Marino Vanhoenacker is one of triathlon's current crop of grade-A, top-tier contenders. He's been on the radar for some time, but established himself as a real threat in 2010 when he took third place here at Ironman Hawaii, and confirmed his dominance by setting the all-time Ironman World Record time at Ironman Austria in 2011.
We caught up with Marino during a training session in Kona. Marino was motorpacing on the Queen Ka'ahumanu highway, which is otherwise known as the Queen K. Athletes use motorpacing as a way to get in consistent training speeds without worrying about wind speed, and have a measure of protection while out on the road. It also allows for a convenient way to do intervals, jumping in and out of the moto's draft zone to increase or decrease the effort level.
Marino is on a brand new Plasma 3, painted in what is perhaps the greatest color scheme ever conceived by man, orange and white. Aside from the aesthetic qualities of this rig, which are remarkable, Vanhoenacker has also decked it out with top-of-the-line gear from sponsors SRAM, Profile Design, and Zipp (although the wheels ridden during today's trining session are older aluminum-hybrid clinchers - his race-day wheels will be different).
Vanhoenacker has long been riding with a standard Profile Design aero bottle - a choice that is born out of convenience, habit, and comfort, but could perhaps be improved with the use of a BTA setup, and now that Profile Design has unveiled their own, there's no sponsorship impediment for him to try it. Maybe next season. I also would criticize the use of a standard sidepull brake up front, which may be costing him a couple more Watts, but I'm a bit biased. The thing is, with such brutal competition coming in the form of a couple Australian former champs, Marino will need to save every last ounce of his strength for what is sure to be an all-out sprint from T2 to the finish line.
Check out the gallery for some more details on this beautiful rig, and we'll see you back tomorrow for some more coverage from the Big Island. Thanks!