Cannondale has announced a partnership with two-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington. Wellington will be riding Cannondale’s Slice HI-MOD 1 through the 2011 season. Wellington will join 2007 Ironman 70.3 world champion Mirinda Carfrae and 2008 Ironman Hawaii 3rd place finisher Sandra Wallenhorst as Kona contenders who will be riding a Slice for the 2009 season.

Cannondale

After bursting onto the scene by winning two Ironman World Championships on her Cervelo P2C with teamTBB, Wellington is embracing the change that comes with living in a new city, riding a new bike, working with a new coach and losing the atmosphere that came with belonging to a team.

We joined Wellington before a training session in Boulder to discuss her decision to ride on a Cannondale, as well as her new training lifestyle under coach Simon Lessing.

Triathlete: There has been a lot of talk surrounding which bike company you would partner with. Can you tell us about the decision process and how you ended up with Cannondale?

Wellington: I thought that it was time for a change and I explored a number of different bike companies. I wanted a bike company that offered me the whole package, not just the bike, but also the support network that goes with that. I knew a few people that I could trust for their opinion on what company could offer that kind of holistic service to me and Cannondale definitely came out on top from quite a few people. I test rode the bike for a number of weeks. I was very happy with the fit and felt it suited me.

Triathlete: What is your favorite feature of the Cannondale Slice?

Wellington: I feel stronger on the hills. I don’t know whether that is a combination of my training and the bike, but I definitely feel like I’m climbing a little better on this bike. I don’t think it’s one thing on the bike that’s contributing to that. I just feel incredibly powerful and comfortable on my new bike.

Triathlete: Now that you have a new ride, will you be looking to change up your riding position?

Wellington: I want to feel comfortable on the bike number one. That is the most important thing to me. I want to feel comfortable over 180 km and then be able to run a very fast marathon after that. So at first I’m not going to look to alter too much, but it is definitely something that I will experiment with over the coming months and year.

Triathlete: How was the process of getting fit on the new bike?

Wellington: We’ve set my fit similarly to how I was on my previous bike. I have gotten slightly lower on the front and I’m working with a couple of people to get the best fit for me and make sure I’m the most comfortable and fastest I can be. I just really felt comfortable as soon as I sat on the bike. I haven’t really had to tweak too much. I’ve done a few runs off of the bike and have had no problems at all. I felt very fluid on the run. It is an important decision for me, not only to be able to bike faster but also to be able to run faster.

Triathlete: How has it been training in Boulder?

Wellington: I love it. I’m beginning to find my feet and get settled. I think it offers me the best chance to carry on being the best athlete that I can be. The facilities are great and I’ve made a couple of close friends. It will also enable me to get a focus back on my personal life. Having a more social life outside of triathlon will give me that mental break that you need if you are going to sustain in this sport a long time.

Triathlete: Was it difficult to leave the regimented atmosphere of Brett Sutton and teamTBB?

Wellington: Yes and no, I’m still very regimented as a person. I like to operate with a clear program and I like to follow it. I think that the most important thing as an athlete is to have consistency. In many respects, I’m still as regimented with my training as I ever was. I am able to do things that I enjoy to do and have more time to relax but training is sacred.

Triathlete: How has it been under your new coach Simon Lessing?

Wellington: It’s been great. Simon and I seem to work very well together professionally and socially. The training program has changed from what I was doing before. But I think the general level of volume and intensity has remained the same, which I am happy about. Simon is also a great training partner for me. We are doing a lot of our training together which has been really good fun.

Triathlete: How do you feel your fitness is right now compared to this time last year?

Wellington: One of the key differences for me is that I don’t have that team structure anymore by which I can compare myself relative with the other girls. Having said that, the times that I’m running, biking, and swimming are as good, if not better, than they were last year. I’ve got absolutely no injuries or problems. I feel very fresh mentally, which I think is important.

Triathlete: Do you have your race schedule in place for 2009?

Wellington: First race is Ironman Australia at the beginning of April, which is going to be awesome. I really liked that race last year. It suits me. It’s got a couple of hills on the bike and the run, which I really enjoy. Then, I will do a couple 70.3s in between Ironman Australia and the Quelle Roth Challenge in July. Then, I will do the Timberman 70.3 in August. I really enjoyed that race. It’s kind of like the Woodstock of triathlon. It‘s very down to earth. I’m excited about going back there. I will also probably do another 70.3 before Kona. Each of the Ironman races is equally as important to me. I’m not prioritizing them in any order.

Triathlete: If you break Paula Newby-Fraser’s all-time Kona record this year, we have to believe you’ll do it by shaving some time off your bike split. What kind of bike split would you need in Kona to set yourself up for a sub 8:55 finish?

Wellington: I understand I got pretty close in 2008. My ride time was 4:58 (taking out the 10 minutes spent dealing with a flat tire). If I could knock a couple of minutes off that I think I could be well within a shot of breaking the record as long as I run a fast marathon again, 2:57 or around that mark. I would be looking at coming in around 4:55 on the bike this year. Ultimately, I want to defend the title. For me the victory is the most important and records come second, and if I can do both than that is an absolute bonus.

Triathlete: Are you ready to race?

Wellington: I’m definitely ready to race. I mean I haven’t raced since Kona. I’m just keen to get out there and show what I can do.