Enjoying the journey to Kona
Each year, most triathletes coming to Kona for the Ford Ironman® World Championship arrive ready to roll on Zipp wheels. Some are pros or age-group veterans, others newbies.
Each has a story to tell -- of how they made it to Kona, of what equipment helped get them there.
Michael D’Hulst, a 31-year-old Belgian living in Taipei, Taiwan, is set Saturday to compete in his first Ironman championship. Looking for a release from a busy career, D’Hulst plunged into tri in spring 2010 with a local event in Taiwan.
He loved it. Next, D’Hulst finished the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii. That was when he wanted to become an Ironman… and take on Kona. A self-professed “material freak” interested in high tech, D’Hulst was serious in selecting his aero gear. “If you (give) yourself challenging goals like this, you cannot let anything up to chance,” he said. “Only the best is good enough."
D’Hulst bought a set of Zipp 303 clinchers. He loved their aero feel. Then he went with a front 404 and rear 808 tubular. His introduction to the Ironman distance came at the Challenge Wanaka in New Zealand, where he rode a 404 front and 1080 rear to finish third in the men’s 30-39 age group.
This summer, facing a course with hills and possible crosswinds at Ironman Korea, he chose a Zipp 404 / 808 wheel combination and won the 30-34 age group and qualified for Kona with a time of 9:37:13.
For Kona, D’Hulst is planning to ride his “trusty” 404 on the front and, most likely, an 808 on the rear. “Not only to be safe with the wind,” he said, “but also because it feels more comfortable when I am out of the saddle riding up a hill.”
D’Hulst’s equipment selection plays into his strategy for Kona’s grueling 112-mile cycling leg. He plans to be patient, taking it a bit easy until he’s onto the legendary Queen K highway before refueling and riding at a solid pace. On the descent, he hopes to use a big gear and aerodynamics to make up time.
For D’Hulst and many others, the challenge of Kona awaits.
Photo credit: Michael D'Hulst