Despite the stunning field at the recent Abu Dhabi Triathlon, Frederik Van Lierde managed to earn a 5th place and a good pay check. The Belgian Pro also has some other nice results to his name. One other thing is also certain, he isn't related to Ironman World Champion Luc Van Lierde, that last name is just relatively common in Belgium.
Slowtwitch: Frederik, are you back in Belgium?
Frederik: Yes, I’m back in my hometown Menen, in Belgium! Nothing better than being here in our own house with my wife Sofie and my 2 sons Aaron (5 years old) and Simon (almost 3 years old).
ST: How often do you have to tell folks that you are not the brother or cousin of Luc van Lierde?
Frederik: Since I started in 1997! Every single time I go to a race I get that question, and even several times! Now, in my 13th season as triathlete I still get it. But, it’s good for me, having the same name as one of the best triathletes ever in the world!
ST: Maybe in a few years you will be so famous that people will ask Luc if he is your brother.
Frederik: I'm ambitious and I'm convinced that I'll have some great performances in the future but when I have a look at what he has done in his whole career ... it'll be difficult to even get on his heels. Great respect for him!
ST: You had a great race in Abu Dhabi. Are you happy with your 5th place?
Frederik: 5th place is a great result for me, especially being so close to the top triathletes in front of me.
ST: Late during the bike you managed to get away from the other leaders. Was that part of a plan?
Frederik: That wasn’t really a plan. I felt so good on the bike, so I thought I should give it a try! My first attempt was around km mark 160, but didn’t work. It would have been an opportunity to start the run with a bigger lead. After 180km, my second attempt, worked. Only 45” was not enough to hold on the run …
ST: How did you feel during the run?
Frederik: The beginning was hard to find the good pace. My second lap felt better and was faster than the first one. First time my run felt so good after a long bike ride!
ST: Were you surprised that Rutger wasn’t further in front and or near you?
Frederik: Of course I was! It's difficult for me to talk about his race, the only thing I can say is, if you have a bad day in our sport you can't hide! I was preparing Abu Dhabi together with him in the last weeks, in South Africa. I can tell you, he was stronger than me!
ST: Your 2nd place at the 2008 IMNZ was nice, would you consider it to be your best result to date?
Frederik: As a result I think IM NZ 2008, where I got 2nd, was fantastic as a debut on Ironman distance! In 2007 I became European champion LD ITU in my home country Belgium, and that was for me personally my best result. As best performance, I was never that close to the world’s top as I was now in Abu Dhabi! Ok, I was “only” 5th, but when you see the results and times … people inside the world of triathlon understand what I mean!
ST: New Orleans is next on your calendar. How did you decide on that race?
Frederik: My first plan was only doing 70.3 St. Croix. But as it is a long travel for me, I decided to do 2 races in the US in a short period. New Orleans 70.3 is just 2 weeks in front of St. Croix, so perfect for me to combine those 2 races! Makes it also easier to travel to the Virgin Islands. I’ll train there for 2 weeks, staying with the Holt family. I stayed there twice, very, very nice people!
ST: What else is on your schedule for 2010?
Frederik: I have pointed 3 races for 2010: Abu Dhabi – Ironman Nice – Ironman Hawaii. These are my main goals. Of course I first need to qualify in Nice before I can go to Kona!
The other races are: New Orleans 70.3 – St. Croix 70.3 – Belgian Championship LD in Leuven – Antwerp 70.3 – Knokke and Ieper (2 OD non drafting races in Belgium).
ST: What do you think about the new Ironman Pro passport?
Frederik: Till now I can only tell you it cost me $750. Haven't seen any difference till now! I hope I get to see it in the coming season/races!
ST: Any feelings on the 8% prize money cutoff and the 5% Kona slot distribution?
Frederik: I find it to be a good rule. If you want to keep the level of pro athletes high enough, this is a good rule!
ST: With whom do you mostly train with?
Frederik: Most of the time I train alone! Pieter Timmermans (trainer of Rutger Beke, Tine Deckers and myself) and Ronald Gaastra (swimming) make my training schedule. On training camps I most of the time join Rutger and Tine and train with them for a couple of weeks.
ST: Please describe a typical hard training week for us.
Frederik: Since this winter, I spend a lot more time in the swimming pool. So a hard week includes 6 swims of 6000m: total 36km. On the bike training volume in a hard week is about 500 to 600km. In a hard training week, running is about 80 to 90 km. So in total a hard week is about 30 to 35h of training!
ST: Are you sure you putting enough training time in? 30-35 hours sounds very light. :-)
Frederik: That's a question I'll send to my trainer! No, we found out on tests that I have a rather small engine. So better build it up a little bit softer. In the coming years we'll bring some more training time in per week.
ST: Tell us about your sponsors.
Frederik: My biggest, most important sponsor is the Belgian Army! They give me the possibility to do my sport as a professional. Without that contract, and the salary that comes with it, it would be impossible for me.
Next to the army I am in the ‘Leie Triathlon Team Latem’, one of the best teams in Belgium. Main sponsor there is “Oil Service”. The team is perfect for me as they arrange everything from clothes to bikes and shoes for me. We all ride Cervélo bikes (me P4 and S3), have Nike clothes and shoes, Bioraces bike clothes, Zipp wheels, … Other main sponsors of the team are IRS and AGIP.
Next to the army and the team I also have a few regional sponsors. Most important one of them is “Frank Vereecke Bakery Products”.
ST: Can you explain to our readers what that Belgian Army sponsorship/support means. This is not very common everywhere.
Frederik: The Belgian army recruits young athletes from different sports. We do basic training for 2 months and after that we can spend all our time in our sport. We need to be 4 hours a week at the base, so that's nothing. You get paid as a soldier. And the main goal is to create positive exposure in media! So good performances in sports, triathlon, are a perfect way to attract the media! More on mil.be/sport
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Frederik: My interest goes to cycling! I live not far from all the little steep hills the cyclists have to deal with in “Tour de Flanders”. So now it’s that time of the year again!
ST: Which foods do you like and dislike?
Frederik: I like Italian food with a good glass of wine, perfect! I don’t know why, but since I was a kid I hated chicory and mushrooms!
ST: What about Belgian beer? Which ones would you recommend to our readers?
Frederik: Difficult question as I am not a big beer drinker. The ones I like, but only drunk a few times, are Leffe and Duvel. Especially that last one needs some training before you can drink a 6-pack of it!
ST: Your music taste?
Frederik: I don’t buy or download music. If I listen to music, it’s just what they’re playing on the radio! Boring answer, but that’s the way it is!
ST: What about books?
Frederik: I’m not a big reader … Most of the books are about sports men who have written a book about their own experiences. The last one was about a Belgian Olympic swimmer, Stefaan Maene. ‘100m tegenslag’ is the title. ‘Tegenslag’ in English means ‘adversity’. So a free translation would be ‘100m adversity’.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Frederik: I hope I’m still a professional triathlete! My main goals for the (hopefully near) future are winning a Ironman and making a top-10 in Hawaii! I believe I can still make a lot of progress, I’m only 30 now, so my strongest years are coming up now!
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Frederik: I’m married to Sofie since December 2002. 2002 was one of my best years on Olympic Distance, Belgian Champion and Vice-European champion U23. In the end of the season I wasn’t lucky and crashed seriously on the bike in World Cup Nice. Serious concussion, coma, since then my sense of smell has disappeared! So now it’s almost 8 years I live without smell … Not too bad, could have been a lot worse!