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Stories about the final preparation for the world’s most famous triathlon

It’s not long ago that 34-year old Cyril Viennot was still working part time as a sports teacher. Only during the past two years has Viennot set his focus entirely on triathlon. Since then, he has quietly snuck into the small circle of the world’s best long distance triathletes. Three podiums in the latest three editions of the ITU Long Distance World Championships, including a victory in 2015, a win at IM Bolton in 2014 and a 5th and a 6th place at the IM World Championships in Hawaii are proof that the Frenchman is able to compete with the best. “My goal is to get a podium in Kona in the next three years,” says Viennot. “The sooner I make it, the better!”

Training days for IM Hawaii can be longer than office hours. That’s why company is appreciated, especially on the longer rides. For his 200k session, Viennot partnered up with fellow French professional Guillaume Jeannin. “We spent a couple of weeks in training camps together this year and we plan to head to Australia together for a 6 week training camp next year,” Cyril explains. 

The 200k ride was split up in two parts. The first three hours were at an aerobic pace where Viennot averaged 210 Watts. Long distance triathletes often split their long rides into different sections and vary their power output around their race pace. 

The region of Dôle, France has some scenic riding to offer. The roads are in a good condition and almost free of traffic. It can be hard though, to find proper hills to climb. 

After three hours at an aerobic pace the duo rode for two hours at race pace which is around 285 Watts for Cyril. “This is my approximate average power output during an Ironman,” Cyril explains.

Efforts are usually done at the later stages when the body is already fatigued. This has multiple reasons. Firstly, it simulates the fact that before the bike, the athlete already completes the swim split in a race. Secondly, it gets the body used to hold a race pace effort also in the late stages of the race. Last but not least, coaches and athletes want to fatigue the body so that it adapts and fitness level increases. Efforts in a fatigued state are a strong stimulus and force the body to react. 

Pacing is crucial in training and racing. “On the bike I use my power meter to control my training. The training zones are based on the results of specific tests and goal race wattage.“

After almost 6 hours of riding, re-fueling is needed. “I have to admit, I eat everything and sometimes too much as well,” Cyril states on his diet. “Train to eat or eat to train?” that’s the question here. 

While a professional cyclist would call it a day after 6 hours of riding, an Ironman athlete recharges and gets ready for a second session. “We have a solid 25m indoor pool here in Dôle where I usually train with the local swim squad.” Cyril says. Some sessions though Cyril completes on his own.

Scars on Cyril’s back are the result of a high-speed crash on the bike during the relay at IM 70.3 Vichy at the end of August. “I was really lucky, apart from some lost skin I didn’t have any after effects of the crash.”

Sometimes you just want to get the job done. “If I’ve a hard time motivating myself to swim, I usually do a longer aerobic session with repeats of 400 meter sets at different speeds using different materials to get a bit of variety.”

The next morning, Cyril heads out for a morning run along the beautiful river “Le Doubs” which flows in the eastern part of France and the north-western part of Switzerland. 

The flat sections along the river are perfect for a light aerobic run in the morning. Cyril builds in some drills and pick-ups to spice up the session and tune the legs for an upcoming Olympic Distance event on the weekend.

“I usually test my run fitness 10 days away from a race on the track. I do a set of 6x 1000m with progressive speed. If I do it on my own and clock the last 1000m below 3 minutes I consider myself in a good shape.”

Stretching and general strength sessions are crucial for triathletes. “Stretching is something I build in on a regular basis,” Cyril says. “During the key training phase for an Ironman I also do a lot of strength sessions which include plyometric workouts.” 

“I base my running training on pace and use the heart rate as another factor to control the effort.” Cyril looking at his data after the run. 

Training up to 35 hours a week in three disciplines takes its toll. While triathlon is a well-balanced sport with regards to the muscles chains involved, it also challenges the body from head to toe. Viennot during a session at his physiotherapist. 

“If I’m at home, I visit my massage therapist once or twice a week. He’s also an osteopath which is pretty helpful as he has a good eye on the body as a whole.“

New bike day! At his local dealer, Cyril unpacks his special edition SCOTT Plasma 5 which he will be riding at the World Championships in Kona.