German Christian Haupt was the top age grouper in Kona in 2017 and he follows in the footsteps of many other Germans who have accomplished the same feat. More recently it was Malte Bruns in 2015 and Lukas Kramer in 2016. Haupt finished well in 2016 too and grabbed the M35-39 title then, but in the overall age group ranking he was beaten by Spaniard Carlos Aznar Gallego and Aussie Nathan Shearer, and of course German Lukas Kramer.
Germans have a huge passion for triathlon and Kona is for many the holy grail. Age groupers however can possibly breathe easier as Haupt plans to race with a Pro license in 2018 and there he will have to deal with Jan Frodeno, Sebastian Kienle and Patrick Lange among others.
But on now to the chat with Christian Haupt.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time.
Christian Haupt: Thank you, it is a great honor for me.
ST: Now that the triathlon season is pretty much over what are you occupying yourself with?
Christian: After the race we spent two weeks at Big Island and Maui. Now I am at home and I am doing many other things that have nothing to do with sport. The most time I spent with friends and in my garden. There is a lot to do before the winter is coming. And there are some things to do that were not done because of the training leading up to Kona. I learned that a good swim shape doesn´t bring automatically a good swim time. I am mentally strong and can handle pressure. It is different to be the guy who is hunted. Last year nobody knew me, but this year it has changed, because I won the M35-39 at Kona 2016.
Also my best friend had an accident and was in a coma until June. In addition my father has cancer. Often it was not easy to train and compete with your mind otherwise occupied.
ST: I believe you started triathlon in 2013. How many times have you been to Kona?
Christian: Yes, I did my first triathlon in 2013 in Hannover. In September 2015 I qualified for Kona 2016, so this year was my second time in Kona.
ST: In Hawaii this year you were the top age grouper with a time of 8:55:28. Did that mean a big welcome home, or was all that reserved for Patrick Lange?
Christian: When I came home my family and also my colleagues in the office also welcomed me. Last weekend I invited friends to a party to say thank you for the support und being with me in the last twelve months.
ST: But there wasn’t a big party at the airport with screaming fans, a marching band and tons of journalists?
Christian: No [laughs], just my parents, my sister, her husband und my nephews where at the airport.
ST: Norwegian Lars-Petter Stormo raced also in M35-39 and he finished about 3.5 minutes behind you. Were you aware where he was and where you were in the race compared to your other competition?
Christian: Oh, that’s a funny story and I remember it well. I am not a big fan of checking result lists, because you can´t really compare Ironman races. But I looked at the results of [IRONMAN] Klagenfurt 2017. Lars-Petter had a really strong performance there, and I think it was 8:40. I figured that he must be a very strong guy. I passed him on the bike in Kona and noticed his name on the race number. A second later I heard “Oh Christian” or something like that behind me. From this moment on he was near me most of the time, fair but near. After Mauna Kea, I noticed that he had some problems during the climbs. And a few climbs later he lost my rear wheel. On the run course my wife waited on some points of me and told me the time table, but not who is behind me. At the awards dinner Lars-Petter and I met each other and then he said to me, that he knew my results for Kona as well and he knew, that “this is the man to beat”. I told him that I had seen his strong result of Klagenfurt, then we laughed about it.
ST: You and he had about the same run split, but 3.5 minutes apart. Was that about what you hoped to run?
Christian: The run was just one minute faster than last year, but my shape was much better. So I can´t be satisfied. But this year it was hotter in the energy lap, because there was no cloud at the sky. The other thing is that I ran too fast at the start of the marathon, and I had to pay the bill on the last twelve kilometers. The will to get the age grouper lead was stronger than what actually made sense.
ST: What time would have made you happy?
Christian: I think round about 3:00-3:03h.
ST: When did you arrive in Kona and what did you do before the race?
Christian: I arrived Saturday evening the week before the race. I typically would say, that is two days too late but I had to work until Friday. This year I had problems with my bike, so I spent much time at the bike repair shop. But we drove to a coffee mill and we spent a day at the Kealakekua Bay.
ST: The day job is often in the way for age group athletes.
Christian: Yeah, you are right.
ST: Talk about your race.
Christian: I did not have a good swim. I encountered a bunch of traffic and a lost a lot of time at the first quarter of the swim. And after about 2km I realized that I swam too comfortable. I tried to swim harder, but it did not work for more than 100m or something like that. The biking was great, I had good legs and I had the whole time the feeling, that I could push harder. Nevertheless, I had lost the connection to some guys at Waikoloa Beach Hotel. Even when I caught them, my chain dropped over and I had to stop and bring the chain back on the rings. There I lost unnecessary time. My second transition was good and the first kilometers of the run felt very fast. But I ran too fast to get to the front of the age groupers. For this over motivated effort I had to pay on the last twelve kilometers. But luckily there was enough space.
The last mile was unbelievable. I had really enjoyed celebrating with the people, clapping their hands and so on. This was a moment, which I never forget.
ST: What bike do you ride?
Christian: I ride a Scott Plasma.
ST: Which model and what kind of parts do you have on it?
Christian: I ride Scott Plasma V with Shimano Dura Ace DI II, and Profile Design Profile Design 58/78 TwentyFour CC Black wheels with Continental TT tires. I have an aero bottle from Elite on the frame and a single bottle cage from Profile Design under the saddle. The most striking item that I use are O-Symetric chainrings.
ST: How wide are the tires and what tubes do you use?
Christian: I use the 25mm tires. The tubes are also from Continental. I was born in Hannover and Continental’s headquarter is there, so I am very connected with Continental.
ST: Power meter?
Christian: Yes I have a Garmin Vector, but the next season I will start with a Rotor power meter and Q-Rings.
ST: What crank length do you ride and how tall are you?
Christian: I use Vision Metron 175mm cranks and I am 189cm tall and my race weight was 73kg.
ST: Once it was clear that you were indeed the top overall age grouper, what went through your mind?
Christian: My coach told me in May that he wants to make me the top age grouper overall. From that moment on this was my goal for this year. He opened my mind for it. When I was in fourth place I really wanted to get the lead. At the first km when I was the leader, it felt like flying, everything was easy. After that km however it changed completely, because I realized that I am now the hunted guy. From this moment on, I knew that I had something to lose und I felt a lot of pressure. This came in times when I did not feel well. But I could get rid of these thoughts.
ST: How did you celebrate after?
Christian: At first I had to go to the doping control, and afterwards I celebrated with my wife and some Hawaiian beer. The day after we celebrated at the banquet of the champions and in a club which was directly at the beach.
ST: Was it blood or urine that was tested?
Christian: Three days before the race they tested the blood and after the race they tested urine.
ST: What races did you do during the 2017 season and were you healthy?
Christian: I started in the 2. German Bundesliga and at the Ironman 70.3 races in Luxemburg, Gdynia and Rügen. And I won my home race, the Maschsee-Triathlon in Hannover. I had a very good year almost without trouble. I just had some problems with my Achilles tendon in May.
ST: Is your schedule already set for next year?
Christian: Next year I will start as a Pro, but I don´t know now, which races I will make.
ST: What goals do you have as a new pro?
Christian: In the first races I have to learn, because the pro races are different. They are much more tactical and the pace is not steady like in age grouper races. When you are making mistakes, you will explode at the latest during the run. But my goal is to finish one long distance race in the top ten.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?