If you've been reading our emails for a while, you'll know that we've been supporting top age-group triathlon team Team Freespeed since pretty much Day One of Precision Hydration. Freespeed consistently send multiple athletes to Kona and have more than a few Umekes (the ‘fruit bowl’ awarded to top 5 finishers in each age group at the Ironman World Championships) to their name.
This year, they're sending no less than 8 athletes to the Big Island after a fantastic year of results. So, for the first time on our blog, we sat down with team manager Richard Melik to get his thoughts ahead of the main event on October 14th...
Richard, Freespeed managed a fantastic 8 Kona slots this season. All the results have been amazing, but are you able to single out one or two that were particularly special?
Charlie’s result at Hamburg is fresh in the mind but it definitely was a special one. Charlie has struggled with leg injuries ever since his stellar result in Kona 2015. This year he was planning to race South Africa but had to postpone and then he also pushed back from Bolton in order to give his injuries as much time as possible to settle down. We were all nervous during the run in Hamburg, but Charlie won his age group and finished twelfth overall.
Another result that stands out was Alex Bradley in Maastricht. Alex went sub 9 in Barcelona in 2015 and missed out on qualification for Kona by one slot there and also in his next two races, despite some solid times. In Maastricht he nailed it with an age group win and a 27 minute gap to second place. I'm really excited to see what Alex can do in his first trip to the Big Island.
Freespeed's Alain Friedrich won Swissman Xtreme Triathlon this year.
How do Team Freespeed consistently manage to send so many athletes to Kona?
To be fair, we do set our stall out each year as being a Kona-focussed team and therefore we attract applications from high performing age groupers who hope to be competitive in Kona so should, in theory, qualify fairly comfortably.
But we all know the Kona slot system can be fickle and it's a testament to the athletes’ consistently impressive execution that they qualify year in year out.
What are the team's goals for Kona this year then?
Since you asked, I am going to put it out there in writing. If the team can bring home four Umekes that would be a fantastic result. Any less and they’ll all be fired...
Ruth Purbrook had an exceptional first year in Freespeed colours.
This'll be her first trip to Kona...
No pressure guys! What specific things do you look for in athletes when selecting the team?
In terms of performance, we're looking for athletes with the potential to podium in Kona so that's a pretty high bar. In addition though, the athletes need to be social media savvy and also the kind of people that we want to represent our team and our sponsor brands - inspirational but friendly and approachable.
Why did you start the team in the first place?
The Team started in 2010 as a group of four athletes - Stuart Anderson, Declan Doyle, Tim Bishop and Jenny Gowans - who had qualified for Kona and agreed to race under the Freespeed banner in order to promote the launch of my bike fitting business.
That's Ali Rowatt on the left with her Umeke after coming 2nd in her AG last year...
You also manage Lucy Charles. To what do your attribute her recent success?
Lucy’s rise to prominence this season is simply down to hard work over the winter, pure and simple. Obviously several years as an elite swimmer meant that Lucy had superior athletic potential, but she has been clever in really focussing on her weaknesses to make them strengths.
Breaking the bike course record at Lanzarote shows she can match anyone in the sport on the bike, Lucy has a little way to go on the run but, at only 23, I think she’ll be there very soon too.
Are there any other triathletes that you think are on their way to great things in the next few years?
Definitely keep an eye on Márton Cseik. He's a Hungarian age grouper living in the UK and was overall winner at Wimbleball 70.3 this year. I keep hearing from several sources that he is a special talent so definitely one to watch.
On the pro side, I was impressed with Sarah Crowley at Frankfurt, especially backing up her Cairns win. She’ll be a force in Kona for sure.
Charlie Pennington came within 7 seconds of age-group Gold in 2015.
He's got his eye on the top step this year...
Who's your money on to win the IM World Champs this year?
Lionel Sanders and Daniela Ryf
What's your favourite thing about going to Kona?
The Clif Bar party ;-)
We thought you might say that! Enjoy and fingers crossed for plenty of Umekes for the team again this year. Thanks Richard.