Van Lierde: “Anything Can Happen On Saturday”

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Who’s excited that the talk of the men’s race is about two Germans? Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde, the 2013 Ironman World Champion, who says he enjoys being the underdog. We talked to the former champ about his year racing and his plan of attack for 2015’s race. How are you feeling going into this year?
Van Lierde: My year started really well with Ironman South Africa, winning it with a big margin over the rest of the field showed that my winter was really good and I improved a little bit. Then afterwards, if we talk about the big races, Ironman Frankfurt was not the result I was hoping for, 8:07 is not too bad and 37 degrees Celsius is quite hot. The other thing was that Jan Frodeno was a lot better than the rest of the field. I got a little disappointed after that race, but I think in terms of making a good race here, it was one of the best things to happen to refocus and everything on Kona. I think I’ve built my confidence on the way by preparing the same way I did for South Africa, so I think it’s really good. Is there something you learned about Jan as a competitor after that race?
Van Lierde: I think we all knew Jan before that. I raced him last year when he was third in Frankfurt and third here, so I know he’s a great athlete, I know his strengths. He’s complete as a triathlete. But the other thing is that it’s a new race again. He had a great day and you don’t have all those great days 365 days a year, so everything has to start from zero again and you have to see what happens. It’s not that he is unbeatable, but he showed some really good form this year and he’s the one to watch. Do you still feel the pressure of being a former world champion?
Van Lierde: Of course you feel pressure but I think I can handle it quite well. I showed it last year and the year before, in 2012 I was third, and everyone in your environment is expecting
you to win it—and I could win it, so that was great. When you look at last year as naked result, I was 8th, but the way I raced, I was in second place until 30K into the marathon and I was still racing with the best guys. I’m one of them, and anything can happen on Saturday. That was really important coming back to this race with only an 8th place, that’s not good, but in the end if you evaluate everything you can see that it’s still there. In terms of stress, I think I have it under control. And for me, it’s good that they’re talking a lot about those two Germans. I like to be the underdog. Did winning change your enjoyment of the sport?
Van Lierde: Not at all. In terms of motivation, that last mile or two in Kona, you still remember them. To motivate me, it was a lot easier than it was before. You feel like you want to chase that again and you know how it feels, so that’s even better than imagining how it should feel. I’m still motivated and want to continue for a couple of years. I don’t feel “old” yet—I’m 36, I’m not the youngest one, but I still have a couple of years for a good shot at winning the race. What’s the smartest plan of attack for doing well here?
Van Lierde: Racing your own race is easy to say, but that’s never going to happen because there are so many things that happen during a race. It’s making the right decision at the right time. Should I react or should I not? Should I push harder or not? There are so many things that will happen, and I just concentrate on what I can control and the rest—the weather, competitors—if you can’t control it, don’t try to control it. Look for the good points. Don’t concentrate on the bad because you can’t help what goes wrong.

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Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.