Any team that boasts names like Normann Stadler, Marino Vanhoenacker and Timo Bracht is going to be a force at the Ironman World Championships, and one thing that Team Commerzbank has is strength in depth. They also have an overwhelming penchant for the Scott Plasma 3, as Geoff Nenninger discovered.
Written by: Geoff Nenninger
Most of the team’s bikes and equipment follow a consistent formula, which we’ll examine here. Along the way, we’ll look where some of the team members have chosen to stray from the norm by customizing their bikes with specific parts to suit their particular fit and performance needs.
The Scott Plasma 3 frame is the foundation of the Commerzbank equipment arsenal. The frame was developed through a collaboration of Scott’s own engineers and Commerzbank Triathlon Team member Normann Stadler. According to Scott, every tube on the full carbon frame has been optimized reduce wind drag, with the fully integrated stem and internal cable routing further reducing the bikes profile.
Timo Bracht is the only team member that is not racing on a Plasma 3. He will race aboard the Giant Trinity Advanced SL.
Almost all of the Commerzbank team roll on Zipp wheels sheathed in Continental rubber. Most team members are use a deeper wheel on the rear and a more shallow option up front. In the rear, the Zipp 1080 is a popular choice with many of the team’s athletes because its aerodynamic characteristics are almost on par with a disc wheel, which aren’t legal for use at the Ironman World Championship. Up front, the use of a slightly shallower wheel, such as the Zipp 404 or 808, allows for more manageable handling in Kona’s notorious cross winds without giving up aerodynamics.
Almost the entire Commerzbank team is running tubular tire setups for this year’s race, which is especially important given the varying temperature from race morning till late in the afternoon. A tubular tire can tollerate higher pressure than a clincher and isn’t as likely to blow out as the pressure rises in the soaring afternoon heat of the Queen-K. The Continental Competition is widely used among team members.
One notable exception to the use of Zipp wheels and tubular tires is Timo Bracht, who opts for the Xentis Mark1 TT clincher wheelset on his Giant Trinity Advanced. Bracht has chosen Continental’s lightweight and race worthy GP 4000 RS tires to compliment his wheels of choice.
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For the cockpits, the Commerzbank team has taken advantage of a recent collaboration between team sponsors Profile Design and Scott, who co-developed the new ProSvet aerobar setup. One unique aspect of the ProSvet is a level of adjustability rarely seen on such a top-level aerobar. Length, width, and height of the bars are all adjustable, which allows the Commerzbank team to dial in their positions for maximum performance. Athletes can also choose their specific aerobar extensions between Profile’s S-bend, single-bend, and straight extensions.
Profile Design has also provided the team with hydration systems. Most of the Commerzbank team are running Profile’s between-the-bar options like the ubiquitous Aerodrink, which we should see during the race on the bike of Mathias Hecht. The Aerodrink holds 32 ounces of liquid, is refillable on the fly, and allows athletes to drink from its straw without breaking the aero position. Staying in the aero position as much as possible can really add up to a large time savings over the course of 112 miles.
The Scott Plasma 3 is unique in the world of top-level superbikes because it has the ability to carry two bottles right on the frame, and Profile’s Elite Karbon Kage is perfect for the job because it weighs only 16 grams. Maik Twelsiek, Marino Vanhoenacker, Mathias Hecht, and Normann Stadler all use the Karbon Kage as their on-bike bottle carrier of choice.
For rear-mounted hydration, team member Jan Raphael has equipped himself with the RM-1 system, which attaches to saddle rails and is tilt-adjustable to position the bottles in just the right spot, within arms reach but tucked away out of the wind. Timo Bracht will use custom hand-made carbon fiber water bottle cages to secure his bottles to his Giant.
Team sponsor SRAM has fully equipped each of the bikes with their top-level Red group, as well as SRAM SRM power meters. The team uses ANT+ compatible Garmin computers and SRM power meters to track and monitor performance on the bike. SRAM R2C shifters are standard among most of the team, which uses a unique internal system that always returns the shift paddle back to the middle of its throw, meaning athletes won’t have to alter their position to get into gears at the top or bottom of the range.
Normann Stadler has gone the extra mile to squeeze every ounce of performance out of his rig. His SRAM Red rear derailleur has been custom-tuned by German company Berner with an oversize ceramic pulley setup. Berner also provided similar systems to riders at this year’s Tour de France, including Lance Armstrong. Berner claims that the pulleys can save an athlete up to 5.85 watts, not to mention that the pulleys on Stadler’s setup are also fully enclosed in an aerodynamic carbon foil to give aerodynamic benefit.
Timo Bracht is the exception, yet again, to the SRAM rule is Timo Bracht. His Giant Trinity Advanced SL is equipped with Shimano’s electronic Dura-Ace Di2 group and a Dura-Ace SRM unit. The Di2 system allows shift buttons to be placed in more than one location, so in addition to the shifters sitting in the traditional triathlon bike location at the end of the aerobar extension, shifters can also be placed at a second location by the brake lever. Attached to Bracht’s SRM are Rotor Component’s Q-ring chainrings, whose unique oval shape give users a claimed 3% increase in performance.
Saddles are a very personal piece of equipment, and this is evidenced in the fact that almost every athlete on the Commerzbank team has chosen a different saddle for their Kona rig. Normann Stadler and Mathias Hecht and both opt for the split-nose design of the ISM Adamo Podium. These saddles allow athletes to ride close to the nose of the saddle, which is very common among triathletes, while centering most of the pressure on the athlete’s ischial tuberosities, or ‘sit bones,’ rather than their soft parts. Marino Vanhoenacker chooses to rest his rear on a Selle Italia SLR saddle, while teammate Timo Bracht will be sitting on the Velo “Timo Bracht Edition” saddle this year in Kona