Lionel Sanders – ready for Ironman Mont-Tremblant
An injury sustained in spring put Lionel Sanders out for two months. Now, Ironman Mont-Tremblant is his last shot at qualification for the World Championships in Kona. He’ll be using his Speedmax to help get the job done.
Lionel Sanders has been a Canyon athlete since late 2018. And in the world of triathlon – where pinpoint aesthetics and minute planning mean everything – the Canadian is regarded as a rebellious, incongruent figure.
He refers to himself as a ‘freak’, someone who just does things differently. Unconventional, against the norm – both in terms of image, and training.
After his 28th place finish at Ironman Hawaii 2018, Sanders targeted 2019 as a new, fresh start. However, unfortunately, things could barely have started worse, as in mid-April, the 31-year old was diagnosed with a sacral stress fracture. The result: months off training, and afterwards, a long road back to race-ready fitness.
“At first, it was very frustrating – I had big plans for 2019”, explains Sanders: “12 weeks without any real training was a great test of patience.”
But it didn’t sake Sanders long to start focusing on the future, and to start finding ways to come back even better. “Over time, I came to terms with the situation, and started looking forward. I put together a training plan with my physio, and then eased back into training very gradually when the time was right.”
Sanders will complete his comeback on 18 August at his home race: Ironman Mont-Tremblant in Québec, Canada. As always, he prepared for his return in his own unique style, with countless hours of intense indoor training in his cellar, a place Sanders affectionately calls his ‘Pain Cave’.
Sanders is known for his extensive use of indoor training, whereas for most other athletes, it’s at best a useful tool used in moderation. Riding in complete isolation, away from other people, the sun, and the wind – it’s not for everyone. But Sanders, has no problems staying focused, always keeping his eyes on the prize: his return to world-level racing and the dream of victory in Hawaii.
With its treadmills, rollers, weights benches, multigym, and counter-current swimming pool, Sanders’ Pain Cave truly lives up to its name. But it’s not all about suffering – his unconventional approach to training brings also with it a range of practical benefits. Firstly, it lets him save time. Sanders doesn’t have to drive miles to the local pool to swim, he just has to walk down the stairs in his flat. And his setup is even more effective. The bottom of his counter-current pool is fitted with a mirror to let him monitor and improve his technique on the fly, without needing to analyse extra video material.
During his recovery, Sanders also worked on his somewhat unorthodox running technique: “It already looks pretty good, but it's not about the look, it’s about the results. I’m aiming to improve in the second half of the marathon,” he explains.
When asked about his unconventional training methods, Sanders speaks with an air of total confidence: “I definitely approach things differently to Jan Frodeno or other athletes – I’m aware of that. But for me personally, I know that my kind of training is the best way to success.”
Sanders needs a big performance at the Ironman Mont-Tremblant to stamp his ticket to Kona – a lot of mental pressure to manage at his first event back from injury.
But Sanders tries to see the situation realistically: “After only six weeks of preparation it would be wrong to consider anything other victory as failure. Lots of my competitors will have had far more time to prepare and train. I'll just give it my all and see if it's enough to secure qualification.”
Sanders will be able to call on his new Speedmax in his push for Hawaii 2019. As the winning triathlon bike of the last four Ironman World Championships, it stands out with its superbly efficient aerodynamics and impressive comfort.
In long-distance Ironman races, athletes have gained time and time again from the bike’s smart design solutions, such as the cockpit-integrated hydration system, and integrated storage space for nutrition and tools.
“I’ve only raced on the bike once so far – but it impressed me right from the off,” says Sanders. “It is enormously stiff and responsive, and internal hydration and storage were the things that were very important to me when switching bikes. Everything is very cleanly integrated into the frame, and the bike rides like it’s on rails. All these factors combined together make the bike damn fast.”
But how did Sanders come to start racing on the Speedmax? “It’s funny actually, someone asked me what my top three dream bikes are, and the Canyon Speedmax was number one on the list. The question came to me only a few weeks before I had the opportunity to work with Canyon – and now, I’m competing on my own Speedmax. I couldn’t be happier with the bike and hope that at Mont-TrembIant, I can show how fast we are together!”