Kyle Smith racing classified in professional triathlon

Classified athlete Kyle Smith wins Ironman Ireland 70.3

Racing Powershift Technology at Ireland's premier Triathlon event, Classified's Kyle Smith won the 70.3 distance race by over 8 minutes. Proving the efficicney of the Classified system, Smith's win is the first for Classified in Triathlon since launching just 2 months ago.

Classified: Hi Kyle, congratulations on winning Ironman Ireland in August 2023. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us and discuss the win and your season so far. Please tell us how the race unfolded?

Kyle Smith: Thanks a lot. The race was supposed to happen on the Saturday, and we arrived on Thursday to typical Irish weather. The weather was too bad to even ride the course, so we drove it on the Friday. I was actually a bit nervous before the race. It wasn’t a super technical course but very undulating on really rough roads. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go but I knew it was going to be savage. There were super steep pitches all over the course, even driving it was hard.

Due to the weather the race was postponed until Sunday morning. The swim was still rough, but it had been shortened a lot so I was able to get through it. When I got on the bike there was a small gap to the lead riders which I was able to shut down in the first 5km. I then attacked on one of the early climbs and got a good lead. From then on I was out of sight, so I just had to ride to my plan and be as efficient as I could be.

I actually set my best power data for this year. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve felt that powerful on the bike. There were no time gaps to the group behind, so I was riding blind. I got the first time check as I was running out of transition. They were quite relaxed when I came in off the bike as I don’t think they were expecting anyone so soon. I even heard someone say ‘it’ll be a while until the 2nd rider is in’, so I knew I was going well.

The run was good so I knew I just had to stick to my plan. I soon realised that the ride and the course had taken a lot out of me, but I still ran the fastest run of the day, so clearly the course took even more out of my competitors.

You won the race by over 8 minutes; you must have been feeling great?

Yeah, I wasn’t too happy with my swim, with not as much swimming in race week as I would’ve liked. But it’s been maybe 2 years since I’ve felt that good on the bike. I’ve figured out a lot of stuff in the last 6 months, which has been tough, but I’m glad I went through that process, because it feels like I’m getting back to the performance level I want to be at.

You managed to gain over 5 mins on the bike leg, how do you think the added efficiency of Classified played a part here?

The Classified system helps me because it’s something that I have 100% confidence in. There are so many things that can derail a race, like a dropped chain, or a shifting issue, especially if it’s been raining for 48 hours, like in Ireland. But having complete confidence in your equipment is a huge advantage. At the PTO opener in Ibiza I didn’t ride anywhere near the best power in the field, but I finished the bike leg ahead of the best in the world, so the efficiency and speed of the system is there. Going into every race knowing that is a huge mental advantage.

"When you shift there’s no delay or feeling of inertia. That instant shift feels a lot more efficient... I think the biggest proof of the efficiency is the race results and the fact that I’m riding very fast."

You’re running Classified’s Powershift Technology with the Parcours Disc2 wheel. How do the two combine for maximum efficiency?

Using the Powershift ready Parcours disc means I can run the widest disc wheel in the race, also with a wider tyre, to really maximise the added efficiency of the Classified system. It’s a lot more comfortable, which we all now know is faster. The course was so rough in Ireland, causing everything to jump around on the road, but I was able to stay smooth. I didn’t want to train on my race wheels, so I switched to my training wheels, and didn’t have to adjust anything. Just a quick switch of the Classified hub from one wheelset to another, and off we go. Again, I didn't have to worry about my set up for the race because there’s no adjustment needed.

Classified is about to publish data that proves how efficient the system is overall. Do you feel more efficient on the bike? Are you able to sum it up in words?

It is difficult to explain in words; it’s such a feeling. When I first tested Powershift Technology, it was the smoothness of the shift that really hit me. When you shift there’s no delay or feeling of inertia. That instant shift feels a lot more efficient. And just look at the races I’ve competed in with the system so far. In Ibiza I was fastest on the bike, and in Ireland I was fastest too. I think the biggest proof of the efficiency is the race results and the fact that I’m riding very fast.

However, as well as the two 70.3 races I’ve done, I’ve also been racing the World Triathlon Series, which are shorter races with generally a more technical bike course - lots of tight turns, bottlenecks and usually one or two full U-turns. Coming into these U-turns, you drop from about 45kph to nearly 0kph in seconds. With just a press of the shift button before the turn, I can drop into the 0.7 ratio, my virtual small ring, take the corner and then sprint up to full speed again with a nice cadence. My competitors don’t have this luxury and have to grind out of the corner every time, which saps a lot of energy.

Updating the MTB Lexicon with a new verb:

to Power·shift [Powershifting] {Verb}:
(also: the new benchmark in shifting gears)

1. To shift gears under full load within 150 milliseconds
2. Maintain valuable momentum during climbs and transitions, or before an attack

Classified’s unique 2 speed gear hub allows riders to jump through 46% percent of the gear range, or the equivalent of 2 or 3 rear derailleur shifts, within 150 milliseconds. As such, ‘Powershifting’ is quickly becoming the go to term for maintaining momentum on the trails.

Tests undertaken with pro riders showed a far greater use of the powershift hub gear as opposed to the rear derailleur, leading to an overwhelming increase of momentum through transitions.

How much of an extra advantage did you have on the Windmill Hill segment?

There is a really tight descent leading to the bottom of the climb, with a sharp 90 degree bend, straight onto a 22% gradient, so it’s about as brutal an approach to a climb as you can get! Coming down the hill I could see the gradient change, so I made the shift whilst freewheeling into the turn so I knew I would be in the right gear. When I hit the climb I was ready to go. It was still savage though. Even in my lowest gear I did 610 watts for a minute; it was so steep. It came right at the end of the bike course, so it was a huge test for everyone. I was quickest on the climb all day, so the advantage of the system is definitely evident. The crowd on the climb was incredible, I had ringing in my ears and goosebumps all the way up. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

I wasn’t able to recon the climb because of the weather, so it was a real surprise, both the technical run in and the 22% slope. But that’s another advantage of the Classified system, it’s like a get out of jail free card. Whatever the course throws at me I can deal with it.

"Keeping things simple is the key, so not having to worry about whether I will ride 1x or 2x at a certain race, and all the hassle that comes with that, is now gone."

Do you feel more fresh when getting off the bike and starting on the run now?

Both 70.3 races I’ve done so far I’ve come off the bike and run really well. In the first 3km I felt really fresh. In Ibiza I maybe felt a little too fresh and went a little too hard! I think it’s due to the momentum - I’ve not had to grind the gears at all during the bike leg, so my legs feel good. I always feel like I’m in the right gear on the bike, which translates into the run. The classic jelly leg feeling of coming off the bike and not being able to run, I think that comes from over gearing. I’ve not felt that for a long time. Triathlon as a sport has a tendency to over gear. In pro cycling they ride with a much higher cadence, to save something for the final sprint or the final climb. The run is that final effort for tri, so having a gearing range that leads to always having the perfect cadence means being in the best possible place for that final effort on the run.

We launched the triathlon and TT hub in June. How has Powershift Technology been helping you in training? Do you think you’ve changed your riding style at all?

To be honest I don’t think my style has changed. I just have less to think about now. Keeping things simple is the key, so not having to worry about whether I will ride 1x or 2x at a certain race, and all the hassle that comes with that, is now gone. Before the race in Ireland the decision to run 1x or 2x would’ve been a serious concern which I would’ve wasted a lot of time and energy thinking about, let alone the time spent the day before the race swapping chainrings and setting up derailleurs. I don’t have any of that hassle with the Classified system.

Another Classified athlete, gravel pro Rob Britton, says he spends a lot less time and effort on course recons now he’s racing with Classified. Can you relate to that?

Yes absolutely. You’re just set up for whatever the course throws at you, like I said with Windmill Hill in Ireland. Classified gives you the best of both worlds and allows me to focus more on myself before the race.

What is your next race and how much confidence has the win in Ireland given you?

My next race is actually in Belgium, at the Ironman 70.3, in Knokke-Heist, on the 17th of September. Winning in Ireland has given me the feeling of getting the monkey off my back. I felt like I’ve been training well for a while now, but not feeling like I can produce on race day. Ireland adds a lot of confidence on that front. Before I would try and prove it all in training, but now I’ve flipped that script. My training set up and race set up is the same now, so there’s less pressure. It’s just about executing.

What are your goals for the rest of the season and how is Classified helping with that?

In October there is another block of World Triathlon Championships which I will race with the goal of qualifying for the Olympics in Paris in 2024. But really the main goal for the rest of 2023 is building on the foundations that we’ve strengthened in the first half of the year. My setup is so strong now, I just want to build on that. I will be racing a couple of 70.3 events in Australia and New Zealand at the end of the year, so I’ll be going home for a bit. Flying the race bike halfway around the world and it being ready to go straight out of the box is another Classified benefit. No adjustment needed, just one system and one or two wheelsets - it’s super easy for race travel.

And what are your 2024 season goals? What races are you targeting next year?

The Olympics is definitely the main goal. The course details are out now, and it looks like a good course for a powerful rider like me, so I’m excited about that. It’s pretty flat so no climbs to engage the Classified system on, but there are some technical sections and U-turns where Powershift Technology will make a difference.

There are loads of other key races too; 2024 is going to be packed. The Professional Triathletes Organization (PTO) series will be huge, so getting a spot in that is also a big goal. Top 18 in the world get contracted for the series, then there are 2 wildcard places. If I can do a performance like Ireland at one of the upcoming races then I can qualify for PTO. Also the 70.3 worlds is in my hometown in New Zealand in Dec 2024, so that will be a big priority for me. Ireland secured my qualification, so I’m excited to race in front of my home fans.

But that’s another advantage of the Classified system, it’s like a get out of jail free card. Whatever the course throws at me I can deal with it.

How is Classified going down at the races? Are your competitors checking out your set up now and asking you lots of questions?

Yes there is a lot of interest. For example, Kristoffer Visti Graae who came third in Ireland, was asking about the system and even took the bike for a ride to try the shift. He’s actually a Danish Aero tester, and he says he regularly sees losses of up to 5 watts due to the front derailleur in wind tunnel testing, so he was quite impressed by the system. I get a lot of interest here in Girona when I’m at the cafe wearing my Classified t-shirt. Other riders often want to ask questions and test the bike which is always great. They’re always impressed with the shift.

Speaking of Girona, will you be there for Sea Otter Europe in Sept? Classified has a lot of events going on, it would be cool to see you.

That will be right after the Belgium race and just before departing for another 70.3, so that would be really cool. I'll definitely try and make an appearance if I can.

Thanks for taking the time to discuss your season so far with us. We look forward to seeing Kyle race in our  'home' Ironman event at Knokke-Heist, Belgium. You can follow Kyle’s training and race updates on his instagram account.

Images courtesy of the Professional Triathletes Organisation.