Frederik Van Lierde won the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon and Ironman Nice in 2011 and will return to the UAE in March to defend his title. But the fast Belgian is no longer flying under the radar.
Slowtwitch: Frederik, talk about your schedule.
Frederik: The next couple weeks I am at Club La Santa to train and then I have a bit of recovery at home. Then I go to Calpe, Spain and train there for 2 more weeks and then I have maybe 2 days at home before I head to Abu Dhabi - my first race.
ST: Do you go often to Club La Santa?
Frederik: This is actually my first time at Club La Santa. Most of the winters I like to go to Calpe in Spain. It is really a good place to do some kilometers on the bike, which is quite difficult in Belgium because of the weather. It is not that far, actually only a 1.5 hour flight, coming to the Canary Islands is actually 4 hours.
ST: But in Calpe you have to deal with all the road teams training there.
Frederik: That is actually nice too. Back in December I almost rode with every team, just sitting on the wheels and doing some easy kilometers. It is fun.
ST: Are the big Pro road teams pretty welcoming?
Frederik: The Belgian teams I rode with welcomed me and talked to me and I was able to ride with them. I have a lot of respect for what they are doing, and I think they respect what we are doing.
ST: There will be quite a few more expectations this year on you as you are the defending champion of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Frederik: They only thing I can do is concentrating on myself and doing the very best preparation. I'll have the best bike that exists, so that is a good thing. But I don't worry too much about expectations. I won it already once and if I could win it again that would be great. I'll just give my best.
ST: Does this distance really suit you?
Frederik: I think it suits me. The first year I was 5th with a late break on the bike and last year I had the perfect race. It is hot but it is not as humid as Hawaii or too dry. So yes, it suits me.
ST: Do you think more eyes will be on you this year?
Frederik: I already had that experience in Nice. Of course in Nice we didn't have the 30 best guys in the world, but Zamora had won the race 5 times and when I came to the start everyone expected me to beat him. I think I can handle that quite well though. I just keep to my own plan and concentrate on that.
ST: What is next after Abu Dhabi?
Frederik: After Abu Dhabi I am going directly to Australia to prepare for Ironman Melbourne. We concentrated a bit on March to start the season, then I have a little time off before my next big goal which is Ironman Nice. Later in the season then Hawaii of course. In fact we started the season a couple weeks later than last year to keep more freshness for Kona.
ST: Talking about Kona and really the rest of this year, it seems that you have become kind of a star in the Cervelo triathlete lineup now.
Frederik: I am not really a star, but we talked to them just before Kona and with my results from the last season they really believed in me. I am a bit younger than most of the guys, I am only 32 and the guys who were at the front in Hawaii are a little older than I. They believe in my future and that is why we made an agreement over the next few years.
ST: You have been on a Cervelo the last few years, but I guess that was handled through a regional distributor and not Cervelo directly.
Frederik: My Oil Service Team was working with the Benelux distributor and I got my Cervelo bikes the last 4 years through them. But now it is directly with Cervelo.
ST: In Kona your family was with you. How often does that happen?
Frederik: Last year was a bit different. I had promised my wife if I am first or second in Abu Dhabi then I would have the money to bring them, and then I fulfilled my promise. But normally they only travel with me when they are on holidays. My wife is a teacher so she has the same vacation as the kids, so if it is possible we go together. But for racing it is almost impossible.
ST: Do your kids wonder where you are and why you are not at home?
Frederik: Simon is 4-years old and Aaron 7, but when Aaron was 5 he had a lot of difficulties with me leaving. So now they kind of understand what dad is doing and thus it is easier now. I am lucky that Skype exists and now I see them almost every day. They understand also that I have to train a lot.
ST: Any chance your kids will turn into triathletes?
Frederik: In my view they can do whatever they want. Aaron has tried volleyball and dancing and currently he is swimming and running. For me it is important they do something and get a taste of some sports, and then they can do whatever they want. If they don't like sports and prefer music that is fine too. As long as they like it and love it, that is the most important thing for me.
ST: Well thank you for the chat.
Frederik: It is my pleasure.