We met Anja Beranek during her training camp on Fuerteventura and she found the time to talk to us about her season, new goals 2017, favorite animals and of course aerodynamics.
Sebastian: Hello Anja, it’s great that you have time for us.
2016 year was a very successful year for you – 4th place in Kona and your bike performance was outstanding. What are you planning for 2017 – Kona again?
Anja: Yes – in fact, it is Kona – that is probably no surprise after last years race worked really well for me. It is the world championship, it is the most important race in triathlon and thus also the most important race for me as a professional triathlete. And yes – big goal – I want to improve and not deteriorate. It will be nice, of course, if we’ll see that on the ranking, too.
Sebastian: The Playitas here on Fuerteventura is one of your sponsors. How often and long are you here to prepare for these goals?
Anja: In sum, I am here for 10 – 12 weeks. Mainly during the rather bad weather seasons – from January to March, or sometimes from December on. I am always here in two- or three-week cycles. That means two to three weeks training camp and then one or two weeks at home for regeneration. Always in rhythm from January to March. Last year, for example, I did the Hawaiian preparations here on the island, too. Therefore, I have been here for 3 more weeks in September. That worked very well; so I will do it again this year. It feels like a second home.
Sebastian: You’ve posted something similar on Instagram.
Let’s talk about you and your bike. In Formula 1, there is such a saying that a good driver is also a good mechanic. Would you sign that for you and your bike in triathlon?
Anja: I believe it is definitely an advantage. Unfortunately, this statement does not apply to me. I’m not the best mechanic on the bike. If you see athletes like Sebastian Kienle – he’s a bit of a pioneer in aerodynamics in triathlon and was one of the first to enter the wind tunnel sitting on the bike. I would derive from this, that the issue is rather a male domain. I have always been lucky to find someone who could help me as an external on this topic. I do understand – doing – that’s where it gets problematic.
Sebastian: Basically, how interested are you in bike technology?
Yesterday, we briefly met at breakfast and you mentioned that the decision for your bike is primarily determined by color criteria.
Anja: Yes – surely! I’m a woman and color plays a big role in a female life. Everyone who knows me knows that there is one color I particularly like.
Pink makes fast and I could show that in a few races. But seriously: aerodynamics is a big issue in our sport – for men as well as women. In this area, we women are unfortunately somewhat behind the men, but this is changing drastically. I as an athlete have definitely learned a lot in the last few years and the topic is still very important to me. Cycling is my specialty and to improve my cycling performance, I can still make some changes to aerodynamic values.
Sebastian: You make it easy for a thematic transition. You have already mentioned aerodynamics. What was your biggest aerodynamic aha-experience so far?
Anja: I would say the time trial helmet. Until three years ago I actually still used a normal helmet – for optical reasons. Then I have once put on such a thing, even if it really looks crazy. Going downhill I noticed that I was faster. Of course I only saw this on the speedometer and thought “Oh Oh, it really makes a change.” This was the greatest experience for me. Everything else is, of course, always a sum of the many small things I’ve been working with last year (keyword: Ceramic Speed or special chain). We also changed and adjusted the seating position. At the end, it was just WOW for me.
Sebastian: Because of the seating position you went to the bike fitter. How would you rate a test on a cycling track against a wind tunnel or a bike fitter, or in what order is it useful for the optimization?
Anja: I do not have the expertise in all expects. For example, I myself have never been in the wind tunnel and the cycling track was not as I imagined. Nevertheless, from my experience and talks with other athletes, going to a bike-fitter is the number one thing. I made great experiences with it and I have with Fritz Buchstaller a partner with lots of expertise, but who also tries out new things. This cannot be validated directly with numbers, but the athlete’s final results speak for themselves. A bike fitter gains the experience also during tests in the wind tunnel and on the cycling track. Number two would be the test on a cycling track and number three the wind tunnel – that’s my order.
Sebastian: For Kona, Fritz Buchstaller placed you correctly on your bike. Did you do an aeroTEST before, after, or during the bike fitting? What did you personally learn by combining the aeroTEST with a professional bike fitting? If it was useful, how do you know?
Anja: We first made the aeroTEST with the original position. Afterwards we went into the store and adapted my position – e.g. put the extensions a bit higher. As a result, the upper body came 1.5 cm further downwards. We then repeated the test and could thus generate comparative values. The result was an improved Cwa value.
What we also found out in the test – that had nothing to do with the sitting position but with my behavior on the bike. With the aeroTEST I had to cycle with a specific watt number. Therefore, I repeatedly looked at my GARMIN and that was placed in a position, which resulted in a very disadvantages head position. Fritz watched me during the test and said, “You have to place your GARMIN somewhere else, because if you’re looking at it and racing after power numbers, then it must be positioned in a way that you can see it and have the best sitting position at the same time.” Sounds simple enough, but is one of the things that are easily forgotten. Moreover, there isn’t much space on the handlebar so you have to thing about where to place all the devices in a way that you can see them.
Sebastian: Now a few personal questions for “THE ANJA”. We just had the turn of the year. Many people want to change something in their lives. It is usually a matter of stopping some bad habit. Which habit would you change in 2017? Do you have something like that at all or do you want to get rid of something?
Anja: Honestly – not necessarily! For me, the turn of year is not that important. I constantly try to work on me. For example, I’ve got a big pin board at home. Lot of different things, that I want to change, are written down there – both from a sporty perspective and in life. That is why I live the principle of turn of the year each day. For 2017 there are things on it, that are not very new – but it’s good to be reminded of them from time to time – e.g. train, eat, sleep and enjoy life as basics. The whole thing is spiked with a few tips of how I can live life happily.
Sebastian: You told me that you’ve studied business. What job would you pursue if triathlon wasn’t your job?
Anja: Hmmm – Triathlon is my passion; therefore I sometimes don’t look at it as a job, but as “a little bit more than a hobby”. Of course, I do live it as a job.
What I really enjoy is creative work. And yes, I have studied business and I like the area of marketing very well – with stories, colors and concepts. To connect that with the field of sports industry or overall sports- sports marketing so to say. I could enjoy that.
Sebastian: From an aerodynamic perspective you’re one with you bike. If you were an animal, what animal would that be?
Anja: I think I would be a lioness. At least – my hair looks like it in the morning when I wake up. The lioness’s mane would look great on the bike.
Sebastian: Which other animal would you watch to get aerodynamic tips?
Anja: From the penguin. But only in water.
And my favorite animal is the dolphin and I love my dog – now we have all animals.
Sebastian: Thank you very much for the interview.
Anja: My pleasure.