The Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team has revealed its full 2014 line-up. Corinne Abraham, Bart Aernouts, Liz Blatchford, Dirk Bockel, Will Clarke, Helle Frederiksen, Sofie Goos, Romain Guillaume, Ronnie Schildknecht and Axel Zeebroek will compete for Uplace-BMC, starting with this Sunday’s Ironman 70.3 South Africa. These 10 world-class long distance triathletes have already collected 39 Ironman titles, 75 Ironman podium finishes and 7 top-10 spots in the Ironman Hawaii. “Last year, we announced our ambition to become the most successful professional team in the sport. We have worked very hard to set up a professional structure and expert support, and most importantly, to attract the talent that makes this ambitious goal a realistic one,” said Team Manager Bob De Wolf.
In 2013, Uplace and BMC Switzerland announced their plans to set up an international triathlon team. Based on the success of the all-Belgian Uplace Pro Triathlon Team (12 Ironman wins and 19 Ironman top-three finishes in 2011-2013), the two companies believe that only the support and structure of a professional team can help triathletes reach and maintain a place among the sport’s elite. Uplace Chairman Bart Verhaeghe commented, “Triathlon is improving and professionalizing rapidly. There is only room at the top for those who can dedicate themselves exclusively to their sport and to continuous improvement.” BMC Switzerland has an extensive track record in team cycling with the BMC Racing Team and the BMC MTB Team. In triathlon, BMC Switzerland only sponsored individual athletes, until now. The move to a team approach is a significant one for BMC Switzerland. “Triathlon will become a team sport, it is only a question of time. We want to be at the forefront of that movement and lead it,” said Andy Rihs, chairman and co-owner of BMC Switzerland.
In December 2013, the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team confirmed that Belgian athletes Bart Aernouts, Axel Zeebroek and Sofie Goos would make the transition from the Uplace team to the new international project. “We are proud that Uplace as a Belgian company can play a meaningful, trendsetting role in international triathlon. But we are even more pleased that Belgian talent will be an important part of this global project,” said Verhaeghe. Team manager Bob De Wolf emphasized that the three had earned their spot on the team on the Ironman course. “Bart, Axel and Sofie have worked hard and delivered outstanding results. That is why they are here today.”
Today, Corinne Abraham, Liz Blatchford, Dirk Bockel, Will Clarke, Helle Frederiksen, Romain Guillaume and Ronnie Schildknecht were finally able to reveal they are also part of the team. With almost 40 Ironman titles between them, this group of big names and high potentials is excited about racing as Uplace-BMC athletes.
Corinne Abraham (UK) celebrated the biggest victory of her career in 2013, winning the Ironman Melbourne: “I am absolutely delighted to be a part of the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team and I think that it is a fantastic opportunity to be able to work within such a professional and supportive team structure. The experience and expertise that the team have available will be invaluable to the development and performance of the triathletes on the team and I’m excited to see what the future brings for us all!
Bart Aernouts (Belgium), winner of the 2013 Ironman 70.3 South Africa and St. Pölten and European champion duathlon: “I’m happy to be a member of a team that is so clear in its ambitions and desire to improve. I also see this as a sign that the team appreciates my results so far. After meeting my new teammates at our training camp in Lanzarote and spending two weeks with them, I’m even more enthousiastic! We will push each other to some outstanding performances in 2014.”
Liz Blatchford (Australia) started the 2013 Ironman Hawaii as a rookie and ended it with a 3rd place. She also claimed the 2013 Ironman Cairns and Ironman 70.3 Busselton titles: “I’m truly excited. Everything about this team is so professional with the very best equipment and support. I really believe that working with the team is a huge step to help me achieve my goals in triathlon.”
Dirk Bockel (Luxembourg) finished in the top-10 in the Ironman Hawaii four times in the last five years. In 2013, he also won the Challenge Roth: “It is a very exciting time for me. I finally found the set-up I was always hoping and looking for: a real professional team with great guys and even friends in it. This will help me to produce more wins than in the past and I am sure that success is the only logical consequence of this opportunity given to me by the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team. I can’t wait to start my season having that kind of support network around me.”
Will Clarke (UK) wrapped up 2013, his first year as a long distance triathlete, with a 10th place in the World Championships Ironman 70.3 Las Vegas and a second place in the 70.3 races in St. Croix and Lanzarote: “I’m super happy and thrilled to be a member of the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team and I can’t wait for the start. Right from the beginning, the organization and professionalism is second to non with big name athletes, staff and sponsors every athlete dreams of working with. I’m proud to be a member and I’m sure that between us all, with the support we have, we can have a great future and take triathlon to the next level.”
Helle Frederiksen (Denmark) comes off a strong 2013 that included victories in the Ironman 70.3 races of San Juan and Miami: “Knowing I am part of the greatest, most professional triathlon team ever assembled in the history of the sport, is one of my proudest sporting achievements to date. It is a very humbling feeling to be selected and part of such an amazing set-up.”
Sofie Goos (Belgium), winner of the 2013 Ironman 70.3 Luxembourg: “I feel privileged to have witnessed the growth and success of the Uplace team. I am excited about the continuation of that journey with the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon team. The team is bigger and even more professional, but it is also a fun and solid group.”
Romain Guillaume (France) broke through on the international level in 2012. That year he won both the full and half Ironman races in Mont-Tremblant: “I’m really happy and honored to represent the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team. Training and racing with the world’s best athletes will hopefully help me make further progress and get closer to the top athletes in Hawaii. I am extremely motivated! Everything is in place for us as athletes to improve: excellent quality materials, training camps, support staff. The atmosphere in the team is truly exceptional. We all work very hard but in a very good atmosphere. It’s great!”
Ronnie Schildknecht (Switzerland) made it a great 2013 with his 7th consecutive Ironman Switzerland title and a victory in the Ironman South Africa: “I am delighted to join such a professional team and I am sure this approach as a whole will help me to improve on many levels.”
Axel Zeebroek (Belgium), self-assured after winning the 2013 Ironman 70.3 Luxembourg and the Mallorca OD triathlon: “I am happy and proud to be a part of this beautiful adventure that started three years ago. BMC Switzerland’s commitment shows that the hard work of the Uplace-athletes and staff has been very professional the past three years. It makes me very confident at the start the new season.”
To become the best in triathlon
The Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team is outspoken in its goal to become the most successful long distance triathlon team. Team manager Bob De Wolf is clear in his comments: “Our number one ambition is for all our athletes to qualify for and to be competitive in the World Championships Ironman in Hawaii and/or the World Championships Ironman 70.3. The ultimate goal is to win the Ironman Hawaii. Throughout the season, the team aims for victories in Ironman, Challenge and other key long distance races. We want to be the best team in the world and we want to measure this in results: we want to win.”
Structure & support
Uplace and BMC Switzerland have committed to the Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team for a minimum of two years with a clear intention to continue afterwards. Owner and name sponsor Uplace is responsible for the operational management of the team. Its five dedicated departments – operations, marketing, athletic, bike-technical and medical – provide the athletes and their coaches with coordinated professional support. Co-sponsor BMC Switzerland supplies the team bikes (the BMC TM01 is the team time trial bike), on-site race support, and research and development to optimize bike performance in races and in training.
A range of partners supports the Uplace-BMC athletes: Shimano/Pro bike components, Pearl Izumi race and training clothing, Lululemon casual clothing, Continental tubulars, Giro helmets, Tacx bike trainers and drink bottles, fi’zi:k saddles, Sailfish wetsuits, Compressport compression products, Sands Beach Active for warm weather training, BMW Le Couter, Adidas Eyewear, Bakala Academy sports-scientific support, Etixx sports nutrition, Best Swim Centre for an annual Mallorca training camp, Sportoase pool and gym facilities, and Assumax insurance.