Kona Recap: The Good, the Bad, and those 4 Minutes…
Wow, this time I am writing you from my rainy home in Bereldange, Luxembourg. I just got back from a 2-day trip from Kona via Berlin and then a long drive back home. Alicia had to attend 2 classes of her PhD studies so we chose to knock them out right after Kona… It felt like a whole week though. My “cankles” are back to normal, the legs started to work again on day 4, and the great Olympic center in Berlin took amazing good care of me during my stay- a big thanks to the lady boss there for that!
I am extremely satisfied with the race, BUT…well, let’s start at the beginning.
All went well in the past 4 months, I was able to put in the planned work load, my health was great, nothing kept me from training and preparing 100% for the biggest race of the year.
On race day my engine was ready to go and looking back it never stopped working till I turned the key off–which makes me happy and proves we did everything right.
The swim part was strange, I had a good start and got right into clear waters to find my line, after just 400m I passed Speedo-Faris to take the lead (let’s exclude Andy Potts and Pete Jacobs for discussion purposes) of the group. From there on I swam the rest of the 3.4k in front and was pacing hard. Pete fell off Pottsy’s feet and I passed him near the finish, which put me into second place coming out of the beautiful Kona waters. Looking back, I never led for such a long time in a swim and was very pleased with my effort, nevertheless, it didn’t have the desired outcome of dropping some of the big names, such as Crowie or Marino…..
In T1 everything went smooth and I took a bit more time than needed to get my gear and all set up. Still in 2nd, I got on my bike with a tail of 25 athletes. The first few km were pretty slow compared to last year and the group formed a big line. After 30k into the race Jimmy Riccitello, the head referee came up to several athletes including myself and mumbled something to keep more space when we pass people. That was necessary as some guys were blocking heavily when passing. Maybe at km 60 I made another move and passed 3-4 athletes and got back in the paceline, looking over my shoulder as I got the ok from my buddy to get back in. Just seconds after that Jimmy came by and told me he warned me once before of blocking and told me I have a red card–meaning a 4 min penalty. I got shocked as I kept the distance and didn’t block the guy behind me, needless to say I was one of the faster bikers in the group and there was no need for me to play unfair. I talked back to Jimmy and he just replied that he warned me before. Just 3k down the road was the next penalty box (=tent) and it was the first time in my life and in 22 years of racing that I got a call from a referee. Damn it, 4 minutes a soooo long. The guys didn’t let me pee so I just stood there, eating, drinking and of course letting it run down my legs (I hope that’s not on camera btw). Four other guys were with me, and we decided to chase the group down again and as soon as it was over I was back in action chasing hard, suddenly Michi Weis from Austria came by on his motorcycle (i.e. bike powered by his engine) and I rode behind him–man, he was flying. Well, after about 30-35k we got really close to the group in front and right after Hawi, we caught them. You can imagine what a ride that must have been, making up 4 minutes in 35k to the leader/group in front of us. Once we got back, Michi just kept going, but I felt like I needed a short break and took a breath at the end of the pack for the remaining 10k down the hill. Suddenly it was all clear to me, I got my 4 minutes back and I have another chance–but how tired am I after the chase? I just saw Potts on the front of the 9 guys making his move up the hill after the gas station on the Queen K and without thinking too much I got out of my saddle and rode up to him, passing the entire group. The referees looked kinda irritated when they saw me passing them again. I had trouble to keeping my mouth shut and wanted to say some stuff…but oh well let’s cut that part out here as I do want to come back and race without being overly-watched by the referees again….
So back to Pottsy, after just 2 minutes I saw my watts were way less than before and so I passed him too and kept riding without looking back–on the next 60k home I opened up a gap of several minutes to the group and arrived only 3 minutes back to the pack ahead of me consisting of Raeli, Macca and so on. During that time I didn’t lose any time to a hard charging Lieto in front. I have to admit that I started to get pretty tired in the last 8k towards Kailua-Kona and started to worry about the marathon. Once I got into T2, I was overwhelmed by the spectators and the cheers so I played cool and ran out keeping my planned pace. Coach was yelling from the sidelines to be patient and to keep that pace but I had trouble believing him—but he is always right and just before the energy lab I caught quite a few guys. I ran by far, (to be exact 5.5 minutes) faster than my fastest marathon, despite my courageous swim and bike chase. Sounds a bit cocky, but I am really happy with that as it was the first time I did this and I overcame some minor personal issues here.
The only ones who passed me were King Crowie and at the end I had to let Eneko pass too. The last 4k were terrible and I was simply running out of gas.
After a long and hard day I finished 8th at the World Championships and should be pretty happy with it, but I only am to an extent. Those 4 minutes (and I know it was a BS call) cost me a spot in the Top 5, maybe even a realistic 4th place. Knowing that I can relax and focus on next years race, as I was able to 100% perform and did everything controllable thing in the right way.
My comments on the penalty: I got the call for blocking, which was questionable in the first place—but the strangest part was that I got a red card which means a 4 minute penalty—and according to the rule book blocking constitutes a yellow card (which is a stop and go penalty at worst).
Back when I was a little boy and watched IM on television I heard lots of Euros complaining about the unfair rules. I never thought about the possibility of favoring the US boys but now I am not so sure about it. Referees should be able to see the flow of the race and determine if someone is doing something wrong or if it is a grey zone. There is a difference between a potential podium contender who is a strong guy wanting to go in front and someone who is hanging on for dear life and trying to suck wheels for hours… good lord! Not only did I lose my potential amazing result that I worked months to achieve, but also a fair amount of money, primes, sponsorship opportunities and so on.
Since there is nothing I can do to change anything, I guess all I can do is tell you about it and clear my head so I can come back year and fight again…
Times of war are tough- but that’s why I am a soldier with a mission… Hawaii 2011.