The Specialized Triathlon team has been running for about a year under the guidance of Bobby Behan and has given the brand quite a bit to cheer. For 2011 even more fire power has been added and we talked with the lanky Irish guy about what was and what we can expect from the Specialized Factory Team.
Slowtwitch: Are you ready for another year of triathlon excitement?
Bobby: For sure Herbert, 2010 flew by and it’s so cool to be back in the triathlon scene after a few years away! I love the community and the sport, plus the annual open water swims in Kona are always a bonus.
Abu Dhabi is going to be a good kick-start. The sport needs more long course events outside Kona with stacked fields.
ST: There will be seemingly quite a bit of firepower at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Any thoughts on who will take the crown?
Bobby: Oh you are backing me into a corner now Herbert with three of our athletes on the men's line - you'll get me in trouble. First of all I have not seen the women's start–list, so I can't comment here, except that I think Julie will be tough to beat if she's in.
In the men's race I know Crowie, Macca, Rasmus and Jordan are on the line, but I don't know the details for the rest of the field. I also don't know much from the Crowie corner. I think Rasmus can take it! He's been in Playitas for a long consistent period with his family, no major engagements that I know of, unlike Macca who's schedule has been insane, so my money is in the Danish Corner, although he'll have a tough fight. If Macca wins, which he is more than capable of it'll be very impressive. I cannot believe the amount of talks and engagements Macca has been doing for charity, while performing at top level. As I said he is a great ambassador and does so much good for the sport. Jordan and Macca could do something big on the bike – now that would be interesting! We are hoping for a 1-2-3 – HAHA.
ST: It has been about a year now with the Specialized Tri team and you must be quite happy with what happened so far.
Bobby: What a year! There’s no doubt that the team’s roster was strong entering 2010, but to win on so many levels was very cool. It was a year we won’t forget in a hurry.
I say on so many levels - because the goals were deeper than simply race results. After four years working in the mountain arena we really wanted to bring the Factory Team Elements as seen on the MTB World Cup Circuit to triathlon. I don’t think our athletes believed the ideas of bringing MTB World Cup Mechanics, a masseuse and big trucks / tech support areas on signing would actually become a reality.
Wildflower in California and the Madrid ITU World Championship Series in Spain were our first attempts at bringing Specialized Factory Racing to triathlon. Having the whole truck present giving our pro’s the support that a pro truly deserves, while providing the age groupers with neutral race support is something we are very proud of. Those events were our benchmarks. We learned and adapted from there throughout the season. I think the last event in 2010 was IM Arizona, so all is all it was a busy year.
ST: With Macca's Ironman title, the ITU crown of Javier Gomez, the XTERRA Worlds of Conrad Stoltz, Jodie Swallow's 70.3 title and Lisa Norden's Sprint Worlds - your athletes pretty much grabbed what was there to grab.
Bobby: In a way it was almost like a fairytale. With a tough bike course, we knew Lisa Norden had a great chance at sprint worlds in Lausanne. Lisa didn’t disappoint adding another great victory to her Hamburg ITU World Championship Series win. Lisa also showed what the ITU girls are capable of at the Lifetime Events in LA and Dallas.
Javier’s Title was a long fought out battle. In Seoul he struggled, Madrid was better, but he was still not there. From Hamburg on we saw what Javi is capable of. London was a very impressive victory.
For Conrad “The Caveman” getting his S Works Epic 29er was like a kid’s Christmases all coming at once! It’s the bike he’s been eagerly awaiting, which he made known to all on the Maui bike leg. “The Caveman” is one hard competitor and with his dad’s illness that gave “The Caveman” even more reasons to rock Maui. We go back a long, long way and I know his dad Gert (fondly known as “Tarzan”) very well so for me it was also a special day to see Conrad earn his 4th World title & in doing so making history.
Macca!! Words can’t describe the emotions of that day. Class, pure class! I’ve been a fan of Macca since my early age-group days - so working with the man in person is truly special. He’s a massive character & one that easily fills a room. Off the race course the pace he sets with his charitable work is very admirable. He truly is one of triathlon’s great ambassadors.
I met Jodie many years ago when she trained in Stellenbosch, South Africa & can recollect coaches saying that she posted impressive stats in the lab. Specialized UK signed Jodie via a local store Sigma Sport, so they must take credit in Jodie being part of the program. That 70.3 Worlds victory was the icing on the cake & dominance on her part!
We also won two World Titles in Downhill MTB (men’s senior and junior), a silver and bronze in the men’s cross-country MTB so all in all 2010 was a special year for the MTB and Triathlon Programs.
ST: Any disappointments?
Bobby: HAHA!!! Airplane food – does that count?
There are always disappointments in racing. It goes part and parcel with success. My heart sank for Rasmus Henning in Kona. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. It was just one of those days. Rasmus is one of the soundest people I have worked with and although he flew in Roth with a 7:52 I don’t think we have seen the best from him yet!
ST: How surprised were you about the Jordan Rapp comeback in Arizona?
Bobby: I was surprised about two months before Arizona to see Jordan race LA! From LA, Jordan & I spoke on the phone a bit. He gave me a little insight into his sessions (top secret at the time!!), so I knew he was going to crack the top echelon come Arizona. Huge respect to Jordan – it takes a lot of character and resolve to comeback as he did.
ST: When did you actually first hear about the accident?
Bobby: I heard rumor in the office, but nothing concrete, so I phoned Simon Whitfield. Simon & Jordan go back a long way, so I knew he’d be the right person to call. Simon kept me informed throughout.
The roads are getting more and more crazy out there. It’s partly why, given the choice, I am found on my MTB these days. Only recently a member of our HTC Highroad women’s team Karla Swart died while training in South Africa.
ST: The Karla Swart loss was indeed very tragic and it makes us more aware how delicate the balance really is.
Bobby: Our grip on life is very precious. All we have is time Herbert, we must spend it wisely doing the things we love. The loss of any young athlete is very tragic – in times like these you just don’t know what to say. In October my girlfriend spent time with Karla at the Commonwealth Games. In December Karla was at the HTC Highroad Team Training Camp at our HQ in California – it hits home when you get to know somebody that well.
ST: On a bit lighter note, you added a few folks to the team for 2011 and Jan Frodeno is apparently one of them.
Bobby: Specialized are super committed to racing, I’m very competitive at heart (!!) and therefore striving hard to build the best program possible. There are a couple of changes for 2011, which we are super excited about!
Excellence breeds excellence, words from an old friend! With Frodo and Tim Don entering the team alongside Simon and Javi it’s definitely going to raise the bar, which is the same story we have in the MTB program. Frodo, Tim & I go back a long way, so I also knew it’s going to be super easy to work with them and I think collectively we will do great things. They are both super proactive, which is important. Each of the four lads have a great shot in London – that’s the goal and having a local Londoner in Tim is special.
Paula Findlay was in my mind the sensation of 2010. Her results in both London and Kitzbuhel were impressive. I had not intended to add more to the program, but could see that with support at the events Paula could do even better. The support was one of the main reasons why Paula was super eager to join. Barbara Riveros also had a massive breakthrough in 2010 so it was inevitable that she would graduate to the full team. These girls will certainly push Lisa, which is great!
The ITU Program is big, but we also have serious depth in the long distance team with Macca, Rasmus, Jordan & Philip, plus The Caveman and Dan on the XTERRA Side.
There are other reasons for a strong ITU Program. Many of the top Ironman Athletes, especially men, come from the ITU. That’s not to say that this is the primary focus because it’s not. Each component, short course, long course and XTERRA have primary focuses. I reckon Frodo and Simon may never do an Ironman. Javi might but you never know. Lisa I think would be dangerous in Kona, but it may not interest her. There’s no pressure from our side on what direction an athlete chooses to pursue, but being involved at all levels of the sport, means we are committed across the board and should changes in direction occur, we can be part of that.
ST: Are you expecting even more results?
Bobby: 2010 was definitely very special, of course we’d always like to do better, but I also know how hard it is to win Kona, to have a consistent season to take the ITU World Title, the Olympic Games only comes around once every four years, where many favorites historically have failed and Maui is full of sharp rocks (ask The Caveman)!! One can’t take these titles for granted.
In saying that we are doing our best to give our athletes the best support possible and in doing so hoping to give each of them a successful platform to launch from. We know that we have a strong team, but there are also superb athletes on the start-lines! The Brownlee brothers are bloody talented, Emma Snowsill runs like the wind, Crowie, Chrissie, Dibens, the Raelert Brothers and so on – they are each seriously strong. That’s what makes racing so exciting. It would be boring if the outcome was certain! I’ve goose pimples before every start!
ST: Is there an internal competition with the Specialized folks who handle the road effort?
Bobby: To be honest I’d say no. I think Simone (Road Global Sports Marketing Manager) and I are are each too busy! I did fight hard to get triathlon to the forefront of people’s minds, but that is definitely there now & embedded in the Specialized culture, which is important. The Specialized lunch ride is legendary – now there’s a lunchtime swim group! How cool is that!
I do give the MTB’ers shit in a joking way and vice versa! Conrad beat Burry Stander in a local SA MTB Race a couple of months back, so I always say hey Kid (Burry’s nickname) what’s it feel like been beaten by a man in lycra!! We all know Burry would destroy Conrad in a World Cup, but I’m a typical Irishman, meaning I’m always stirring the pot! HAHA!
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Bobby: We’ve been brainstorming lately on what to call the program! We’ve always referred to the cross-country MTB Team as Specialized Factory Racing. This has implied more than a team since those these athletes are deeply involved in R&D, marketing & sales initiatives, race support presence and so on. The triathletes are linked to Specialized on a similar level. Rather than separating the programs, any athlete on the global program be it XC MTB, Free-Ride, Downhill or Triathlon is a member of Specialized Factory Racing! Easy to remember!!!
Finally, to move the needle and step things up a notch we have partnered across the entire program with Zipp and SRAM. Albeit for two existing deals (Simon on wheels and groupsets and Javier on wheels) the entire team is going to be running SRAM Red and Zipp Wheels. It means that we can have spare parts and different wheel options available to the athletes at all of the key events. This moves the program closer and closer to Pro Tour Road.