Mirinda 'Rinny' Carfrae is sittin' pretty. She is the 2010 Ironman World Champion. Last year she took second place behind Chrissie Wellington, who isn't competing this year. So in my book, that makes her a defending champion. If you don't like that classification, you could try to race her for the right to decide, but she'd probably beat you hands down. The Australian wondergirl is stunningly fast, clocking a Kona-best marathon time every year for the last three years running. That's right, she set the record in 2009, beat her own record in 2010, and beat it again in 2011. That record now stands at 2:52:09, which is pretty darn fast even as an open marathon time.
What has traditionally been challenging for Rinny is competing on the bike against the likes of Chrissie Wellington, and Caroline Steffen. And while Chrissie isn't competing this year as mentioned, Steffen is. But Rinnie is the kind of savvy competitor who doesn't sit idly and run the same game plan year after year. Carfrae has continued to refine her bike position and equipment choices. She's gotten lower in the front, shortened her cranks, revised her gearing, and refined her hydration storage setup. Rinny continues to work with Mat Steinmetz who has been giving her what can only be described as good advice. The changes we're seeing on Rinny's bike indicate a competitor who is ready to tear the course apart.
These changes are the type of thing that many athletes just forget to do, and many people simply don't believe in. But the results don't lie. Recall how Craig Alexander came off his loss in 2010, and did a complete overhaul of his setup with similar advice from Steinmetz. The result was that in 2011, he dropped more than THIRTEEN MINUTES from his bike split. That's an astonishing number, particuarly at this tier of competition, where gains are usually measured in seconds. I don't know if Rinny can expect to take back ten minutes of time, but one thing is for sure: she's ready to put on a great show. I can't wait to see the fireworks between her, Steffen, and the rest of the women's field on Saturday.
So let's look at the changes Rinny has made. First and foremost, she told us that her position has gotten lower up front, meaning her head will be ducked a little lower and out of the wind. The aerobar she's going with is the new Profile Design Aeria, which is a very smartly-designed bar that I hope to review in-depth very soon. Between the extensions sits a Speedfil A2, to be used for on-course water.
To compensate for the decrease in hip angle, she's been experimenting with a lot of shorty cranks, settling on 165mm. I'm a huge proponent of going with short cranks, and in fact am on 165mm myself. It provides additional clearance at the top of the pedal stroke, allowing a more aggressive position without a compromise, as Rinny found. She's riding a prototype SRAM Red Quarq - it's the only 165mm Red Quarq in the world, and something I very much want to get my hands on. It's good to see SRAM exploring this territory, as shorty crank powermeters are hard to come by. No official word whether this could become a production item, but SRAM is definitely aware of the potential demand.
A single cage behind the seatpost and a second one on the downtube hold concentrated calorie mixes to keep Rinny fueled up all day. My only recommendation would be to swap that downtube bottle for a snazzy VR bottle that works so well with the new DA frame. And of course I think an Omega would be perfect on the front of that bike, but sponsorship arrangements dictate otherwise.
Thanks so much for the interview, Rinny! Best of luck on Saturday!