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Sunday marked the last day of the team’s camp. But before tying up a few loose ends, there was a race to be had.
There was for Amanda Lovato, anyway. And not a triathlon. While most of the team had their own training programs to follow for coming races, Sunday was a big day in Austin’s running community: the annual Statesman Capitol 10,000 road run. And as a dutiful local, Lovato joined over 20,000 runners in a rolling, then flat circuit around the Texas state capitol building. Under misting skies on slick roads, Lovato, preparing for the upcoming Ironman 70.3 St. Croix, completed the 10k in 36:07 and finished third overall to eventual overall winner (and fellow Austin pro triathlete) Desiree Ficker, who won in 35:36.
Throughout the weekend, several athletes took advantage of a Retul bike fit. Sunday, Jacqui Gordon and Michael Lovato had Jack & Adams fitter Zane Castro fit them up with data point markers over their shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles, and then take them through a few minute dial-ins. For Gordon, it was a confirmation fit. For Lovato, it was a chance to do an identical fit conversion from last season’s bike to this year’s.
It was also time for Trakkers staff to educate the athletes on what their main sponsor is bringing to market. For many, the question was not only why Trakkers decided to title the team, but what Trakkers really was. Krista Baker was on hand to explain the tracking device to the new squad.
With the explosive growth of GPS tracking in training, Trakkers wanted to take it a step further: take the data, which is typically available only to the athlete on course, and broadcast it online to friends and family who can then literally track family live in a race. The team began to deliver its value immediately with live product testing over the weekend in Austin. The athletes (and the press) were impressed with the capabilities; without a flaw or glitch that we could see in our own one-day test—a big victory when most tech products invariably have early-version hiccups.
“There’s really a void in the market for this and for professionals to say ‘wow, this is exciting, we really do need this,’ it’s great to be part of it,” Baker said.
Early prototypes (as seen in yesterday’s camp update) of the GPS units that pull from cellular technology were put to use in the team ride. They impressively demonstrated the second-by-second capabilities for an online viewer to track loved ones, or track the moment-by-moment progress of the pro race. For the team, pre-loaded profile data and a thumbnail headshot show up alongside the live telemetry, including average speed, elevation, and heart rate. Later units will process info not only online, but onto a wrist-mount unit that will provide pertinent ride data.
Trakkers said that as development continues, the clip-on devices will come down in size and come up in features like full waterproof capabilities. But the company is confident enough in the product to not only provide it to team athletes in select upcoming races, but also to a number of age groupers who want to have the data available to their families for live tracking. The eventual plan is to have the units for sale, making the data not only of utility during races, but also when out training. The benefit is quite clear: while out training, family can get a to-the-foot pinpoint on an athlete’s location, whether out lost on a trail run or stuck with a bike mechanical on a nameless rural road.
“I know someone who once had three flats in the pouring rain and had to walk two miles to get to a cell phone reception area to make a call and get picked up,” said Aussie Trakkers pro Richie Cunningham. “When it’s ready, it’s going to be huge, and will make spouses everywhere a bit more at ease.”
And while Trakkers will be marketing to marathon events, triathlon is their central focus. “We really want to sustain a 17-hour battery life for the Ironman athlete and races,” Baker said. “Over time, the unit will get smaller as technologies and batteries that can sustain a longer timeframe get smaller. We’re evolving with the triathlete’s needs and wants, and that’s where having our pro team is a big help.”
As camp closed, the coming battle between the Trakkers and Trek-K-Swiss teams needed a few details ironed out before the points protocol was announced. The women on the team were happy to stand by the wayside and let the boys run their mouths.
“That’s just typical of my husband; he loves to stir up a little trouble,” Amanda Lovato said of her husband Michael. Gordon glanced over at Michael, wearing a “who me?” expression, and shot a pseudo-serious look at him saying “Thanks, Michael!”
But both women were happy to be part of the potential evolution in the sport. “I think we’re fortunate to have all these teams out there,” Lovato said. “We’re friends with athletes on all these teams so it’s truly fun for all of us, and I think people will be interested in the team scoring instead of just who won the individual race.”
One team member who spent several years racing with German Bundesliga squads, Richie Cunningham, has a greater knowledge—and appreciation—of what this can mean for the team, the sponsors, the athletes, and the sport on the whole.
“It’s been fun going back and forth with the Trek-K-Swiss guys, and it will be fun for us and I think fun for the media,” Cunningham said. “But it can be so much bigger. The French Grand Prix is a great stepping-stone, as is the German series. I raced on a team with (Beijing Olympic gold medalist) Jan Frodeno and Daniel Unger, guys that are star athletes now, who were on second division, then first division teams. It’s a mini Tour de France style thing with a team manager, a team car. For us now, the smack talk, the battle, it’s the start. We’re getting there.”