Race Previews: ITU Rio Olympic Qualification & IM 70.3 Cebu

The Triathlon Preview Show: Episode 1

ITU Rio Olympic Qualification, IM 70.3 Cebu, IM Netherlands Race Previews

ITU Rio World Olympic Qualification Race Preview

Click on Photos for Athlete Twitter Links

Click on Photos for Athlete Twitter Links

Tommy Zaferes

Rode the course this morning at 5:30am! Smooth roads for the most part but then the HILL!! Good god. The steep section I rode four times at about 90% effort, 30sec at 9.3w/kg. I’m now having nightmares about having to ride up 8 times in a Brownlee/Gomez/Luis led breakaway. The run will be survival. It’s a bit less pressure since the main reason I’m here is to support Katie, so racing is secondary and I’m just gonna try to have fun.

There are some mini shore break waves going on, might make the entry and exits a bit interesting in the swim.

My plan is to swim as easy as possible while still making the lead group. Then to just hang on for dear life on the bike. The run will consist of my legs moving, my mouth smiling, and tears rolling down my cheeks. Should be fun!

If I’m in the top 8 at the end of the day somehow, God has a sense of humor.

Are you avoiding the water leading up to the event? Wondering if a lot of the athletes would stay out to avoid the possibility any pre race sickness.

Yeah, all the athletes are avoiding it just in case. I’ve volunteered to check out everything tomorrow since I’m a slightly more expendable athlete. I’ll check the beach start, currents, and waves. I won’t swim long, but I’ll be out there.

Jarrod SJarrod Shoemaker

You are currently the top ranked USA athlete in the ITU rankings, going into the first opportunity to qualify for Rio does this “ranking” influence anything?

Nope, ranking means nothing right now, US, or otherwise. All it meant was I had less stress worrying about getting into this race and could plan my season around doing well here, which I hope I do.

We have heard about the hill on the bike course, can you give us your thoughts on the bike course? Any equipment change from other races because of the bike course?

The hill is pretty significant, and despite people giving grades, lengths, etc it is still hard to quantify it before you race on it. We rode it this morning and I was impressed by how tough it will be, reminds me of Corner Brook, Huatulco, and Bellingham courses. It is tough, but the downhill will be fast leading right into the next hill. I did not make any changes to my bike, I will be able to do it in small ring 25/28, but some of the women will need a compact.

Is this race tactically any different from other races this year for you? Is the USA looking for a team effort on Sunday or race your own race and see if you can get a slot at Rio?

USAT cannot employ team tactics in any selection races so there will not be any domestiques. I do know that Tommy and Ben will be coming out the water ahead of me and will be working well with a smaller front group.

I read your blog about not being selected for the Pan Am Games, and that top 8 in Rio or Chicago was your overall goal, what will it take to get top 8 at Rio? Where do you need to swim and bike to have a shot on the run?

This race will be harder than any race we have done in a long time. I am focused on the swim and coming out in the top 1/3 of the field as that will set me up well. I generally enjoy climbing in races so hopefully that works for me in this race. We have done the hill climbing prep work to get me in shape for that. I feel that I am in the best shape I have ever been in and am pretty excited to race. I know that I am capable of being in the top 8, but I want to see how hard I can push myself in these two races and see what happens.

Renee TomlinRenee Tomlin

You had a 4th place finish at Yokohama, What do you need to do at Rio to replicate that result?

The 4th place finish at Yokohama was a bit of a breakthrough race where I found myself in the right place at the right time. In order to replicate a similar outcome, it’s important to focus on each moment of the race as opposed to the thinking too far down the line about the outcome. I’m excited to mix it up and grab a hold of every opportunity that presents itself!

Is the USA on the right path with the Collegiate Recruitment Program and Triathlon as an emerging NCAA Sport to continue the dominance it has had this year?

Yes, I believe USAT has created a very solid ITU Pipeline with the creation of the CRP and now with the sport’s introduction at the NCAA level. The opportunity the CRP provides is remarkable. This kind of fast-track coaching and support just does not exist elsewhere. I feel extremely fortunate to have Jarrod Evans as my coach and to have the support of the High Performance group at USAT.

Coming from a running background, track at Georgetown if I am correct, how does that play into your confidence when you get off the bike with a huge pack?

It’s always a rush once I get off the bike to the run portion of the race. Although, triathlon running is completely different from middle-distance track running. I’m still learning how to execute this portion of the race, but I do draw tactics from my time with Georgetown and NJNYTC.

We have heard a lot about the course, is there any particular part you are excited about and can take advantage on?

If I had to specify one particular portion of the course, I’d highlight the beach start on Copacabana. Growing up in Ocean City, NJ, I feel at home charging into the waves and salt water.

Sarah TSarah True

All we have been hearing about it the swim water quality and “hill” on the bike, tell me something else about the course?

The course is pretty straightforward, but there are a couple of elements that are a bit different. In the swim, we are contending with a beach start, potential currents and surf; all are elements we never see in the WTS races. With a one lap swim, we have less opportunity to break up the field. On the bike, everyone is focused on the uphill, but the fast, technical descent will probably shake up the field more. The field will likely get strung out and those who can’t recover quickly enough will suffer a bit more on the run or get dropped from packs. There’s not much to say about the flat run course; so much will depend on how efficiently people ride. With sun and moderate temperatures predicted, he conditions look good for some fast racing.

Have you made any gearing changes for this “hill” we are hearing about?

Yes, I’m riding 52-36 chain rings and an 11-28 cassette.

With Gwen being on a roll lately and only 2 US women able to qualify, is there any advantage to trying to make a break away swim/bike group without Gwen?

Of course. Gwen is obviously the fastest runner the sport has ever seen. If we could gain a time advantage going into T2, that certainly would be helpful.

Where do you need to be coming off the bike to have a shot at top 8 and top 2 US women?

I’m feeling confident enough in my fitness that I believe that top 8 is achievable no matter who rolls into T2 with me. The real challenge, however, is being the first or second American across the finish line. Katie and Gwen have been performing consistently at such a high level that the bar is set incredibly high. We may very well have more than 2 women in the top 8.

What would you consider a success at the test event this weekend?

I’ve focused my season on making the Olympic team this weekend, but I recognize the challenge, given the strength and depth of the U.S. women. If I put together a great race and it isn’t enough to qualify, there’s nothing that I can do beyond refocusing on the 2016 qualification event.

Erin JErin Jones

Will the swim be a beach start? If so how do you think the shore break will effect the swim start?

The swim will be a beach start. I think anytime you have a wave break it effects the run in. You have to be more focused and plan your entry better. It’s a good way to get a couple extra seconds on your competitor, but it’s also an easy way to lose them.

Do you have a particular race strategy? Are you looking to take advantage on any particular part of the course?

I’ve really been preparing for a course like this all year. I’ve raced some tough courses with tough hills. The hill will be hard, but everyone has to do it. My race strategy is to go out there and race until I have nothing left. This is what we have been training for, for the last four years. To get this opportunity.

Did you change any of your normal gearing for this race?

I didn’t change anything particularly.

We have heard about the swim water, and the “hill” on the bike, what about the run? Anything that stands out?

The run is pretty straight forward, but having tired legs after a big hill and swimming in an ocean will tire you out fast. Having the heat, humidity, and swimming in salt water, you always have to watch out for dehydration.

You have completed in a couple WTS races this year, what place or accomplishment would make this trip successful?

I’m so grateful to get the opportunity to race at our Olympic Trials Test Event along side my USA teammates. It’s such a humbling race and to make the Olympics for Team USA would be an honor. There are fierce girls out there this weekend and it’s going to be a fight to the end.

Anything else?

I got hit by a car a couple weekends ago, so I’m happy to have rebounded so fast. I don’t think anything should’ve stopped me from competing this weekend.

BarrieBarrie Shepley


“For numerous reasons, ITU’s best triathletes will only have one pre 2016 opportunity to race on the RIO Olympic Triathlon Course. Unlike the previous four Olympic courses, where athletes had numerous races on the courses, this weekend’s RIO 2015 TEST race has a lot of importance to many people.

Its important to the local volunteers who need to fine-tune their roles and ensure they are maximally prepared to give the athletes a fair and safe course for next year.

Its important to the elite athletes who hope to race there next year for Olympic medals. Hearing about a course and actually racing on it is two different things.

Its important to the coaches who will have power-meters and numerous other assessment devices to properly gain as much information as they can for final team-selection and pre Rio preparation camps.

Its important to the ITU and by extension the I.O.C. as because another great day in 2016, will only further to strengthen the great impact Olympic Triathlon left with TV viewers from Sydney (Whifield’s come from behind win), Athens (the 1-2 punch of the Kiwis on a very hard bike course), Beijing (the four man sprint with 800m to go and the domination by Emma Snowsill) and the incredible performances by Spirig-Norden-Gomez and Brownlee 1+2 in London. Many people around the world, get their first impressions of triathlon through their Olympic TV exposure and its valuable for triathlon to have a great course and competition.

Because RIO is essentially a free event for hundreds of thousands of spectators, an epic course, with huge crowds can leave the TOUR DE FRANCE feeling to the TV viewer at home.

There is no question since the beginning of the year, two races have stood most important to the 2016 ITU Olympic athletes. Rio this weekend and Chicago in Sept. Some federations like GB have put a podium at both races as a requirement for automatic Olympic selection. Most countries have put some kind of value on a top 3, top 5, top 8 or top 10 in Rio this weekend. The uniqueness of this course also has a number of athletes licking their lips, hoping that their incredible bike strength & skills might be the difference in making their Olympic team.”

SherpaTim Mualchin

The hill: Not a big-ring-power climb… even for the guys. Most (men) are opting for a 39×28 or even lower. One of the stronger men is even going with a 53/36 (chainring set) with an 11-28 (not a valid combo but this guy is conscious of shifting). 1-3 laps at race speed might be fine… but by laps 6-7-8 even the strongest riders will be hoping it was the last time up the hill. I wonder if any listeners can come up with good name for the hill (The Wall? Col de’ Rio? The Mean Bitch?).

Many of the gals will be on full-on compacts (50/34) with 11-28. I’m thinking the hill is big enough a few of the stringer cyclist will get a gap off the front… but the rest of the group (chase 2, 3 maybe even 4) come together to make a big chase 2 for both fields.

Pavement seems to be good enough. No major potholes but some rough transitions in new pavement (as the city get’s ready for 2016). Traffic is shitty so hard to pre-ride the bike course. Group headed out tomorrow at 6am (hopefully before traffic) so will get feedback then.

Ben KBen Kanute

As a strong cyclists do you plan to really push (especially on the hill) to hopefully get a big gap to the groups behind? Are there technical sections on the bike course, in addition to the hill, that could be advantageous to smaller group and strong cyclists?

This course is pretty awesome because it is going to really test everyone as a full triathlete. Everyone is focusing on the uphill, but this course provides a lot of opportunity besides that. The 1 lap ocean swim could really break things up, and the downhill after the big hill will stretch out the pack. That’s interesting because there is a little kicker right after that that could be a leg burner. I really don’t think I will have to be the one pushing the hill. There are going to be a lot of people riding aggressively, and a lot of little battles going on. For example, the battle for the win, a top 8, top 10, or whatever your respective country’s qualification is. All of that could provide for some interesting tactics.

Are you changing the gearing on your bike specifically for the hill?

I have a bit of an interesting gear combination. I have an 11/28 in the back, and a 53/36 up front. Tested it out today, and it works really well for this course!

Beach start or pontoon start, any preference?

I have no preference on the start. The beach start here may break it up a bit, but my only concern, no matter the start is to find clear water and the lead pack.

Anything else?

My plan has never been a secret. I have always tried to use my swim/bike combo to get in a break and then go from there. I’ve had a great training block before this, and I feel I am ready to go. No matter what happens, this course looks like it was made to produce some carnage. There is no real spot to hide, and by the time the run comes around everyone is going to be hurting. As always, anything can happen on race day, and on this course especially. You need to be strong to do well here, and this course could potentially punish a lot of people.

Joe MJoe Maloy

You had a good 2014 year with some wins and some top 20 finishes at WTS events this year you have only finished in the top 20 once at a WTS race. What do you need to do to get back near the front?

That’s like asking someone who lost his car keys where he lost his keys! I know I race well when I’m relaxed and enjoying myself. For whatever reason, I had trouble getting to that place earlier this year. The physical always follows the mental.

With a swimming background from college, where do you need to be out of the water to lead into a good race?

Tommy Zaferes is a good friend, and he usually comes out of the water at the front of the race. I’d like to be near him so we can chat during the bike.

When you leave Rio, what would be consider a successful trip?

A successful trip will be crossing the finish line knowing I raced to the best of my ability on the day.

Is there any part of the course that suits your strengths well?

Yes! There are loads of motivating sights on the Rio beachfront.

What do you think will be decisive moment (or moments) in the race?

Hey now, I can’t give you all my secrets.

Are you coming back to Pacific Grove to defend your title?

It’s the weekend before world championships in Chicago. Even though I’d love to race up there again (…and to get another rental car stuck in the sand) I don’t think I’ll make it.

Katie ZKatie Zaferes

Is the shore break an advantage to you over any of your competitors? Are you better suited for that type of entry and exit?

I think because I’m relatively tall and love the ocean the shore break will suit me well. I like to think this type of entry and exit will be good for me, mainly because I go into each race just pretending that no matter what is handed to me this is MY type of race.

Is the hill on the bike going to break up the groups more then the past WTS courses have?

I think it is definitely a tough course, similar to Auckland, which will have the opportunity to break up groups whether that be on the steep uphill or steep downhill. It’s an awesome course in that no one can fake it on here. There are technical sections, tough sections and fast sections that depending on people’s strengths there is a potential of impacting the race.

With Gwen being on a roll lately and only 2 US women able to qualify, is there any advantage to trying to make a break away swim/bike group without Gwen?

Always, but she’s proven herself strong in the swim and the bike so it will be challenging to do.

Where do you need to be coming off the bike to have a shot at top 8 and top 2 US women?

I aim to be in the top 5 off the bike. I’d much rather be in it from the start than be chasing however I’m ready for anything. And no matter where I come off I will be on a hunt for a Rio spot until the finish.

Lindsey JLindsey Jerdonek

I’m really looking forward to being on the start line in Rio on Sunday. I’ve put a lot of energy into preparing for this event along with my coach and training partners and we are prepared for the course. The top three Americans have set a very high standard of performance both within the U.S. and internationally and they have inspired me to challenge myself more as an athlete. The greatest success for me in Rio would be to do my preparation justice by getting the most out of myself in the race.

Kirsten KKirsten Kasper

You are currently ranked #15 in the WTS rankings, but the #5 USA women, is this disappointing or exciting?

It’s amazing how strong the U.S. Women’s team is and to be a part that is very exciting! Since this is my first year in the sport, I am extremely happy to be competitive at this level and to have the opportunity to compete with some of the best athletes in the world.

Your last 3 races you have finished between 6-11th overall, what do you need to do to be top 8 this weekend?

Just to focus on my own race and what I can control. This is a very challenging course and I plan to go out there and give it my all. I am confident in my training and preparation leading up to this race so I feel ready to compete.

What has to happen for you to consider this race a success?

This race will be a success if I cross line and can say I gave it my all. This race is an amazing opportunity and one to gain great experience from. I’m excited be a part of such a big day and to put myself in the game.

You were a runner at Georgetown, does this give you any extra confidence coming off the bike, knowing your background came from running?

Sure! It is always great to know that the run is what is most natural to me. Having confidence in my running ability and the experiences I gained from competing in college certainly helps me on the run.

Ironman 70.3 Cebu

Beth GBeth Gerdes

Luke and I are excited for Cebu 70.3 and we’ll see how it goes! I am still recovering from Ironman Switzerland but I’m motivated by earning some points for 70.3 Worlds next year and by money of course! I will be giving it my best. Caroline Steffen is surely the one to beat, but after that, it’s anyone’s game! I feel like I’m really fit, so if I can nail my recovery in the midst of all this travel, don’t count me out.

Luke has been taking a lighter month following his win at Ironman Cairns and traveling with me. In the past, though, he performs well in 70.3 off of lighter volume training. Although Cebu is a great race with a big field, Luke already has his eye on Kona and wanted to get in the proper recovery before starting his Kona build. So, I wouldn’t say he is 100% guns blazing going into Cebu, but he is healthy and both mentally and physically refreshed and recharged.

ClaytonClayton Fettell

You have taken a bit of a break from racing as frequently as you used to, correct? Are you excited to get back out there?

I am, it has been a while between drinks for me. I started a business cfracing and lost my training focus a little bit. Back on form now and excited to get out and have a crack.

Will you race from the front and play to your strengths—really hitting the swim and bike hard?

With the high quality field I need to try and get a gap off the bike. I have really focused on my strengths leading into this race and am looking forward to pushing the pace early and setting myself up for a good result.

Any problems with the heat up in Cebu?

Is it relatively warm where you are training in Australia right now? Coming from winter in Australia it is a bit of a change racing in the high humidity of the Philippines. I have done some heat training in Australia plus I have my nutrition plan dialled and ready to go for Sunday.

What is next after Cebu?

More 70.3s or will you be doing an Ironman in the fall? Sunshine Coast 70.3 and looking to get my Port Macquarie 70.3 title back. Next year I am all in on Kona so an ironman is also on the cards.

You recently got engaged–how is the wedding planning going? Or, are you leaving that up to your fiance?

Hahaha, I am very much in love yes. We are getting married in November in Australia. The hard work is done for me and it’s all up to her now .

Belinda GBelinda Granger

Love that you are still racing—can’t stay away! I thought Phuket in December was the racing retirement party. Are you just picking select Asia Pacific races to continue to race and support?

Officially Phuket back in December last year was my last race as a full time professional athlete. I signed a 2 year race contract with Sunrise Events in January last year to race all of their events, hence why I am still racing this year. To be honest, it has been really nice being able to just have a few select races to do this year. They are all races that I love and it is nice being able to wean myself off the racing slowly but surely.

You dealt with the first injuries of your long career just the past few years. How has training changed so you don’t continue to deal with niggles?

I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career to remain injury free. I think my old coach Sutto described it in the best way. He told me I was built like a ‘German tank….basically indestructible’. While I know this doesn’t seem like much of a compliment, it was. However the last year has been a little difficult, almost like my body is telling me ‘enough is enough’. First I tore my plantar facia then a little tear in my ITB then some sort of a weird foot problem. It was one thing after another. I realised that recovery was more important than ever and that the gym was my new friend. I have also streamlined my training so no more garbage miles and loads more rest and recovery. I make sure I hit the gym and concentrate on my core at least twice a week- if I don’t the niggles come back. Basically my body now reminds me that I ain’t 25 anymore.

Are you going to do an Ultraman eventually?

I did contemplate doing Ultraman but then decided against it. I don’t think my body would like me and I really want to stay on good terms. There are other things I would like to do….maybe some off-road ultra marathons….not the crazy stuff just the 50kers. I would also like to do some more team tri events. I was in a team last year at the Noosa tri and loved it- just a lot of fun and a good excuse to party afterwards.

Any more thoughts?
This will be my 4th time racing Cebu and it is definitely one of the best race weekends on the calendar.

The race itself is amazing- incredibly tough because of the weather but so much fun with spectators lining the entire course.

The swim is gorgeous- crystal clear waters with so much coral and marine life.

For me personally the best part about this race are the people. Sunrise Events know how to put on the best weekend of racing. Athletes start arriving to Cebu so early as they make a true holiday out of it. There is always so much to do before and after the actual race. It really is one of the ‘most fun’ race weekends of the year.

DimityDimity-Lee Duke

Never give up! The pain may be temporary but the memories last forever!

Sam BSam Betten

After finishing 2nd at the race last year I feel more confident this year now that I know what I am in for on race day. I know the course well and what to expect out there during the race. The heat will play a big factor out there and it will be a race of calculated energy output. I know that if I stand a chance I need to play to my strengths with is to establish a gap on the swim over the weaker swimmer/strong runners. Having Clayton in the race (another strong swimmer) is a benefit and hopefully I am in the move off the front early on in the race. The field is red hot this year and so the mens race will be a hard one from the get go.

The Triathlon Preview Show

This weekly podcast is your source for all information related to upcoming races in the world of Professional Triathlon. We will bring you analysis on how the races could play out, start list updates and input from the Professional athletes themselves. Hosted by Zach Miller, age group athlete and triathlon enthusiast and featuring input from Emily Cocks, a professional triathlete herself.

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photo credit: Looking west from the Sugar Loaf, Rio de Janeiro via photopin (license)

About the Authors

Zach Miller
Zach Miller is a sports enthusiast and age group triathlete living in the The Woodlands, TX. He is the Host of The Triathlon Preview Show. Follow @trifantasy The Triathlon Preview Show: iTunes Podcast
Emily is a professional triathlete and swim coach living in Napa, CA. Emily swam for the University of Michigan and completed her first tri in 2004 at the Chicago Triathlon. She worked for seven years as a paralegal, followed by three years as an Assistant Swim Coach for the University of Illinois-Chicago. Presently, she lives and trains in Napa, California while working for the Napa Valley Swim Team and coaching several age group triathletes.