Wurf: “I felt amazing when I got off that bike”
The interview with Cameron Wurf continues. In part one he talked about how he got into Ironman triathlons. In the second part, he talks about training with Chris Froome and why he believes he can improve on his 2017 Ironman result…
You’re putting your body under enormous stress. How do you come out of it? This is now Thursday (when we were speaking – with Cam in LA and me in Sydney), so you’ve had about five days recuperation. Do you feel remotely normal?
“Well, it’s actually Wednesday here so I’ve had four days, almost. But I do actually feel really good.
“I find I bounce back pretty quickly from the races and that’s sort of happened, I guess, more over the past three or four that [I’ve] done which have all been pretty close together…
“The first ones you do, you’ve done do… you know, you finish and you’ve always done a big training preparation for them so you sort of want to let your hair down, you kind of have a late night, and you maybe drink a bit and eat a bit of crap food.
“You wake up feeling really crap about that and the fact that you’ve just done an Ironman – and that tends to drag [the recovery] on.
“Whereas the last few events – and it sort of started after I did Zürich back in July… I was due to head to the French Alps and train with Chris [Froome] and Tim Kerrison for a couple of weeks the next morning.
“So I went straight to bed that night [after the Zürich Ironman] and I was up to Neuchatel the next morning and then training again the next day. And I realised, ‘Wow…!’
“I’ve always watched Floyd Mayweather; he always proclaims that, when you finish a race you go home, you rest, you have a massage – you take it seriously. And you’ll always be stronger for it.
“I’ve adopted that method now and I must admit, I tend to bounce back pretty quick.”
So, you’re training with Chris Froome and Tim Kerrison, is that right?
“Yeah. I’ve been doing that since January. I went up to Mount Tamborine in early January and did a camp with Chris there and then Tim sort of set up a bit of a… he calls it ‘Team Wurf’.
“Dennis Cotterell helps with the swimming and Shaun Stephens, who obviously used to work with Team Sky – and Greg Welch as well – gives us a hand with the running stuff.
“And Tim, obviously, has got a pretty good handle on the cycling.
“I went to Tenerife for a camp when the guys were there and we just did another one between the Tour and the Vuelta – and that was [in Ironman terms] between Zürich and Sweden for me.
“I guess we’ve complimented each other pretty well this year.”
Who is teaching who?[Laughs] “You know, he’s the best cyclist in the world, isn’t he?
“Obviously we do different things but we certainly learn a fair bit from each other.
“There’s lots of things which I learn in Ironman which I think can help on the road and there’s lots of things that, obviously, he picked up – has learned through cycling and all his success – which has helped me in Ironman.
“I think one thing is we give each other confidence.
“We train very hard and we push each other very hard and we honestly feel like when we go to a race then we’re at the right level to… succeed.”
* * * * *
“We compliment each other quite well…
“With triathlon being [an] individual [sport] we’ve been able to do a huge amount of research and testing of different equipment and things like that which he’s been able to utilise and I guess enhance his performance with his machinery and so forth.
“And I’ve been able to enhance my performance, I guess, by knowing that I can train with Chris and that he is at a higher level. And he reminds me that I’m more than capable of competing against the guys that I’m racing so it’s been really good.”
Cam Wurf will do some consulting work for Pinarello as the bike company continues to refine its TT equipment.
I’m going to go back to numbers because I’m curious about it. I noticed you’ve got a fair drop on your handlebars, especially for someone who is riding a 180km time trial. Do you know the measurement, how far down you are?
“I’m about 85cm…
“Oh, the drop from the tip of the saddle to the handlebars? It’s around 15cm.”
Crank length is…?
“Ah, 170mm. We just went down. We gradually went down over the course of the year. It increases the hip angle.
“I was on 175 and now we’ve gone down to 170 and, as Tim said, I wouldn’t even notice. And he’s right.
“I actually didn’t put the cranks on until I got to Kona and… didn’t notice it.
“It obviously didn’t slow me down.”
Interesting. And what’s the thinking behind going smaller?
“It opens up your hip angle.
“Not wanting to confirm or deny, but there’s a possibility that Bradley Wiggins may have done a similar thing for his hour record.
“Just went you’re stuck in that position for a long period of time, it’s just the hip tightening up and then, obviously, the hip flexors getting very tight… and then your quadriceps getting tight as a result.
“The more you can keep that open, the better use you’ve got of that power – which is the biggest muscle you’ve got.
“Then, of course, running: the hip flexors and the hip ability is even more crucial so it has probably more of an impact for a triathlete than it does for a road time triallist, or even a normal road cyclist.”
…I’m curious about position. Is your TT position for the Ironman similar to what you used to race when you were a road cyclist?
“It is. It’s about halfway between both. I’m about three centimetres behind the bottom bracket, as opposed to five.
“We tried the full tri set-up but I lost power. It puts you way over and you can’t really produce the power that you used to be able to – or the speed – and get in the right position.
“So, for me, we found a pretty happy medium about halfway between.
“I’m not too extremely far over the front. I might be 83-85, maybe a few centimetres long than what’s UCI [legal] but not a lot because, again, we tried super-long and super-extreme… and I wasn’t any stronger…
“We went for a comfort and strength position and, in the wind tunnel, it also happened to be the fastest.
“I think that was a key difference between me and the rest of my rivals on the weekend. On the bike, looking at them, they’ve all often got a very aggressive tri position and when I really put the hammer down, they really didn’t have anywhere to go. It was probably a bit of an advantage for me.”
…Let’s conclude. You’ve come off the bike about five minutes faster than anyone has ever done a Hawaii time trial before. And you’re leading the Ironman going into the run. What did it feel like when you had… how many guys pass you? Sixteen?
“Yeah. That sucked.
“Just quickly, I had a bit of a drama early in the bike: I lost my gel packet which had about eight gels in it – a little bottle. And it also had all my sodium pills…
“It just flew off my bike. I hit a bump after about five minutes and it was gone.
“So I survived the bike with some sugar in my bottles – thankfully. But Coke and Gatorate and whatever else I could get [while] on the bike.
“That was fine for the bike, to get me through energy-wise. And I did feel really good but I was obviously extremely deficient – we’re talking about 3,000mg of what we calculated – on sodium and electrolytes. Which is huge.
“I felt amazing when I got off that bike. I honestly, at that point, thought I dodged a bullet.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to win this race…’
“I hadn’t pushed anywhere near as hard as I could have.
“I’d actually raced [the bike leg] to try and win the race.
“I felt amazing, got my shoes on, got out of transition… and I knew within a kilometre – I had a tightness in my calf muscle that I hadn’t felt ever before.
“And it just got worse and worse.
“By the time I got five or six kilometres down the road, when I was still leading, I could barely get my legs off the ground.
“I was trying hard to get electrolytes and everything back in.
“I even, at one point – I’d fallen back to seventh or eighth – and I started to claw my way back to sixth… I could see the guy. And then I’d have another bad patch and it just all went pear shaped.
“To be honest, the people passing me… I expected it.
“I just resigned to the fact that, ‘Look, I just need to finish this and get out of here and learn from this mistake.’ And realise I missed an opportunity to maybe do something really special.
“Fortunately I did in the cycling so I’ve been able to do something productive for the day. I didn’t get too down about it. I was surprised it was only 16 that passed me, to be honest.
“It’s not that bad a result at the end of the day.”
It certainly got us talking again. And it’s great to catch up again Cameron. Thanks for giving us a couple of insights into an epic race. Congratulations on setting the record and well done on finishing another one. We’ll follow the progression of Cam Wurf with interest.
“Yeah, I think there’s a fair chance that everyone is going to be a little surprised by the next chapter. So… anyway, that’ll be something else for us to talk about in the new year.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold