Lionel Sanders will be riding a Canyon bicycle from now on. The ultra-talented, sometimes enigmatic, always transparent fan favorite chose to leave off riding the Garneau bicycle he’d been on during most of his professional triathlon life in favor of the highly-regarded German bicycle brand.
Sanders is staying in the Palm Springs area – as much for the golf as for the training (he’s more than an avid golfer) – and is expected to race at 70.3 Indian Wells, on December 9th. He already has his new Canyon Speedmax CF SLX underneath him.
As regards the prospects of a podium finish, Sanders has been money in recent years, including a near-win in Kona in 2017 before taking 2nd. But the last half of 2018 hasn’t been kind to him, as he has done what so many top triathletes have done since the sport’s beginning: go spectacularly backward while trying to find the secret sauce to get him from 3rd or 2nd place to the podium’s top spot. Sanders is back at the drawing board as he contemplates his equipment, nutrition, training, and advice entering the 2019 season. Canyon is his first move.
A number of bike companies approached Sanders after Kona last month, according to someone in Sanders’ circle to whom I spoke, and I asked Sanders who he consulted when deciding which of the offers to take. “I didn’t need to consult with anyone,” he told me. “I just consulted the results, to see what they’re riding. Patrick and Jan are winning the biggest races in the world on a Canyon. Tony Martin is riding a Canyon. Now I’m on an equivalent bike.”
But there’s more to it than that, and as we talked it’s clear that integration is a theme that animates him. “That’s what I partially based this decision on,” he told me. “The other pieces of the puzzle were… integrated hydration, integrated brakes, integrated flat kit, bento box, computer mount, integrated rear water bottle.” There’s a number of bikes that could’ve provided this, but he was clearly a fan of Canyon’s approach.
He talked about bikes he disdained, that didn’t capture his imagination at all, new bikes, newly introduced, that didn’t catch his fancy. But the famously open Sanders did feel there were other bikes that could’ve worked for him or, at least, that have features he admired. “I think there’s only one other bike that checks all my boxes and that’s the Scott Plasma [Premium], with its integrations, and front end.”
It’s not all about the integration features. And, he waxed reminiscent about the Gennix he’s been riding. “Not to say I didn’t like things about the Gennix. I loved that fork. I’d like to keep that fork. But [the Gennix] lacked the integrations, and a few other pieces. I was struggling with the front end,” and by the “front end” he meant the attempt to get food, hydration, information all situated. Also, Sanders “wanted a well-engineered braking system, because I’ve had problems with that.”
Sanders is also famously loyal, possibly past the point of reasonableness. I asked him about that. “Of course it was tough. I love Garneau. They’ve been great to me. It’s a family company. Louis himself has taken an interest in my career. We even discussed making a custom bike for me. But this Kona really opened my eyes to how nothing is for certain. You never know when it’s your last race. I don’t have the time to wait for all the integrations I wanted. Now it’s just me against me; me against my competitors.”
That established, Sanders is expected to remain with Garneau for apparel, possibly helmets, probably cycling footwear.
Photos: Talbot Cox