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Back 8.7.2017

New on ZippCast – Working With Pro Athletes

Dan Stefiuk’s job is to be the link between Zipp and SRAM and their officially sponsored pro cyclists and triathletes. That means he’s at the Tour de France, Kona Ironman World Championships, and just about everywhere in between at the world’s biggest races.

In our latest ZippCast, Dan takes us behind the scenes of how pros evaluate equipment and approach race day.

LISTEN TO FULL PODCAST WITH DAN STEFIUK

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Edited excerpts:

Your title at SRAM is Road Sports Marketing Road and Endurance Manager. What is your job like day to day?
I’m based in Chicago, where SRAM’s headquarters are…. Day to day it’s a combination of things. It’s making sure the small requests we get from athletes are fulfilled…. Making sure things are stocked up property and making sure we have parts supporting the pro peloton. Then, more often than not, you can find me all over the world supporting the teams and athletes we work with.

© Jojo Harper

What is your background as a cyclist and in general working with high technology?

Both my background in cycling but also working with high tech began with my experience in the U.S. Navy. Early in the 2000s when I was in the Navy, cycling in America was booming. I remember buying my first high end road bike – at least what I thought was high end at the time – with money I had saved up while on deployment.

Cycling was a way for me to explore the countries we were traveling to. It ultimately just drove my interest to see where my bike could take me. Then my experience working as an aviation electronics technician led to curiosity in being able to use that and apply that to the bicycle. It’s a simple machine, but it also can be a super complex machine.

How do you work with pro cyclists and triathletes selecting the best Zipp products for them? Let’s start with Zipp bars, stems and seatposts. How important is selection of these for road racing pros?
Anything we supply we know is the best product available. So the athletes, they value our opinion. They value the insight we can give and the technology behind our products.

For something like a handlebar or a stem… when your livelihood is spending time on the bike you want it to be comfortable. In triathlon or time trials, you want to make sure it’s aerodynamic and it performs to the level you need it to. It’s kind of a collective process. We suggest the best product for an application, but it’s also about finding something that a rider is familiar with.

What about wheel selection?
A number of factors come into play. We come to the athlete with as much information as we can… But with rim depth, at this point the way the technology is, the trust the athletes have in the wheels, it seems that they’re willing to take everything we give them. That’s not to say there’s blind faith. It’s more the stability…. Even though rim depths are getting deeper with the NSW lineup and now the 454 NSW, the stability in the wheel – if they can handle the wheel and handle the wheel confidently, that’s where it really comes into play.

What are the biggest considerations when selecting rim-depth?
I truly enjoy working with the athletes who are eager and willing to see the new technology we’re introducing to them. The rider who’s had an old-school mentality where you think the 202 (32mm deep) is the best wheel because there’s a climb in midway through the stage, they don’t necessarily realize that, yes, there’s a climb, but you’re leaving all this potential (aero benefits of a deeper wheelset) out on the course by limiting yourself to a 202. The 202’s a great wheel, but it’s not the best wheel for every stage.

I really was excited to see how the 454 NSW (with its alternating 53/58mm depth) has been taken up by Team KATUSHA ALPECIN… It’s speaks a lot to the riders trusting the products that we give them and the information we give them. But it really comes down to having them get out there and training and racing on the wheels.

© BrakeThrough Media

What have you learned as a cyclist yourself from working with the pros?
How important attention to detail is. That goes into not only making sure the bike is running properly… everything is installed and set up to rider specifications. Attention to detail is certainly something I’ve taken from my time in the Navy, but seeing how calculated some of these athletes that I work with are and how they approach each and every race, each and every training ride, and how important that machine is to their profession.

To have the intimate access and relationships with the athletes that we do really lends itself to be able to go back to the engineers and give them feedback on real life scenarios where myself for sure or the average consumer may not push these components to the levels that professions do, or demand as much as professional cyclists do. That’s definitely key as we continue to develop and design products.

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