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© Ricahrd Melik/Tri247
Boardman talks bike, Kona & more
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Friday 11th October 2013


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Richard Melik, team manager of Team Freespeed (www.teamfreespeed.com) is in Kona once again, along with five of his Age Group team who will be racing at the Ironman World Championships this weekend. As a bike fitter through his Freespeed (www.freespeed.co.uk) Retül bike fit studio in London, Richard is also a 'bike geek' (that's a compliment...!), so when we said "how would you like to go along to launch of the latest range topping Boardman bikes Tri/TT machine, and while you are there, you can have a good chat to cycling legend Chris Boardman too", he didn't take much persuading!

Here is a great interview with Chris Boardman, where they talk about the new bike, the developement process, the Brownlee brothers and much more. Well worth a read.


Today was a big day for Boardman bikes with the release of their new AiR/TTE bike. I was lucky enough to get 30 minutes to sit down with the man they call The Professor to talk though his thoughts on the new bike, Pete Jacobs' chances here this week and, of course, a few words on the Brownlee Brothers.

©Richard Melik/Tri247

RM: When Boardman bikes was launched did you envisage how big a potential market there was in triathlon?

CB: The company was founded by Alan Ingarfield, a former British Ironman record holder, so triathlon was very much his passion. Very early on he came to me and said "there's these two young Yorkshire lads who we need on our bikes, they could be very good" and then later on it was a similar story with Pete Jacobs who was also identified as having the potential to do really well, so triathlon has always been always very much a focus. For me it is a refreshing change, it is related but different with new challenges which makes it fun, there is the fact that triathletes demand numbers for everything and I like that, you have to stand up and be counted.

RM: On to the new bike and the first thing to notice is the bike has a 78 degree seat tube so presumably it is not UCI legal?

CB: It should be but that has not been our primary focus so we haven't submitted it yet, it probably is as the seatpost has an adjustment range from 76 to 80 degrees.

©Richard Melik/Tri247

RM: You have obviously been very hands on in the design of this bike, have you had a good support team around you?

CB: We have been working on the aerodynamics with Rob Lewis from a company called TotalSim (www.totalsimulation.co.uk) who I got to know through the British team. They identified most of the areas where we made dramatic improvements and I believe that is because they come from outside the sport of cycling and so didn't know what was not possible. They were very, very knowledgeable about aerodynamics but knew nothing about cycling and that gave us a huge advantage. We developed the computer modelling tools together and found a solution that worked in a very difficult environment – cycling aerodynamics are much harder to optimise than Formula 1 because the speeds cyclists ride are right at the transition of laminar and turbulence flow. It took a long time to get right but we are really happy with where we are now with some very imaginative thinking.

RM: You mentioned on stage at the launch of this bike that you are already starting to think about the next 2016 model. You have been closely associated in the past with such adventurous bikes as the Lotus and Hotta, can we expect to see you pushing the boundaries to that level?

CB: It is tempting and I am thinking about it now, but it will come down to two things – risk, and as ridiculous as it sounds, fashion. If you turned up with today's bikes ten years ago no one would have bought them, or if you said to somebody today to use 150mm cranks they would laugh at you. But maybe they'll start next year on 165, move to 160 the following year and then they'll be more receptive to bigger changes. I am right on the edge of saying to Rob Lewis "I want the saddle here, the pedals there and then the arms need to go here – the rest is up to you". I just don't know for sure if people are ready for it.

©Richard Melik/Tri247

RM: Seeing as you brought up the subject, what are your views on shorter crank lengths?

CB: I'd like to see someone have the courage to go really short – 150mm. The biomechanics guy at the British track cycling team tests the squad for maximum cadence using shorter than 150mm cranks and during the process he monitors power. He noticed that their torque and peak power on shorter cranks was not going down, it is just an assumption that you need longer levers to generate more power. So for triathletes on shorter cranks they can choose the benefits of a better position or simply the reduced stress from a smaller range of motion, but somebody will have to popularise a new way of thinking.

RM: The Brownlee Brothers, that was quite a coup signing them up?

CB: We signed them very early on when they were both still growing really. I remember Alistair in Beijing in 2008 just went flat out and then went bang. Well, he does the same thing now, he just doesn't go bang! Those two are an anomaly, they just attack, attack and attack again - absolutely fascinating.

RM: Funny you mention their attacking because it occurred to me recently that the Brownlees ride like roadies, how do you think they'd get on in the pro peloton?

CB: You cannot underestimate how specialised cycling training is and the work and focus those cyclists put in to get where they are in the pro peloton, plus the rewards are greater so there is a bigger pool of talent. Having said that, I think they would fare well, I don't know whether they would be the best, but they would fare well – they certainly know how to suffer.

©Richard Melik/Tri247

RM: Pete Jacobs is the defending champion here this year, having won on a Boardman bike last year. How is he feeling going into the race?

CB: He certainly seems very confident. I was with him in Australia a couple of years ago and he was fascinated by everything, always writing stuff down and looking for ways to improve. This year he is a completely different person, much more confident now and he certainly knows what he wants to do, so we'll see on Saturday.

RM: You have been in Kona for a few days now, how are you finding the atmosphere? Would you ever consider an Ironman, you ran a marathon not so long ago?

CB: I am finding it very pleasant and friendly here, it has still has that fun element it is not just ruthless and results focussed which is great. Even 13 or 14 years after retirement I still really enjoy being on this side of the fence, being a spectator and watching as a fan. Would I do it? Well I retired from cycling due to developing osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis and was diagnosed as being low in testosterone and the treatment was hormone replacement therapy which obviously meant stopping competitive cycling and I had to accept that.

I then had the intention of actually doing triathlons but I broke my ankle in six places and was lucky to get one marathon in because i've just been told last year if you do any more running then we are going to have to freeze your ankle. This is the kind of thing though that I would have liked to have done at my own level, get round and enjoy the fact that I wouldn't have been the favourite. I loved the marathon just being one of the crowd.

©Richard Melik/Tri247

RM: So, you have now finished your tenure at British Cycling, what are you up to these days?

CB: British Cycling has been a two year handover and London 2012 was just fascinating to be involved and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, I worked with a fantastic group of people and we really affected the performance. Hugely satisfying but it was taking up 80% of my time and I am glad that it is all over. My focus now is on the political side and getting people on bikes just as a form of transport and I like that.

My soapbox these days is making the conditions so that people want to ride bikes. There are such simple, obvious answers to so many of the issues that we have got and they are being done very successfully just a few hundred miles away in Denmark and Holland, it is just infuriating that it is not being done here. We have 35,000 deaths a year in the UK from obesity related illnesses with £4.5 billion being spent, it is unsustainable and unnecessary but we are making inroads, just slower than it should be. It needs a culture change and culture change is always two things – always painful and always slow, but once you get that pain that can mean you are on the right track.

RM: Thanks so much for your time Chris, and enjoy the rest of the week.

CB: It is a pleasure, what a great event!

#GBKONA 2013 Coverage


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