Imagine lying on your sofa and deciding to take up some sport. You think of doing an event. Maybe a triathlon or a marathon. You decide on Ironman. You train for a year. Go to Ironman Barcelona. You only go and qualify for the Ironman European Championship! Fabio Taccaliti did just that…
What got you into Ironman?
I always played football during my childhood, then I started university and after finishing my Batchelors I went to Bicester in the UK where I worked for Scuderia AlphaTauri in the aero dynamic department of the Formula One team. After that, I found myself lying on the sofa at the weekends just doing anything and I said to myself I really need a goal now – a sports goal – so my idea originally was to do a marathon, but then I said no a marathon is too easy so let’s go for an Ironman. My aim was to prepare in one year, being coached, doing the proper nutrition because I was really starting from zero. So I started and in one year I finished the Ironman Barcelona in 8 hours 54 minutes and 53 seconds; which I felt was a pretty good time.
You still have a day job – what is it you do?
I work in engineering in the F1 aero dynamic department of Scuderia AlphaTauri (Red Bull’s second team) so I work on the aero dynamics of the front and rear wheels. That’s my day job… I’m a number driven person so with Ironman I have tons of data to study to improve my position in the TT bike and so on. Since I work in aero dynamics, on the bike it’s also very important with positioning so it really connected well with my occupation.
How do you get the work-life balance with all your training?
It’s not always easy. Formula One is not a 9-5 job. Sometimes I work on weekends. But I always find time to train, maybe even waking up at 5am to go to the swimming pool or for a run. I mean if you want to do something you can always find some time. At the moment I’m working remotely which makes it easier.
What sports equipment do you use for training?
I have two road bikes: my TT bike is a Kú which is a new Dutch brand good for aero dynamics and then I have a standard road bike which is Ridley, a Belgian brand. Usually, during the week I train on the indoor trainer because it’s quicker not having to kit up and then at the weekend, I go for a longer five or 6-hour ride. I live in the centre of Italy in Sirolo which is near the sea so its warm and the weather is nice.
You are about to go to Amsterdam to do the aero dynamic testing on your TT bike, what will you be doing?
Up until two months ago I just had my Ridley with mechanical shifting, no disc brakes, but then I decided that to qualify for the World Championships I needed a bike-upgrade. So, I was in contact with Kú – a new Dutch bike brand - and in their next generation programme they provide two athletes per European country in Europe with a TT bike to test out in the velodrome in Amsterdam. They use a small aero dynamic sensor on the bike to find the resistance position and you want to tune your position using this device so that you can consume less power during the Ironman races. It will be my first time in a velodrome.
What was Ironman Barcelona 2021 like?
It was my first one, so I didn’t know what to expect. My goal was just to finish. In the end, I really enjoyed it. The bike was pretty fast; I was thinking about spending five hours on the bike, but it went fast and although a marathon was waiting for me, in my mind I stayed positive. In the end I finished 96th out of 4000 and 9th in my age group and I only missed the qualification for the World Championship by six minutes. I really didn’t expect it. My goal was just to finish without watching the time, but I was very pleased with my result and for this reason my coach and I decided to go for the European Championship because it is a higher level and a small step to qualify for the World Championship. To do it you have to arrive at the finish line within 1% of your age group and for me -25-29 years old - that’s about the top five. I trained consistently before Ironman Barcelona – 365 days, I didn’t miss a day. I think consistency is really the key to doing something properly.
How do you divide your time consistently between the three disciplines?
I split the week into three. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I swim in the morning and run in the afternoon. On Tuesday and Thursday, I do bike training. During the weekend I usually do longer training, for example on Saturday I do a four to 6-hour bike ride and on Sunday usually it’s a long run, say 20km. Or maybe I do a double training session, so I ride for two hours and run for one hour. I train alone but during the weekend I have a cycling team with some friends because spending six hours on the bike alone is pretty annoying. It’s good because it pushes you to do a little bit more. Positive competition. The Italian parks do the best double espressos with a piece of cake.
The Ironman European Championship is coming up in June, how do you feel about that?
I feel ready but you have to take care of yourself because you don’t want to be injured before the race and you don’t want to peak too early before the race. My coach and I are trying to build up the training. I’m training around 15 hours per week and in the month beforehand that will be more like 20-25 hours per week. In the last two weeks the training hours will decrease a little bit. Before Ironman Barcelona I always had a knee problem and stopped running for two months before the event. But right now, it’s going pretty well. Sometimes you want to push beyond your training, so you have to avoid that.
What’s your ultimate goal with your sports career?
I want to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. That would really be my dream. Let’s see if I can do it. I will put everything in that I can to achieve it.
Neatcleats and Zpurs will be following Fabio during his Ironman journey so stay posted for more updates.
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Photo credit: Ironman/ Fabio Taccaliti