Australian pro Justin Granger has raced a significant portion of his career in Asia–where conditions tend toward hot, humid, hilly and adventurous–alongside his beautiful wife Belinda. In advance of the upcoming Challenge Laguna Phuket Tri-Fest and two of Asia’s premier triathlon events in Thailand (the 20th running of the Laguna Phuket Triathlon took place on Nov. 24 and the inaugural Challenge Laguna Phuket will take place on Dec. 1) we caught up with Granger to glean his advice for racing in this unique part of the world.
Triathlete.com: In Phuket there are several challenging hills on the bike course (said to be 20-22% grades). What are your suggestions for ascending and descending such climbs?
Granger: The Thais seem to build roads over hills rather than around them–maybe it’s a cost-cutting exercise! For that reason you will find some of the steepest hills I have ever encountered on a bike. With the right gearing and good brakes you will definitely get over and down the other side safely. Choose a rear cassette with at least a 26T+ cog and make sure you have sufficient brake pads that work with your race wheels. With the downhill sections, don’t be the hero. Stick to your limits and grip the bars properly. If you normally wear cycling gloves in training it might be worth the extra time to put them on for this race.
Triathlete.com: The Laguna Phuket course is quite safe, yet inevitably when riding in Asia one may encounter dogs, chicken or even water buffalo on the roads. What are some cycling skill tips for staying alert and avoiding such obstacles?
Granger: Phuket, and Thailand for that matter, is a unique venue for a triathlon–I guess that’s what makes it so appealing to many of us. I call it organized chaos, but the locals just call it normal! Basically there is a lot going on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and this is something you must deal with while out on the racecourse. My main tip would be to not take it all too seriously and race in a state that means you are fully aware of what is going on around you–much like you should out on a training ride. Be vocal without being rude–this will draw the attention of the obstacle you are approaching and hopefully reduce the chance of a collision. Realistically it is not that bad out there and a little common sense will go a long way.
Triathlete.com: The heat and humidity can humble even the greatest athlete in Asia. How do you prepare for it and how do you personally handle your race day hydration?
Granger: The heat in Phuket can be the most extreme of any triathlon race in the world. Pre-race hydration is critical to your success in the race and can help reduce your recovery time. Make sure you follow a plan and take in adequate electrolyte in the days before the race. Don’t overdo it and be sure to switch between plain water and electrolyte sports drinks to avoid flushing out the system (hyponatremia). On race day make sure you are adequately hydrated before the gun goes off and take the time to replace lost fluid over the course of the whole race. You want to keep ahead of or on top of heat stress as much as possible, as this will ensure that you can maintain your race pace for longer. I take on board enough to get me through most of the bike course but use the aid stations to service my extra needs.
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