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Compiled by Bikesport Staff.

Built specifically for the hilly course at the Ford Ironman 70.3 St. Croix, age group competitor
Tom Demerly's 2008 Cervelo P3C with SRAM Red in full race livery.

As bike courses in triathlon become more technical there are more opportunities for improvement with the specific equipment and the right set-up for a given course.

A perfect example is the bike course of the Ford Ironman 70.3 St. Croix Triathlon.

St. Croix is one of the most difficult courses on the international Ford Ironman 70.3 circuit with a mix of tough hills, frequent cornering, unstable weather and constant headwinds and rough pavement along with road hazards like wild animals. St. Croix is best known for one climb: The Beast. The Beast rises 600 feet in about seven city blocks with an average gradient of 14 percent and a short section labeled on the road at 27 percent. While the excitement of the St. Croix bike course centers on The Beast the entire course is challenging and surrounded by exotic beauty.

People go to St. Croix because it is so beautiful- and so challenging. Like no other 70.3 Race, the Ford Ironman 70.3 St. Croix race is a graduation exercise to world class triathlon. With the difficult, technical course completing St. Croix is a major accomplishment for triathletes of all levels.

A. SRAM Red 10-speed carbon fiber bar end shifters.

B. SRAM Red carbon fiber brake levers.

C. Blackwell Research Wrist Relief carbon fiber aero extensions, custom cut-down.

D. Pro Missile carbon fiber base bars, 42 cm wide.

E. Pro Thor Hushovd stem, 120mm, 10 degree rise.

F. Selle San Marco Zoncolan Triathlon titanium rail saddle.

G. Zero Gravity NG-Ti brake calipers.

H. Zipp Sub-9 tubular disk wheel.

I. SRAM Red 11-26 cogset.

J. SRAM Red rear derailleur with ceramic bearing pulleys.

K. SRAM Red 110mm B.C.D. compact crankset, 175mm with 50/34 chainrings.

L. Time RXS Carbon Pedals

M. SRAM Black Box ceramic bearing bottom bracket.

N. Zipp 808 tubular 80mm deep front wheel.

O. Continental Sprinter Gatorskin 700 X 22mm tubular (sew-up) tires.

P. Cateye Strada Wireless Cyclometer.

Q. New 3T Funda Pro carbon fiber aerodynamic fork.

R. SRAM Red front derailleur.


Bike set-up plays a significant role on a course as technical as St. Croix. Here is a close look at the bike and course specific set-up used by age grouper Tom Demerly of Bikesport at the 2008 Ford Ironman 70.3 St. Croix Triathlon on May 4th.

Gearing plays a critical role on climbs like The Beast and the rest of the heavily rolling course at St. Croix. The official Ford Ironman 70.3 St. Croix website athlete’s guide recommends a 39/26 minimum low gear for “accomplished” cyclists to use on The Beast. Demerly is 46 and has been racing triathlons 25 years and is a multi-time USCF/USA Cycling State Champion on the road and in time trials.

“I’m a competent road cyclist if not a particularly strong one, but I am a bit heavy for being a good climber at 155 pounds.” As a result Demerly specified a 34/26 low gear for the 2008 Cervelo P3C he used at St. Croix. The bike was built with the SRAM Red component kit, the only component group available with a 10 speed, 11-26 cogset. The SRAM Red OG 1090 cogset is machined out of a single forged steel billet heat treated to make it harder and stiffer. This unusual, semi-one piece construction makes the top cogs of the unified cogset stiffer and the alignment of the cogs more precise making shifting much quieter, smoother and more repeatable especially in the larger cogs for climbing where some cogsets have degraded shift performance.

Specific gearing for "The Beast" with a 34/26 low end gear.

“Every component kit shifts well across the 11, 12 and 13 tooth cogs. It’s in the low gear range on the big cogs where you usually have shifting problems. SRAM Red has consistent shifting across a very wide range of gearing. It’s unique in that respect. It shifts better in the easy gears across the largest cogs than anything I’ve ridden.” This feature of SRAM Red makes it ideal for nailing difficult shifts while climbing.

The one piece SRAM Red 11-26 10 speed cogset was combined with the new SRAM Red 110 millimeter bolt pattern, compact SRAM Red crankset turning a 50 tooth large chainring and a 34 tooth small ring. This drivetrain provides a wide range of gearing with a 50/11 top gear and very low 34/26 low gear perfect for ascending The Beast.

The new Pro Missile base bar with Wrist Relief extensions.

A bike intended for a hilly course needs to be reasonably light but not at the cost of strength, stiffness and mechanical function. The final weight on Demerly's P3C with race wheels was "About 15 pounds". A key concern on any technical bike course is rider comfort. These agendas are contrasted against the need for aerodynamic rider position. The cockpit has to be light, provide precise, stable handling on twisting, wet roads and bad pavement and support an aerodynamic riding posture. This P3C’s cockpit is the Shimano distributed Pro Missile Flat one piece, carbon fiber time trial bar combined with Blackwell Research’s Wrist Relief carbon fiber extensions.

“We had a difficult time sizing the cockpit and in the end, at St. Croix, it wasn’t at its best. The extensions remained a bit long. The mechanics cut the extensions down no less than four times to reach a short enough length and get the bends in the right place. We’ve only recently got it right after trimming both the front and rear of the extensions and remounting the shifters. Now it is the best aero cockpit I’ve ever held.”

The Blackwell Research Wrist Relief Extension cut to match forearm length.

The saddle is a new Selle San Marco Zoncolan Triathlon. Named for an Italian Ski Station with a brutish climb over 10 kilometers long at an average gradient of 17% this saddle is a rare breed of lightweight, climbing specific equipment adapted specifically for triathlon use. Most Triathlon saddles are laden with extra padding driving their weight up. The Selle San Marco Zoncolan only has extra padding where needed. The result is a light, tolerable saddle with trim good looks.

The Selle San Marco Zoncolan Triathlon Saddle.

Stopping power and braking response on winding, rolling courses, especially in bad weather, is a must. The bike yields on a pair of excellent Zero Gravity NG-Ti binders with carbon specific pads to reel in the Zipp 808 front wheel and Zipp Sub 9 rear disk.

“We tried a few brake calipers with the new SRAM Red carbon fiber aero brake levers and the Zero Gravity calipers worked best. I’m not a confident descender so I really wanted a combination that felt like it was easy to slow and stop the bike- even on wet roads.”

Zero Gravity NG-Ti Brake Calipers with Carbon Fiber specific pads.

While it is the athlete and not the bike that makes the ride Demerly’s P3C performed perfectly at St. Croix and the set-up confirmed itself as optimal on a very tricky course.

Demerly went light on his set-up for nutrition, hydration and spares for the hilly 70.3 course in St. Croix. "I didn't bother with spares at St. Croix since I was using the Continental Gatorskin tires."

The Gatorskins are heavy but negate the need for carrying a spare tire and CO2 inflator so the net result is they save weight. Relying primarily on aid stations on the course Demerly used only a single lightweight, carbon fiber bottle cage. "Any Ford Ironman 70.3 bike course is well-catered. You can get everything you need during the race on the course so there isn't much point in lugging it all up a huge climb." Demerly took a bottle exchange at each of the four aid stations on the course.

Demerly climbs The Beast at mile 21 on Ford Ironman 70.3 St. Croix bike course.

“I didn’t have a great day but my bike ran perfectly and I ran well off the bike. It was a good exploratory trip to St. Croix and this is the set-up I’d use again. This is my second season on the P3C. It’s the racer’s bike.”

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© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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