American super-cyclist Andrew Starykowicz has big expectations for his first go at the Ironman World Championship. He wants to break Normann Stadler’s bike course record of 4:18:30. He wants to make it to T2 with a massive lead on the rest of the field. He wants to put his mark on this race, and one day, he wants to come back and win it.
LAVA: Your swim should put you right near the front. Once you get on two wheels, is your goal to get right to the front from the start or will you play a bit of a waiting game?
Andrew Starykowicz: I just get on the bike and ride hard. The anatomy of every race is different. I always say that in world championship races you race like it’s a distance down. If it’s the 70.3 world champs, you race at the intensity of an Olympic-distance race. Here, I’m expecting the intensity to be like a 70.3 race from start to finish. For me, every second I’m on the bike is a second for me to put time into everyone else, assuming I’m the strongest on the day.
LAVA: When you’re on the bike, is your pace dictated more by feel, or do you focus on something like power, speed or heart rate?
AS:I never know how fast I’m riding. I don’t race with a bike computer. I have a watch so I make sure I’m timing my nutrition correctly and I wear a heart rate monitor that I look at occasionally, but I don’t live and die by that. I feel like power on race day is only necessary if you’re not confidant in your body’s ability.
LAVA: Are you hoping for tough conditions and lots of wind so it makes it harder on the weaker cyclists, or would you rather have calm conditions so that you have a better chance of breaking the course record of 4:18:30?
AS: It’s a ying and yang. I would love to set the bike course record. I feel my legs are there. I’ve never done this course end to end, especially after a long swim, but I feel I’m capable of breaking it. Then again, if it’s a really windy day with gusts of 40-50 mph, that’ll help me a lot in terms of building an advantage. I’m the biggest engine in the field. I can keep my bike upright much easier than a guy who’s 130-140 pounds. So the windier the better for my end result, but if the winds get really bad I know it’ll make it almost impossible to get that record.
LAVA: There’s another so-called “über-biker” in the field in Sebastian Kienle. What’s your relationship with him like?
AS: I know him well. We’ve actually roomed together a few times at races—back before anyone knew who we were. We go way back.
LAVA: And you guys also have a common sponsor in Orca. Has there been any talk—or will there be before the race—about possibly working together and pacing off one another?
AS: The talk between us is always very comical. He’s a funny guy. I know that we both want what’s best for the sport and that’s a clean race. He might be the only guy out there who hates drafting more than I do. He’s won two world titles without working with anybody. So me going to him or him going to me and talking about working together; that’s not going to help either of us achieve our goals.
LAVA: Does it push you at all knowing that there’s another guy out there who’s at or near your level on the bike?
AS: It’s a world championship. You have the best swimmers, the best bikers and the best runners all here—and everyone who’s qualified for this race is good at all three. I think when you have that kind of talent at one race anything can happen. The best biker might not be the best biker on the day. I’m just looking forward to racing as well as watching this race unfold. I’m just going to do what I do best and that’s swim, bike and run hard for 140.6 miles.
LAVA: At the end of the day, what’s a good result for you? What place is it going to take for you to say, “I had a good day?”
AS: This race—with the weather and how stacked the field is—I’ll be happy at the finish as long as I can get to the finish and say, “I gave absolutely everything I had.” And that’s what I plan on doing. I want to get to the finish. Swimming as hard as I plan to swim and biking as hard as I plan to bike, it leaves me a very narrow window to work with on the run in terms of running and walking. For the first five hours of the race I’ll be pushing my body harder than anyone else. A lot of people might be focusing on the back half of the race and just getting to those last couple hours. I’m going to go flat out from start to finish and I just want to learn a lot of lessons while I’m here that I can apply to the future so I can come back one day and win this race.