Before he went off radar, Belgian Frederik Van Lierde, last year’s third-place finisher in Kona sat with LAVA to answer a few pre-race questions.
LAVA: Was training status quo compared to last year?
Van Lierde: Well, I think I was able to handle a little more training. Every year since I’ve started working with (two-time Kona champ )Luc (Van Lierde), I feel I can absorb some more training. Not a lot, but some more. That’s the feeling of getting stronger without overdoing it.
LAVA: How was your recent block training in Phoenix, Ariz.?
Van Lierde: My long rides were in Fountain Hills and Scottsdale. It’s a nice region to ride. But my hardest stuff was in the Pyrenees the end of August and the beginning of September. It was a three-week altitude run that was really hard, then it was fine-tuning in Phoenix. It worked well.
LAVA: Did you train with anyone, in either the Pyrenees or in Phoenix?
Van Lierde: Sounds boring, but I train alone.
LAVA: The one change to your bike is the use of a Berner lower jockey on your rear derailleur. Just one more piece of the puzzle?
Van Lierde: I’m just looking to optimize my bike. It’s a really fast bike, of course. I have some people around my like my osteopath Friction Facts say it saves two or three watts. If it’s free, hey. I’m just looking for setup on my bike that is best for my race.
LAVA: That seems to be the trend among athletes; if the fitness is equal, fighting for a watt or two through gear is a worthwhile effort it seems, from aero apparel and wheels to low friction drivetrains.
Van Lierde: It’s quite important .There’s nobody that’s a lot better than the rest of us, so we’re all looking for the details. They’re decisions you have to make as an athlete. There’s the proof that it’s faster, but then there’s the question to do it or not.
LAVA: A lot of pundits are making suggestions that Eneko is a favorite, or certainly a past champ like Pete Jacobs or Craig Alexander. Or a guy like Sebastian Kienle or Andreas Raelert. All smart choices. Although you took Raelert to the mat to finish third here last year, not a lot of picks for the win, at least in North American media. Is this to your advantage? It seemed that third last year was a breakthrough for you.
Van Lierde: It was. Two years ago my best finish was 14th. Getting third last year and battling for that second place, it gave me a lot of confidence. I also look at the fact that I’ve done less Ironman races this year. Last year I did Melbourne and France.
Really, I think the build has been perfect. If there’s one year I can really make it, I think it can be this year.
LAVA: Your successful title defense in Nice was equally as uplifting I reckon?
Van Lierde: I was really proud of that race. I think maybe I’m not in the best position to say this, but I think it was one of the best Ironman races this year; Bart (Aernauts) and I had a great battle. And to go 8:08 on that course? I don’t think the Americans don’t understand that 8:08 on this course is… difficult. And I bettered it by 13 minutes over last year. I didn’t believe it when I crossed and saw it on the timer. My nutrition, tactics worked out well. And Bart is a tough guy; I had to run a 2:42. It was a strong race for my confidence as well.
LAVA: How important is it to you to block out the final days just for you?
Van Lierde: I just think it’s important for me personally. You know me; you know I’m a really organized guy. If I know my agenda, that’s ok. But if things come between it, I get nervous. In training, it works like that, so this week, it works to meet with my sponsors, and you guys in the media….but it’s good for me to have my time before the race.