There is a contemplative pause before he answers each of my questions.
I’m on the phone with Felt pro triathlete Andi Boecherer of Freiburg, Germany. Boecherer is the “wunderkind” triathlete who drew attention after a string of 70.3 race wins around the world in 2011, including the European Championship. He went on to produce surprising results at Kona in 2011 with his 8th place overall.
Andi is in town for the Accenture Ironman Oceanside 70.3 triathlon this weekend and took time to visit us here at Felt Bicycles’ headquarters. During his whirlwind tour he constantly had a camera in his face, was ushered from one meet and greet to another and finished with a bike fitting from Jim Felt before lunch with staff at a local surf themed café’. Boecherer was so engaged, and engaging, we never got a chance to do the interview. So now we chat on the phone.
Andi Boecherer started another life trajectory as a math student in a German university a few years ago. His mindset is typical of the analytical German intelligentsia. When you ask him a question or introduce new stimulus there is a quiet moment of analysis, then a thoughtful response. He is an analyst. It is no surprise that Boecherer has had such success at 70.3 racing. He’s done the math. The numbers suggest he will continue this trajectory, perhaps this weekend at Accenture Oceanside 70.3.
I had about twenty minutes with Andi, and the questions began:
Q. In 2011 you had a breakthrough year, winning three 70.3’s and coming eighth at Kona. That was an incredible season. How did you do it?
A. In 2010 I brought in a new triathlon coach. We made decisions together on my training. I had a strong year in 2011. I went to [Ironman] South Africa and was 2nd. It took weight off my shoulders The 70.3’s went pretty well (Ed. note: Andi won 70.3 Switzerland, the Euro Championships and Cancun). Everything fell together early and I knew I was ready by Kona.
Q. You seem to have a special talent for the 70.3 distance. Can you compare them to the 140.6 distance?
A. Yes, I love it- I love the 70.3. You can be on fire all the time, racing hard the whole way. At the [full] Ironman distance you have to make all the right decisions. It is important to know when to invest energy during the race because of the distance. You aren’t just going hard the whole way. The 70.3 may be more fun, but the Ironman distance is a real passion, my real passion. It’s an interesting and bigger challenge. For me, I like that. But, it isn’t a question of which I like more, I like both. Ironman is always a journey. You never have the perfect race. You always learn and there are always chances. But, you only have two races a year. It makes it very special when you wake up in the morning on Ironman day and think, “This is going to hurt big time.” You don’t even know if you are going to finish. Just crossing the line is very special. It is a big test to your mental strength.
Q. What do you think about in the moments before the race?
A. One thing of course is concentration. Concentration on the race. I think about good position in the swim group, where to put myself to have the best swim. In the background is a lot of pride to just get to the starting line, and I am so thankful for that. Starting in Hawaii is just incredible. There is so much tension in the air. I love it.
Q. The Europeans seem to have revolutionized the sport from the Hellriegel/Stadler era and with Andreas Raelert’s first sub 8 Ironman. Why have the Europeans dominated Ironman racing?
A. I don’t know if it is a question of where you come from. Take Sebastian Keen, a friend of mine who lives 100k away. I know that if I am on the same level with him when I am here that I will be good at Las Vegas [the 70.3 Championship]. We have the big races that are here, like Roth. If you have a good race there, you know you are fast. But, I don’t want to judge because I haven’t raced enough in the U.S. I would not say the competition in the U.S. is any weaker.
Q. Do you think racing in Kona has become more tactical and less of a flat-out race?
A. It is true. There is a big difference between winning a single Ironman event and winning at Kona. The swim at the championship (Kona) is much faster. The bike is more technical, with the wind, and more tactical. You go fast, then slow, then fast. After the first 90 minutes the group starts to break-up a little. Then it is you against the wind and the heat. But all the time, you still have to be near the lead group. You can’t just watch your power meter.
Q. Your position on your Felt DA is almost technically perfect. How did you achieve such a good bike posture and fit?
A. First I have people helping me with my bike position. I have a fitting about every three months. And, if I feel I am not totally comfortable, I have a look. I do a lot of core work. That helps me a lot in all three sports. Good quality in training also helps me maintain good posture on the bike. I’ve always been comfortable on the bike. I’m flexible so it is easier for me. But the biggest thing is the professional people I have helping me with the fit.
Q. You do a tremendous amount of traveling for racing and training. What travel insights have you learned?
A. I’ve always kept a set of running and swimming kit inside my hand luggage in case my bags get lost. At least I can run and swim then, maybe borrow a bike. On my longer travels I take my pedals and (bike) shoes inside my hand luggage. That way, if the bike is lost for some reason, I can still get in a ride.
Q. What shapes your equipment decisions? How do you decide on bike equipment?
A. I am very picky about equipment because it has such a big influence in your race day experience and performance. I choose the best things I can find on the market, whatever they are. I like a clean bike, a bike without a lot of things on it that is designed well. I don’t want a lot of PowerBars on the top tube of the frame. It’s ridiculous to put a bunch of equipment on the frame, I like to keep it very clean. I carry just a water bottle on the front.
I like the Felt DA because of that, it is a very clean bike, no parts there just for the marketing reasons. It is very slender and aerodynamically is one of the best frames in the world. I also like how it is easy to make changes to your position and adjust the bike. The brakes are accessible and easy to work on. I travel a lot so if anything broke on the flight in the bike case I can get replacement parts. The DA is clean, simple and stiff, super light. It’s just about performance, there is nothing stupid.
Q. I see from your Facebook page you like to have a Toblerone sometimes. What is the best flavor?
A. Ahhh… Toblerone is just one flavor, just one kind. They are the big ones. The others are just not that big, the Rittersport. They come in all kinds of flavors. I have those too, but you have be kind of restrictive. Still though, you have to consider the mental part, so it is OK once in a while.