Leanda Cave’s Pinarello Graal: The Next Kona Winner?

By Tom Demerly for TriSports.com

Leanda Cave's Pinarello Graal with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Easton wheels and Easton cockpit may be the next Ironman World Championship bike this October.

Editor’s note – 10/14/2012: She won!  Read more about Leanda here.

It’s a new race for the pro women at the Ironman World Championship for 2012. Following perennial champion Chrissie Wellington’s retirement from Kona the women’s race hits the reset button. With four weeks to go before the start cannon in Kailua-Kona the focus on the women’s race includes two major combatants; Leanda Cave and Mirinda Carfrae. We take a look at Leanda Cave’s Kona bike here.

Leanda Cave is sponsored by TriSports.com in Tucson, Arizona along with K-Swiss, Easton, ISM Saddles, Oakley, Pinarello, Torhans, Blueseventy and Giro. Her Pinarello Graal was assembled and is race tuned at the TriSports.com retail outlet in Tucson by top mechanic Mark Lee. Lee is a pro level race tech having worked for the U.S. National Team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He is also a custom frame builder and has engineered some of his own specialty tools for race and shop service. Along with TriSports.com technicians Jack Johnson (now a Product Manager for TriSports) and Kurt Levy the tech team maintains bikes for top pros like Leanda Cave and Angela Naeth along with local TriSports.com customers.

“Every customer gets the same service and attention to detail as our pros”

“Every customer gets the same service and attention to detail as our pros” Mark Lee told me. “We’re a race shop. Every bike that leaves here has a lot of training, travel and ambition riding on it. It’s different than working on bikes for a Sunday ride. Peoples’ goals and dreams are riding on these bikes. There is no margin for error.” Lee is calm and analytic. He works quietly with a soft techno soundtrack in the background. His area is meticulously clean. His key tools are housed in a rustic leather tool roll hand made in England. It looks like it could have come from the work bench of a mechanic for Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault except for the digital calipers and wiring tools for servicing new electro-mechanical Di2 drivetrains.

TriSports.com bike Tech Mark Lee glues tires for Leanda Cave's Kona bike at TriSports.com.

Starting from the front of Cave’s Pinarello her cockpit is an older version of the Easton Attack TT aerobar. This one piece aerobar is extremely light largely due to an absence of adjustment hardware and the full carbon fiber construction. This early version of the Easton Attack cockpit has fixed length “lazy ski bend” extensions. Subsequent versions feature a collet adjuster that allows the use of different extensions and bends. Cave has replaced the original Easton elbow pads with Profile Design pads that enable a more rearward elbow posture and larger surface area than the Easton pads which are much smaller.

Leanda Cave's cockpit is an early version Easton Attack TT one piece integrated aerobar with non-adjustable extensions and Profile Design elbow pads.

Since Cave is using Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 with electro-mechanically actuated shifters her cockpit features two complete sets of shift controls, one on the aero extensions and another on the base bars. This enables Cave to shift from either position, a primary advantage of Shimano Di2. Cave’s controls are thoughtfully adjusted to compliment the ergonomics of the Easton extensions with the aero bar mounted controls rotated slightly upward for easier use with her thumbs.

Cave has a TorHans aero bottle mount zip tied to her extensions for use with the TorHans aero bottle refillable drinking system. Brake controls are the integrated Dura-Ace Di2 levers and the bars are wrapped with Easton foam handlebar tape. The Profile Design elbow pads are the only major modification.

Cave uses the Shimano Di2 dual controls on her base bars and extensions. Notice the rotational angle of her shifters for better ergonomics. The Profile Design F19 style elbow pads provide more surface area and comfort as well as a more rearward base for her forearms. Her TorHans mount between the aero extensions is oriented in the rearward position.

Under her cockpit Cave uses two full size SaltStick dispensers. The patented, rotary dispensing SaltStick dispenser holds 6 capsules for electrolyte supplements. The dispenser keeps capsules dry. A number of top pros including Cave and Ironman winner Craig Alexander use these dispensers since they are simple, lightweight, aerodynamic and easy to use at top speed without leaving the aero position.

Cave carries two patented SaltStick dispensers under her cockpit for dry carriage of capsules and easy dispensing while in the aero position.

The Pinarello Graal uses a TRP aerodynamic styled brake mounted behind the fork blades. While some bike brands, most notably Cervelo, have contended the rear mounted front brakes do not offer a tangible aerodynamic benefit compared to a well designed conventional front mounted brake caliper or integrated designs such as Cervelo’s P5 this design does not appear to create any drawbacks for Cave. With good cable routing, length and careful tuning the brakes work well.

Cave is typical of top pros who go minimal with hydration accessories on their bikes. Leanda’s bike has one X-Lab carbon fiber Chimp bottle cage on the down tube. This cage, combined with her TorHans handlebar mount hydration system, may be the only bottles on her bike as she relies on aid stations for the majority of her fluids, refilling her TorHans and grabbing fresh bottles for her downtube cage when needed since aid stations on the bike at Ironman are only 5 miles apart.

Left: The aerodynamically styled, rear mounted TRP front brake caliper. Right: The X-Lab Chimp carbon fiber bottle cage on her downtube is the only bike mounted hydration carriage other than her TorHans on the cockpit.

Leanda sits on a an ISM Adamo Podium saddle. The Podium uses the innovative split nose design with a moderate profile and distinctly rounded front section. This full length 27 cm saddle suits Cave’s height and long legs well. The slimmer nose design compared to other ISM designs also works well with Leanda’s slim build. Cave’s saddle is oriented moderately forward, with its nose just barely in front of the bottom bracket and angled slightly downward.

The ISM or "Ideal Saddle Modification" Podium is a full length, 27cm long version of the iconic ISM saddle concept. It works perfectly for Cave and is oriented in a moderately steep position with a very slight nose-down attitude.

Cave’s position on the bike has evolved slightly from bike to bike corresponding with the release of new Pinarello models. While Cave is a strong cyclist, she is not a stylist, often appearing ungainly and hunched in still photos, choked up on the aero bars and relatively compact in the torso. Her position may not look perfect but seems to work despite its compact appearance. If you pass a line through the humerus bone of Cave’s bicep area it frequently falls well behind her elbow pad. She appears to rely on her grip of the aero extensions to maintain the position of her torso, presumably at an energy cost as opposed to relying on skeletal support of her torso through her humerus bones. In this posture Cave must reach forward several centimeters to actuate her shifters. At first look it would appear that Cave needs shorter reach or at least elbow pads slightly farther back to support her humerus. Like many top pros, her position may not appear textbook but she makes it work well.

Like a lot of top pros, Cave's position is not exactly textbook perfect but she seems highly adapted to it. Notice her cramped style and choked up grip on her extensions. The bike on the left is from 2011 and her current bike and newer position is on the right.

When you observe Cave’s set-up without her on the bike it tells the tale of a long-limbed rider with a short torso who may benefit from a slightly higher head tube. There are a series of spacers under her stem and a substantial seat tube extension above her top tube. It is a practical concern that top professionals do a good job adapting to the equipment provided by sponsors and Cave has done an excellent job on her Pinarello despite its geometry being slightly different than what may be ideal for her. This adaptation is part of being a top pro.

Cave’s positional set-up is fairly typical of pros when you look at her effective seat tube angle, saddle attitude and cockpit drop. While we didn’t have time to measure her effective seat tube angle its likely within a degree or two of 80 degrees effective seat tube angle. Her long humerus/bicep area facilitates a lot of drop but the very short head tube of her frame dictate the spacers under her stem.

A. Cave's effective seat tube angle places the nose of her saddle very slightly in front of her bottom bracket. B. Like many riders with substantial drop Cave's saddle is oriented slightly nose down. C. Her substantial drop from saddle to elbow pads is mostly a function of her long bicep area. D. Cave moderates her drop on the ultra-low head tube Pinarello with a series of headset spacers, a minor aerodynamic compromise.

The drivetrain on Cave’s Pinarello is standard Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 turning a Shimano 7900 series five spider crank. As of her departure to Kona Cave did not have the newer four arm 9000 series crank. Cave uses a larger than typical 54 tooth large chainring over a 42 tooth small ring. This turns a Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7901 10-speed chain. We did not count her cogset but believe it is an 11-23, just enough gear to get her up to Hawi even if the Mumuku headwinds start whipping up.

Leanda's drivetrain is a fairly stock Dura-Ace Di2 configuration with the older five spider crank and slightly larger 54/42 chainrings.

The pedals on Leanda’s bike are well worn Look Keo Blade Aeros, a new generation of Look pedal that relies on a flat carbon leaf spring or “blade” for retention and uses a compressed full carbon fiber aerodynamic pedal body. The underside of the pedals looks like the bottom of a Formula 1 car. Look claims the Keo Blade has the largest pedalling surface area on the market.

Cave uses the Look Keo Blade Aero pedal system with its flat, carbon fiber retention springs and racecar-like carbon fiber bottom surface.

Cave’s bike received its final tuning with an Easton EC90 TT carbon fiber, tubular rear wheel and an Easton EC90 Aero 56 mm deep front wheel with Continental Grand Prix 4000 700X22 tubulars. These tires use the Vectran Breaker flat resistant belt, a good tactical decision given the potential for time loss from a puncture. These handmade, German tubulars hold tire pressure longer than lighter cotton casing tubulars and many clinchers.

Cave uses Continental 700X22 mm Grand Prix 4000 tubular tires with Vectran Breaker belts built in. This is her rear tire glued to an Easton EC90 TT 90mm deep wheel.

Leanda Cave goes into Kona 2012 as a favorite and her bike set-up is well suited for the difficult, hot, windy and rolling Kona course. Her experience shows in the set-up and component selection. It’s impossible to predict her performance in Kona other than to say she is one of two or three serious contenders for the overall win. Regardless of her performance she has put time and experience into her equipment selection and it is likely to perform well for her on the Queen K.

Leanda Cave's Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Easton equipped Pinarello Graal configured for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii on October 13, 2012.

Check out all of Leanda’s gear on TriSports.com here