Course Reveal & Analysis: Sub7Sub8 Project
After much hype across the various athletes and Phoenix Foundation social media channels in recent weeks, the course and date for the Sub7Sub8 project were finally revealed this Thursday. Everyone knew it would be on a race circuit somewhere, the question was just which one, and when? Brownlee and Blummenfelt, and Charles-Barclay and Spirig, will go head-to-head on the weekend of June 5th-6th at the Dekra Lausitzring. Located just north of Dresden in the North-East of Germany, the athletes will first Swim across Lake Senftenberg before riding 16km to reach the test ring where they will complete 27 laps on the Bike and 12 laps on the Run to complete their Iron Distance triathlon. Read on below to find out more about the course and the parameters that might help the athletes reach their Sub7 & Sub8 goals.
The Swim will be a point-to-point swim across Lake Senftenberg, situated just over 10km from the Dekra Lausitzring. Whilst it was long thought that a sea-swim would be advantageous for this Sub7Sub8 attempt, it’s likely that the risk of waves was weighed up against the reliability of the lake and the ability to compensate for the buoyancy through new Wetsuit technology. There’s not much else to say about the Swim course, other than to hope that the wind will blow in the right direction assist the athletes slightly.
From a race point of view, it’s clear that Lucy Charles-Barclay will lead Spirig after the Swim, especially considering Nicola’s recent broken collarbone, and it’s likely she might even swim faster than the boys. Kristian and Brownlee are likely to be tightly matched over the 3.8km Swim, the important thing to consider will be how easily each of them will be able to get through the swim with the assistance of their pacers, ensuring they conserve the energy required for the Bike and the Run.
The 180km bike course will start with 16km of sweeping German roads to reach the Dekra Lausitring test track from Lake Senftenberg. If the Ineos 159 project is anything to go by, it’s likely the road surface will have been renovated recently to favour rolling resistance! Once they’re on the test track it’s 27 laps of the track with two sweeping corners per lap which don’t require any slowing down. Moreover, the nature of the track means that the athletes will be able to swap their pacers in and out if desired, allowing them to maintain optimal speed.
If you look at Jan Frodeno going under the 4h barrier riding solo at the Zwift Battle Royale last summer, you can see that the course was far from optimised compared to this track, it’s feasible that the guys aiming to go Sub7 can go under 3:45 with the assistance of their pacers. Spirig and LCB will also approach the 4hr barrier on the bike, slicing up to 15 or even 20 minutes off the current female bike record over the Iron distance.
The pacing and drafting strategy of the four athletes will be of the most interest over this discipline, with the effect of drafting in Cycling allowing athletes to save up to 30% of energy output if conditions are optimised. Being economical on the bike will be key to running a fast marathon, but this mustn’t come at the expense of speed as the male athletes will be looking to ride close to 50km/h if they want to go significantly Sub-4 and 45/kmh to reach that 4hr landmark for the women. We will be able to predict the strategies a bit better next month once the athletes reveal their teams but knowing the four personalities something tells me they will each have a slightly different approach!
There’s not much to say about the Run course, other than that it’s almost identical to the Bike course. The Run will feature 12 counter clockwise laps of the Dekra Lausitzring, with negligible climbing and no technical sections or corners to slow the athletes down. Once they’re settled into their pace the athletes will be able to rely on their pacers to hopefully lead them around the Marathon and assist with carrying and supplying the fuelling so they can focus on maintaining their running economy and a solid pace to the finish.
Whilst the Run course doesn’t present many difficulties, other than being 42.195km long, it is likely to be where the Sub7 & Sub8 projects are either made or broken. On the women’s side Lucy Charles-Barclay is likely to start the Run in the lead and have to run in the region of a 2:40-2:45 Marathon to go Sub-8, whilst Nicola Spirig will be hot on her heals and probably looking to go under 2:40 to reach the Sub-8 goal. On the Men’s side again it’s hard to predict where they will be compared to each other, but a Sub 2:30 Marathon for both athletes will be required to get anywhere near the Sub7 mark. We will probably know a little more about the race dynamics once Kristian and Alistair reveal their pacing team, as the strategy is likely to impact their times on the Bike quite significantly.
Ever the optimist, I strongly believe both barriers will be broken. After cruising to a 7:21 debut Ironman in Cozumel in conditions that were far from ideal, Blummenfelt will be confident that with all the cards in his hands the 7-hour barrier is well within reach. The same applies for Brownlee who has a 7:40 and change Ironman to his name in Western Australia, he’s had basically 2 years since then to hone his long-distance strategy, and if past performances on big days are anything to go by then Brownlee must be counted on! On the women’s side it seems plausible that both can also go Sub-8, and LCB might even be able to go under 7:45 if everything goes perfectly. Spirig has minimal experience over the Ironman distance, but her pedigree suggests that a Sub 8 Ironman is feasible in the right conditions.
We will all stay tuned at the end of the month to see who each athlete chooses for their pacing team, and the first showdown at Ironman St George in May will give us all an indication of how the preparations are going for June!