the PTWC category.
May saw plenty of racing with numerous podiums for HUUB athletes. Early in the month, we saw a record-breaking performance from the Norwegian trio of Gustav Iden, Kristian Blummenfelt and Casper Stornes who completed a first-ever national clean-sweep of a men’s WTS podium.
The WTS headed to the UK with the Nottingham relays first up, where we saw HUUB’s Jonathan Brownlee and Tom Bishop help GBR to second place. The following weekend the worlds best triathletes headed to Leeds where we saw Georgia Taylor-Brown claim her first ever WTS podium, the start to an incredible year for the young athlete. The same weekend Elliot Smales (GBR) earned his first-ever Ironman 70.3 victory on home soil at Staffordshire 70.3 - another young athlete on the rise!
July started off with a medal haul at the WPTS event in Northern Italy. George Peasgood carried on a stellar year with his second victory of the season. Jetze Plat won yet again with Joe Townsend carrying on his podium streak in third.
The WTS headed to Hamburg and Jonathan Brownlee delivered a result more indicative of his ability with a fourth-place finish. The double Olympic medalist had admitted a tough start to the 2018 season, falling short of his extremely high expectations and past results.
The end of the month saw the WTS head to Canada for the first of two races. Georgia Taylor-Brown stunned again with another impressive display finishing 3rd in Edmonton. It was another return to the podium for HUUB athlete Kristian Blummenfelt who was only passed into second place by Mario Mola (ESP) with 500m to go.
In August, Jess Learmonth attempted to defend her European Title from 2017. Unfortunately, 2012’s Olympic Champion Nicola Spirig (SUI) got the better of her on the day. The men's race saw a return to racing for Alistair Brownlee after some time out with injury, and despite a self-proclaimed lack of run fitness, he finished in fouth place.
Montreal was the location of the second WTS event held in Canada for 2018. Georgia Taylor-Brown carried on her impressive display with a third podium finish of the year. It was a similar story for Kristian Blummenfelt as he was the driving seat for much of the race, it took another astonishing run display from Mario Mola to prevent the Norwegian claiming victory.
August also hosted one of the most eagerly anticipated showdowns for years... Brownlee vs Gomez vs Frodeno at the 70.3 World Championships. In the end, Jan Frodeno (GER) prevailed with Brownlee second and Gomez third, but it has only whet the appetite for fans who will hope to see similar battles in coming years. In other 70.3 news, Elliot Smales claimed his second victory of the year in Dublin.
September usually signals the closing of the triathlon season with the culmination of the WTS. The World Triathlon Series Grand Final had it all... thrills, spills and controversial decisions. Georgia Taylor-Brown topped off a great season and finished the race in 8th, and this was good enough for her to claim 3rd place overall in the WTS for 2018 - a phenomenal result for the 24-year-old! The men’s race was equally captivating, we saw Alistair's first return to WTS racing since his last victory in Leeds 2017, however, he was controversially DSQ’d after a swim buoy infringement. Blummentfelt rounded out a solid season in 5th and Schoeman was back racing after being sidelined for a lot of the season, and finished in a fine 6th place.
September finished with a HUUB 1-2-3-4 at Beijing International Triathlon with Jonny Brownlee claiming victory, Blummenfelt 2nd, Schoeman 3rd, and Alistair Brownlee 4th. Also that weekend we saw Elliot Smales claim his 3rd 70.3 victory of the year at Weymouth 70.3, and Jack Burnell (GBR) claim the gold medal at the penultimate 10km Marathon Swim World Series in 2018 by the narrowest of margins in China.
October saw the launch of HUUB Wattbike, a Derby-based track cycling team who have been turning heads all over the world with their different, non-governing body approach to track cycling. In the triathlon world the Super League was taking over with its first stop in Jersey, here Schoeman found some of his early season form to claim 2nd overall with Blummenfelt in 3rd place. The next round headed to Malta, Vincent Luis (FRA) took the honours, with Schoeman again placing an impressive 2nd overall.
In October eyes all turn to the ‘Big Island’ and Kona! In a record-breaking day where numerous course records were smashed HUUB’s David McNamme once again finished in an incredible 3rd place, establishing himself as Britains number one male long-distance athlete. HUUB Wattbike also announced their arrival with a second place at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Canada.
November saw the final stage of the Super League in Mallorca, and yet again HUUB athletes claimed podiums with Schoeman in 2nd overall and Jonny Brownlee in 3rd.
Yesterday, Ross Edgley became the first person to swim around mainland Great Britain. After 157 days at sea and 2000 miles later the adventurer returned to the same spot he started his epic journey with four new World records.
In July he became the first person to swim the entire South Coast. In August he surpassed the record for the longest ever staged sea swim and fastest Lands End to John O’Groats. And then on completion of the Great British Swim, he became the first person to swim around Great Britain without setting foot on land.
The Great British Swim is equivalent to swimming The Channel 100 times, and to do this Ross has consumed 1,884,000 calories. Surprisingly, he hasn’t taken a single day off due to sickness or injury and has endured gruelling conditions, including Storm Ali and Storm Callum while acquiring 37 jellyfish stings and a disintegrating tongue. He also got through five rolls of gaffer tape to fix broken skin and three kilograms of Vaseline for chaffing!
Dean Jackson, HUUB’s Founder and Owner, commented “Working with Ross has taught us a lot about durability, saltwater and chaffing! It was a unique challenge, which required careful preparation of equipment including customisation of a whole collection of HUUB wetsuits to cater for estimated weight loss, ranging from his current size to a few stones lighter.”
Three hundred swimmers joined Ross Edgley for the swim into shore where a huge crowd waited to celebrate as the Red Bull Matadors put on a fantastic air show above. On stepping foot on dry land, Ross revealed, "It feels a bit weird on land, a bit too solid for my liking! I almost fell over when I started to jog into shore. Setting out, I knew the Great British Swim would be the hardest thing I've ever attempted. I was very naïve at the start, and there were moments where I really did begin to question myself. My feelings now are pride, tiredness and relief. It's been a team effort and it's thanks to the whole crew, the support I've received from the public and Red Bull that I've been able to complete it. To see so many smiling faces here today is amazing, and if I can take one thing away, it's that I’ve inspired people, no matter how small that inspiration may be."
The 33-year-old strongman had previously rope climbed the height of Mount Everest, swam the Caribbean while dragging a 100lb tree, and did a marathon while pulling a Mini Cooper.
The Great British Swim was filmed by Red Bull, who produced weekly vlogs on their YouTube channel with 100% honesty and transparency documenting how the body breaks down during 150 days at sea under chronic fatigue. You can watch them all on their YouTube channel here.
A selected few headed to the sunny climate of Malta for the second round of the Super League Triathlon, which resulted in a 2nd place podium for ‘Blue Jersey – Leading Swimmer’ Henri Schoeman. Recently engaged, it wasn’t the only result he got after proposing to his girlfriend in Malta a few days before the race!
The HUUB Wattbike Team were also competing over the weekend out in Canada for the second round of the UCI Track World Cup. After becoming the 5th fasted nation in history with a new PB at the opening round people were eager to see what came next… Qualifying fastest, they made it through to the gold medal final against Denmark but came away with the silver medal in second place.
This round of the Super League kicked off with a 600m swim time trial which formed the first part of the Equalizer to be concluded on Sunday afternoon. The athletes would start in finish and time order for the swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run, dramatically splitting up the field before the real racing even began.
HUUB's Henri Schoeman (RSA), as expected, took the honours in 00:06:31 with opening round winner Vincent Luis (FRA) 11 seconds back and Jonas Schomburg (GER) a further 4 seconds behind. Jonny Brownlee (GBR) had the 6th fastest time - 00:06:54. Taylor Spivey (USA) has the quickest time in the women's time trial; however, there weren't many time gaps throughout the field with the top 10 split by a little over 20 seconds.
The Eliminator format consists of three swim-bike-run races with a 10-minute gap in between. The final five athletes in each race are eliminated, the winner of each format receives a $1,000 bonus. Race 1 looked fairly straightforward with a group of 12 athletes forming it was clear all would be safe. Clare Michel (BEL) was the single athlete from the chasers that avoided early elimination. Katie Zaferes (USA) won the $1,000 bonus. Race 2 was similar in many ways to Race 1 with Zaferes looking unbeatable as she took the second win. Race 3 Zaferes finally attacked early on, and it was game over as she completed the set of wins. She certainly made a statement of intent to the rest of the athletes.
In the men’s Eliminator, Race 1 was again reasonably straightforward other than Brownlee being caught in a crash and having to make his way through the field. Hayden Wilde (NZL) took the $1,000 bonus for the race win with many of the favourites easing through into the second race. Race 2 split up a little more, and it was clear many athletes were turning up the engines. Schoeman and Luis pushed the pace on the swim earning a breakaway with Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) and Ben Kanute (USA). Brownlee missed the move but was safely in the next group of three on the road. Mislawchuk took the honours closely followed by the rest of the lead group. Race 3 was set to be an explosive event with 7 of the worlds best lining up. Despite Schoeman forcing the pace in the swim, all the remaining athletes were together on the bike, that was until Brownlee attacked, but the chase was on, and his lead was never significant, the race would still be determined on the run. It was Richard Murray (RSA) who used his lightning fast T2 to take the victory. Luis was 2nd with Schoeman 3rd and Brownlee 4th.
With gaps already in place after Friday’s swim TT, and a 90 second elimination time the Equalizer was set for some fierce racing from the off. Soon into the race and a lead group consisting of Kirsten Kasper (USA), Summer Cook (USA), Yuko Takahashi (JPN), Rachel Klamer (NED), Spivey and Zaferes formed, the group stayed together until the final transition of the day. Onto the run and it was a close fought battle between Zaferes, Cook and Kasper as the steep hill took its toll. Zaferes yet again came out on top with Kasper and Cook completing an all American podium.
Luis and HUUB’s Schoeman soon made it a two horse race for the win as they had established a sizeable lead out ahead, although Luis had a fair bit of chasing to do. He was perhaps favourite leading into the race after his stunning performance in Jersey just weeks before. The two were glued together going into the final stages of the race, and it was left to a final 250m uphill sprint. Eventually, Luis prevailed, but the look of pain on his face certainly showed the effort required to distance the South African. The rest of the field from nearly the off were competing for third, and it was the winner of Race 2 of the Eliminator, Tyler Mislawchuk who took third place ahead of Brownlee.
1st – Katie Zaferes (USA) – $20,000
2nd – Rachel Klamer (NED) – $15,000
3rd – Kirsten Kasper (USA) – $10,000
1st – Vincent Luis (FRA) – $20,000
2nd – Henri Schoeman (RSA) – $15,000
3rd – Richard Murray (RSA) – $10,000
After becoming the 5th fasted nation in history with a new PB at the opening round of the Track World Cup in France people were eager to see what came next… Qualifying fastest, the team showed exactly why they are a squad on the up.
The quartet converted that into a medal this time around, the four of Dan Bigham, Jonny Wale, Harry Tanfield and John Archibald taking silver behind Denmark in the gold medal final.
Team Manger, Dan Bigham, commented on Instagram, “Banging few weeks riding fast in circles. We picked up a TP PB of 3:53.8 (becoming the 5th fastest “nation” in history) and a World Cup silver medal. Huge thanks to all of our sponsors, staff and supporters. You’re the reason we’re out here smashing it. 4 weeks now to build to the next round in Berlin.”
Renowned for the fastest wetsuits in triathlon, we’re now throwing our energies into cycling by supporting an up and coming East Midlands track team preparing to storm the Paris velodrome in the opening World Cup event this weekend. HUUB founder and chief executive, Dean Jackson, explains why it’s both an exciting time – and the right time – to launch Team HUUB Wattbike…
“Track cycling has long been an area of fascination for us here at Huub. Great Britain has achieved huge success over the past three Olympic Games, with gold medal winners such as Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton becoming household names all over the country, and that cannot fail to rub off on sports fans.
“But there are many other reasons we want to test ourselves in this sport. While the athletes need to be in their best condition possible, the kit and equipment must also be the best in the world. Races are won and lost by fractions of a second, and that presents a challenge way beyond making great athletes look professional in nice kit.
“So why now? We’ve been fortunate. We met a group of local lads who wanted to achieve something great, and headed by aerodynamicist and track rider Dan Bigham, they were already making an impact. From nowhere, they’d won the national team pursuit in January 2017 and had backed it up with a World Cup win in Belarus. The raw talent was clear, but it was their attitude that made us want to support them on this journey.
“Huub has come a long way in seven years. We’re proud to be the biggest triathlon wetsuit brand in the UK, and we’ve achieved it by turning innovation on its head, working with the best individuals - from hydrodynamicists to athletes - to produce the very best.
“In Team Huub Wattbike, I see the same values and determination. They are always asking questions, agitating, and challenging convention to leave no stone unturned to be the best they possibly can be – and given they train at one of only six indoor velodromes in the country, just a couple of miles from Huub HQ in Derby, we get to see this on a daily basis.
“While it’s a new challenge, it’s also one not completely removed from our area of expertise. Dan has a background in aerodynamics from working in Formula One racing and is already the brains behind the Huub Aero Anemoi tri-suit that was worn on Saturday by David McNamee as he recorded the third-fastest time ever in Hawaii. Not a bad testing arena.
“While understanding terminology such as drag coefficient frontal areas, yaw angles and Reynold’s numbers can be complicated, we can all appreciate that when riding a bike, it’s not the machine that creates the most drag, but the rider sitting on it.
“Whether it’s over four minutes for the team pursuit or 8hrs in Kona, it’s therefore apparent how critical the material of the suit is to make sure the air passes over, around and under the rider in the most streamlined way possible.
“On to Paris for the first World Cup race of the season and we’re excited to see how Team Huub Wattbike perform. But it’s not just about the result. Everything we learn from testing and racing is fed back, so we can carry on improving. This weekend represents yet another opportunity to gather data and improve, as we keep on striving to ensure the Huub delivers the fastest kit on the planet.
Film Maker, James Poole, followed Team KGF (now re-launched as Team HUUB Wattbike) for a year to create this hour-long film documenting the amateur riders debut season which shook up the track cycling world.
With a string of medals to their name, the innovative track cycling team are currently among the fastest in the world after using their hunger and disruptive mindset to challenge the status quo at every level - from training to tactics, attitude to equipment, socks to skinsuits - to deliver much more than marginal gains.
The IM World Championships in Kona lived up to all the hype and expectations. Although the race didn't go exactly to script there was still some epic battles out on the course and near perfect race conditions allowed for incredibly fast racing as numerous records were obliterated.
It’s a long road, but often a fast one. Professional triathlete David McNamee’s first non-drafting race was only three-and-a-half years ago in Dubai, where a packed field assembled, lured by the glitz of Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s $1million Triple Crown series.
It was a gamble. It’d been barely two months since the Scot announced he was leaving the comfort of British Triathlon’s Olympic-focused funded system to strike out alone in longer distance racing.
By his own admission, McNamee wasn’t quite sure what he’d let himself in for. With a borrowed time trial bike and compatriot Fraser Cartmell providing a few pointers, he was now facing the heat of Middle East, a world away from his home town of Irvine in Ayrshire.
It’s worth noting McNamee was only 26. He might not have been winning Olympic medals, but he’d achieved six top 10 finishes on the World Triathlon Series and had returned from a broken collarbone for a commendable seventh in the Commonwealth Games in 2014. For almost any other triathlon nation, he would have been a shoo-in for Olympic selection.
Yet it was British racer Will Clarke, who made an astute comment before the race in Dubai, to suggest the longer format could be his calling. “I think David will do well,” said Clarke, a 2008 Olympian, who is also racing in this year’s Ironman World Championship on Saturday. “He’s one of the few triathletes in ITU racing that could negative split the 10km. He knows how to pace a race.”
It has proved prophetic for the success McNamee is now enjoying racing Ironman, particularly on Hawaii’s Big Island - where it really matters - and where only the reigning champion, Patrick Lange, looks capable of closing out the race faster.
This year’s contest features Lange and Lionel Sanders, 2014 winner Sebastian Kienle and an eagerly-anticipated Kona debut from Javier Gomez. But McNamee still merits a mention. After all, he finished third last year, the finest performance by a male British triathlete in Kona, and the seventh fastest time ever clocked on the course.
“I was happier as soon as I switched to long course,” McNamee says. “I accepted that British triathlon didn’t have me in their plans and they never told me anything to go against that.
“I had the bike crash too, which has left me with permanent nerve damage and affects my wrist and fingers. It’s a lot nicer being on a TT bike where my weight is supported by my elbows and shoulders.”
He finished 21st out of a 61-strong professional men’s field in that first race, but it would be the iron-distance events that provided the steepest learning curve. “Between ITU and 70.3 there’s not that big a difference,” he continues. “But once I got into 4 ½ hours of racing at my first Ironman, in South Africa, my body knew it. I just wasn’t ready. I lost about 20mins in the last 60kms of the bike. I couldn’t pedal.”
The conditioning under coach Joel Filliol, who (age-group triathlete take note) doesn’t start training sessions before 8am, was quickly implemented, and McNamee put down his mark on the domestic scene by winning Ironman UK in Bolton in his first season, then backed it up with the fastest run split in Kona, where he finished eleventh.
The following year was a plateau. His talents had caught the eye of the BMC-Etixx team, but results did not match expectation and ties were severed after a season. It brought the commercial realities at this level into sharp focus.
“Ironman is not a sport that’s going to make you rich,” McNamee says. “You do it because you love it. I’ve been with Huub since 2012 and when it comes to sponsorship, although results matter, it’s the relationship you have with the company that’s more important.
“The sponsor has to see value for the investment and there has to be more to it than giving me money to wear the kit. Part of that is racing fast and showing the equipment is fast, but it's also about giving feedback.
“I should be pushing the bikes and running shoes to the limit. There should be few athletes that can put the equipment through what I can - and there are few athletes who are as anally precise about things as I am. Ultimately, my life revolves around this equipment and that’s a valuable thing.”
McNamee has helped refine the new Huub Anemoi trisuit through testing with Derby-based aerodynamicist Dan Bigham, and wore an earlier version of it in Hawaii in 2017, where he’d finished in a blistering 8:07:11.
“I’ve learnt in life that it’s better to find the expert than try and figure it out using Google, so I put my trust in Dan. I have the updated version now and there’s a marked difference in the velodrome,” he says. “Kona is the big test, but even though it was a fast suit last year, it was still comfortable to wear in the heat - and that’s the best race-day test scenario you’ll ever get.”
Although they no longer train together, McNamee also attributes performance gains to training with two-time Ironman champion Jan Frodeno around their shared home city of Girona in 2017.
“It’s one thing doing the hard work, but another making sure you recover from it,” he explains. “In the past I didn’t have confidence in what I was doing and over-trained by not recovering properly. I then stopped being able to deliver the same quality in sessions. I’ve now learned that that’s a sign to back off, not do more and more.”
Prioritising recovery to allow his body and mind to absorb the workload, means he arrived in Hawaii last year in the best shape he’d been for the race, but it still didn’t provide an indication for what was to come.
“It’s only once a year we all get together in Ironman,” he says. “I know whether I’m better or worse, but have no idea about anyone else. I surprised myself with the time I went last year. If you’d told me I was going to go that quick beforehand, I’d have said: ‘I’ll probably win’.”
This year has been frustrating. McNamee flew to Oceanside in California in April and spent the whole race week in bed. He returned to Europe to win Marbella 70.3 and was runner-up to Javier Gomez at Barcelona 70.3 a fortnight later.
But with momentum gathering his planned Ironman in Austria was again ruined by sickness, although he persevered to the finish line in 8:55:55 for 15th position and enough to validate his Hawaii return.
“Until this year, I’d only ever been sick once in 10 years before a race,” he says. “To happen twice in a year is difficult to accept.” A confidence-boosting trip to Ironman Vichy 70.3 in France was planned for late August and all was going to plan as he led the 90km bike ride.
“I felt in great shape. I had a good swim, was leading on the bike with a nice gap, came around a corner and hit a piece of concrete that was left in the road. The front tyre went bang.
“Thankfully, I just about stayed on my bike. The lead moto had stopped and was looking back concerned because he knew what was going to happen. That was my race over.
“It left me frustrated. It was the third time this year I’d not been able to do what I love and train for, and it took a couple of days to accept it. The past few months I’ve been in great shape, but haven't been able to show it. I don’t feel like I’ve had a race season, so I just want to go to Hawaii have an incident-free race and be healthy.”
How does he see the race playing out? “It’s exciting. There’s an uber-swimmer such as Josh Amberger, bikers like Sebastian Kienle, Cameron Wurf or Andrew Starykowicz, then all-round guys like Lionel Sanders.
“Patrick Lange knows how to run in Hawaii like nobody else has ever been able to run in Hawaii. Then you have Javier Gomez - it’s his first year, but he’s the complete all-round athlete. I think he’s up there with Patrick in terms of running efficiency, and running well in Hawaii is about being efficient.
“If you want to be on the podium you will have to play your cards, so I expect the swim to be fast, the bike to go hard for the course record, and, if similar conditions to last year, to win, you’ll have to go under eight hours.
“If I want to get back on the podium, I have to get off the bike closer to the front of the race than I did last year. Last year, there were blow-ups - Lionel faded badly on the run, Sebastian blew up towards the end. I don’t think they’ll repeat those mistakes.
“My power meter had stopped the day before the race, so I rode on feel. A lot of people probably thought I was riding steady, but I was pushing hard. This time I need to push the bike even harder but still be able to run afterwards. Kona is a fine line and as soon as you go past the line, there’s no way back.”
This weekend saw all forms of racing around the world with HUUB athletes storming to victory on more than one occasion. The Beijing International Triathlon featured an impressive start-list with many athletes travelling over from the WTS Grand Final, and others choosing Weihai World Cup as their final race of the season. Back in the UK, it was more a battle for survival than racing as PRO’s and many age group athletes took to the streets of Weymouth for the Ironman 70.3 and battled cold and extremely wet conditions. Over in Innsbruck Dan Bigham, this time in a consultant role was with Canyon-SRAM for the World Team Time Trial Championships.
Some of ITU's biggest stars headed to the Chinese capital and it created some intense racing. Jonny Brownlee (GBR), Ben Kanute (USA) and defending champion Henri Schoeman (RSA) gained a 30-second gap in the water to the chasing group including Alistair Brownlee (GBR) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR). It was only Blummenfelt who was able to make it across to the leading trio, with Alistair claiming post-race, he wasn't feeling himself.
Onto the 10k run and the quartet were still together, first to crack was Kanute, followed by Schoeman. Jonny Brownlee went on to claim the victory by 9 seconds over Blummenfelt, with Schoeman 3rd and Alistair overhauling Kanute to finish in 4th; a fine 1-2-3-4 for HUUB! Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) won the women's race with Non Stanford in 2nd and Lucy Hall 3rd.
Just South-East of Beijing, yet still over 800km away Weihai hosted one of the last World Cups of the year. HUUB's Jorgen Gunderson (NOR) was up at the front of the swim and towards the end of bike broke clear from the main pack numbering around 20 athletes. Unfortunately with world-class runners like Alex Yee (GBR) hunting him down his lead didn't hold on. In the searing heat, it was HUUB athlete Gustav Iden (NOR) who made the crucial move and went on to claim his third World Cup victory with an emphatic run of 30.15 for the 10km. Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) finished in 2nd with Yee 3rd. In the women's race, Taylor Spivey (USA) claimed victory with Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA) 2nd and Miriam Casillas Garcia (ESP) in 3rd.
For many of the athletes racing it was more the element of surviving than racing. It was one of the only races back at home in the UK not cancelled due to the weather warnings and it was clear many suffered in the conditions with numerous DNF's. In the end, only 6 male and 6 female PRO's finished the race. The shortened 950m swim did little to separate the field, it was only the bike where the race started to separate things up. Will Clarke (GBR) established a sizeable advance before succumbing to a mechanical and one by one athletes dropped out.
HUUB's Elliot Smales kept himself well in contention but it was Alexandre Blain (FRA), an ex-pro cyclist who lead into T2. It didn't take Smales long to overtake the Frenchman and he never looked back once in the lead and went on to claim his third 70.3 victory of 2018. Sam Pictor (GBR) finished in 2nd with Sam Proctor (GBR) in 3rd. In the women's race India Lee (GBR), who wore a HUUB wetsuit claimed victory in her debut 70.3 distance race, with Nikki Bartlett (GBR) in 2nd and Fanella Langridge (GBR) in 3rd.
HUUB's aerodynamic consultant and athlete Dan Bigham this time wasn't creating headlines for his multiple national titles or World Cup track cycling victories, but for his consultant role for the Canyon - SRAM team at this years UCI World Championships.
With Dan's expert knowledge rapidly becoming gospel in the British TT community it wasn't long before the World Tour took notice. The team Canyon-SRAM made up of Hannah Barnes, Alice Barnes, Elena Cecchini, Lisa Klein, Alena Amialiusik and Trixi Worrack claimed the World title with a time of 1:01:46 for the 54.1km course in Innsbruck, beating Boels Dolmans by 21 seconds and 2017 winners Team Sunweb by 28 seconds.
Jack Burnell (GBR) won the gold medal of the penultimate 10km Marathon Swim World Series in 2018 by the narrowest of margins in Qiandao Lake, Chun’an China. Burnell touched home only 0.1 seconds ahead of Rob Frederik Muffels (GER) after an epic three-way battle for the top spot also with Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) who ended up with bronze. Burnell completed the course in one hour 56 minutes 34.8 seconds.