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Back 5.11.2017

Sebastian Kienle... Always Ready to Throw down

Photo by BrakeThrough Media

Sebastian Kienle simply loves a good old-fashioned throw-down. While training in Arizona, he’s a regular at the Saturday Shootout hammerfest group ride. Even in watching sports, he loves an aggressive attacking style – that’s why he’s a fan of the Seattle Seahawks’ versatile and powerful quarterback, Russell Wilson.

On the race course, the friendly German welcomes the top competition he faces from two-time defending Kona champ Jan Frodeno and now, in 70.3 races, from two time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee, both fellow Zipp athletes.

Kienle, the 2014 Kona camp, was relaxed and talkative on a wide range of subjects when we sat down with him ahead of last week’s St. George 70.3 in Utah, a race in which Brownlee won and Kienle finished third. Below is an edited transcript of that conversation:

You’ve been training in Tucson, Arizona, recently. Is this something you’ve done in past years?
Yes, it’s the third year. It always has been a really good year when I’ve been in Tucson for preparation. I love the place. It’s a good for training, but it’s also a good place for living.

What specifically do you like about Tucson?
It’s has a good mood. Since it has a university there are definitely some young people. It’s a good spot for eating. It’s a very sportive community. At the ‘Shootout’ on Saturday, which is a big group ride, sometimes 140 or 150 show up. It’s always like a bike race then.

Do you regularly participate?
Yes, of course. It’s very good training for a triathlete. It’s fun and you don’t even think about the watts, and at the end you look at the power file and the numbers… yeah, you put out some pretty good efforts. It’s a good way for me to train.

Do you stay at the front?
I’m riding it very ‘stupidly,’ so to speak. I’m not riding to ‘win’ it. There are a couple of sprints. Most of the time I go to the front and go as hard as I can for as long as I can. You would never ever do that in a bike race…. I have my road bike with me, of course. I think some of the other cyclists appreciate that because it makes it more like a bike race if some of the ‘stupid’ triathletes are there and push the pace.

What about food here in the American Southwest?
In Tucson, you’re definitely not going around without having Mexican food…. It’s good, in my opinion, a healthy food choice, and it’s not very expensive. You could definitely afford to go out a little bit more often. I have to say every now and then I have to treat myself with a burger.

What do you like about the desert?
As an athlete, it’s the weather. The weather in Tucson is very stable. If you have a bad day we would still call it a very good day in Germany most of the time. If there is rain it is probably for a half an hour and you have four weeks of sunshine again. It just makes it very reliable so you don’t have to adapt your schedule to the weather.

Then it’s also very different from what I am used it. We are living close to the Black Forest in Germany, which is very green. It’s almost like a holiday for your eyes… It makes you appreciate the small things more. Running the trails in Tucson and you see the cactus, it’s pretty unique, something I don’t have every day.

For this season everything is building toward Kona again.
Of course it is. I’m at the state in my career and I’ve reached an age where I could be at my very best in this race. From the last years I’ve learned this is definitely the ultimate race, not just in the eyes of the sponsors and the media, but the outside world, but also for myself. It’s definitely the race I want to win again. There are a lot of things for me still to do in this race.

You had a very strong race but were second behind Jan Frodeno at Kona? What did you take away from that?
That I wasn’t confident enough about myself. I think I was almost with the situation I was in because, you know, Jan he has such an aura so that it’s not hard to stop believing in your own abilities when you race against him. It’s (the aura) not there because of nothing. It’s because of the races he’s won and the way he won the races. I found myself in a situation and I think I actually gave away a chance probably to be at least pushing him harder for the win…. It’s always easy to talk and think you could have done better but that’s what I took away from last year— that I definitely do not have another 10 chances to win the race, so the next time I’ll be in that position I’ll either end up winning the race or in the ditch (laughs).

What does Alistair Brownlee’s participation in 70.3 events mean for the sport?
It’s awesome. It’s really, really great especially in Europe and in Great Britain those two guys (Alistair and brother Jonathan Brownlee) are superstars. That’s for a very good reason.

I watch WTS races all the time, and they are so aggressive on the bike so you know what they bring to the table…. I’m ready to up my game; another time… I will definitely have to if I want to keep winning because it’s definitely at the next level. 

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Tell us about why you chose to ride the 454NSW at your victory at the Cannes International Triathlon.

Cannes is a very, very difficult course. It’s climbing, a lot of cornering. But you also have to fight some gusty winds… What you are looking for is a perfect all-around wheelset. It’s not a drafting race, so you want to have a very aerodynamic wheelset, that’s for sure…. On the other hand you want to have a wheelset that handles very well in those windy conditions with corners, with steep curves and everything.

It has to be stiff and it has to be good with braking. Especially with braking, that’s not only with the 454, but all the new NSW wheelsets with Showstopper brake interface; they just handle very well on the brakes. It’s easy to dose the brake power. The wheelset has to be light because you are climbing quite a lot, but it has to be stiff because I’m not super light. With all of those aspects, the 454 NSW was a pretty perfect choice.

You’re a big believer in carbon clinchers as well, aren’t you?
Absolutely. That’s the thing; it has nothing to do with belief. It’s just science.

Triathlon is an individual pursuit. But do you also have a background in team sports?
Of course, as a German boy you have to play soccer…. I was always more motivated than the others, but definitely not more talented than the others. With that combination, it always causes some tensions in the team for sure. You always see the mistakes from the other guys but not your own mistakes. Triathlon at that time was definitely the right thing.â�¨

Triathlon taught me quite a lot about team sports. I raced on a team in German triathlon, Triathlon Bundesliga. But also now, of course you have to perform on your own in the race but you have a really huge team around you which helps you to support you and enables you to perform at your very best, but you’re the one who has to create this team and you’re also the one who has to motivate this team.

What other sports do you like?
I’m a huge fan of (American) football, interestingly for a German guy. But I think the first time I was in the U.S. there no other option than ESPN on TV, I guess. So I watched a ton of college football. Of course, at the beginning I didn’t have a single clue but now I could explain what a shotgun formation is. Now I’m even watching the (NFL) draft!

Do you have a team you like?
When I started watching it was 49ers. I always loved an aggressive quarter back, a running quarterback was always something I loved so I go with Seahawks with Russell Wilson. But my wife, she loves Dallas (laughs).

Follow @SebastianKienle on Twitter and Instagram