While hardcore pro bike race fans will be yawning their way through the sprintfest that is Paris-Tours, the most interesting event this weekend will most likely be the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships. There are several reasons for the interest. Retired pro cyclists such as Kai Hundertmark and Laurent Jalabert have been putting in some respectable performances in Kona. They aren't contenders for the win, but they are clearly capable of turning a few heads.
If you aren't a die-hard European pro racing fan, or even if you are, you have to be impressed by the rides the top pros clock on the 112-mile bike leg. That is especially true if the rider(s) are poor swimmer because as they say in Kona, 'a minute in the swim is worth five minutes on the bike.' Of course, they are referring to the notorious trade winds which blow predominately north to south. Since the first part of the bike leg is heading north and the winds start to come up about an hour or two after the race start, the quicker you can get out of the water and onto the bike the less headwind you will have to deal with on the drag to the mid-ride turnaround at Havi.
Having ridden on the Queen K, I have to say that the least amount of time you have to spend on that incredibly boring stretch of road, the better mental state you will be in when it is time to marshal energy and motivation for the marathon. Sure, triathloning, especially since it is an endurance sport, is all about overcoming pain, but coping with the boredom which is the Queen K is also a big factor.
It seems like in recent years, the Hawaiian Ironman has been won on the run, but the bike leg has played a role in the outcome as well. Clearly, a major mechanical or a bad crash can end an athlete's chances, but if the winds are bad or the heat really picks up, things can get ugly on the bike.
So, if you find yourself nodding off as the pro peloton lopes along on its way from Paris to Tours, check out what's happening at Kona. The pros on the Big Island can ride pretty fast was well.