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© Bert Stephani
Will Clarke: ready for 2014
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Monday 20th January 2014


Tags  Uplace  |  Uplace-BMC  |  Will Clarke


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2008 Beijing Olympian Will Clarke (www.will-clarke.com) made the move from ITU to longer distance racing in 2013. It was "a big learning year" he admits, but leaves him relishing his second season in this format of racing - a year he will start this coming weekend at Ironman 70.3 South Africa.

Will has plenty of reasons to be cheerful too, with his first child born two months ago, training going well, motivation high and the backing of a new sponsor, having today been announced as part of the 2014 Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team.

I asked Will about this new sponsorship, what he learned from 2013, his plans for 2014... and why Sebastian Kienle was the athlete that most impressed him last year. He also confirms that he will be making his Ironman debut later this year...


Before we talk triathlon, big congratulations to you (and Clare!) on the birth of your first child, Freddy, exactly two months ago. How have you found adjusting to the ‘father' role?!

Thanks, we're both so stoked with him. I've loved the first few months being a father and Clare has been amazing because unfortunately I've been away for almost four weeks of it on various training camps. I'm really excited to spend some more time with them when we're more settled in South Africa.

Will Clarke  ©Bert StephaniYour first year at the 70.3 distance, and you earned two second places (St. Croix and Lanzarote), tenth in Vegas at the 70.3 World Champs, alongside some less pleasing results (fourth at Wimbleball for example), how do you assess your year?

I think whether I liked it or not, 2013 ended up being a big learning year. I was hoping for some big results from the off as you do, but in reality I wasn't ready for it at all and was fairly clueless about this kind of racing. I found it hugely different to what I was used to. I was pretty confident because I was fit most of the year and I'm obviously taking some good swim and run speed over from my ITU racing, but I kept on getting caught out in races by making all kinds of school boy errors, but the biggest struggle was getting comfortable on my TT bike. I switched to a Cervélo P5 halfway through the year and that sorted me out!

I'm sure you'll have reviewed how 2013 went, and what to focus on in 2014 – what do you think are the key areas you need to address to improve further this coming year?

By the end of 2013 I was getting the hang of this kind of racing and this winter I've mostly picked up where I left off at the end of last year. It's all coming together nicely because now I know what I'm doing, and also that whole year of long distance racing is now in the legs, and a year on I feel much more conditioned and stronger going into my second year. I'm just focusing on moving everything forward, keeping the momentum with the cycling which is going really great now and moving on my run to where it used to be, so I'm able to win races I hope. It just takes time so I'm just trying to be patient and keep learning and improving.

Having spent most of your career as an ITU/draft-legal focused racer, what were the biggest surprises you found when making that change in 2013? Were there areas where perhaps you had expectations which proved completely wrong – and who of the 70.3 athletes you've raced has impressed you the most?

Will Clarke  ©Bert StephaniI think the biggest surprise was how strong and relentless these guys are on the bike and also how conditioned they are to run fast when they are so tired! One of the biggest mistakes I kept on making was I'd hammer the first half of the bike I guess at an ambitious pace, but one I thought I would have a chance of holding. I'd have a decent gap on some massive names thinking I was a hero... but then at 50k they would come smashing past me! I think most people really try to back-end the bike ride so they're at least as good in the second half as they were in the first.

Seb Kienle is probably the most impressive guy I've raced so far, we met for the first time in the World 70.3 Champs in Vegas. He came out of the swim a few minutes down on all of us, he then rode up to us and straight past on his own putting in almost three minutes, backing it up with one of the fastest run splits! I'm sure he'll win Hawaii soon, he's very impressive!

With your move, previously you would have had support (financial / coaching / medical & related) as part of a top Federation squad, to then being largely ‘on your own'. Triathlon is a sport that requires a huge time investment but can be very difficult for Pro's financially – was that a difficult transition to make?

After the Olympics had come and gone and I decided that I wanted to make a move to Long Distance racing, I lost most of my sponsors which was not leaving me in a great position to start a big move over, that's for sure.

You're quite well looked after by British Triathlon and it's a safe place to be so long as you're racing reasonably well but I wanted a change so I had to take the gamble and leave that behind. It was difficult because in the beginning, most people don't have any support at all and Triathlon is a very expensive sport as a professional. I think that a big year on the circuit can cost around £20,000 so you've not got long till you're bust! I just backed myself and believed the whole time in my ability. You always hope for that breakthrough performance in a race or that you get picked up by a sponsor that's interested in you and luckily, I got that opportunity and I couldn't be happier.

I think in general you have to make sensible decisions on what you think you can do and the best way to do it. It's easier to do what I did if you have been through the ITU pathway before.

Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlob Team ©Bert Stephani

You've just been announced as one of the 10 athlete Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlon Team. How did that relationship come about, as a British athlete on a Belgium-based squad?

Yes, I'm really happy to finally be able to announce that! Uplace used to be a Belgian only team but for 2014 onwards they decided to make it international. Uplace and BMC came together with the motivation to create the World's best Triathlon team, like their road bike and mountain bike team. I started speaking to them in February and after some good results over half ironman, I went to Belgium for some lab testing and luckily they signed me up. It's a European team for now and so far I'm massively impressed on the level of professionalism and support they have.

There are some great athletes on the team, primarily targeting 70.3 and Ironman racing – will you be doing training camps through the year with the team for example? How will being part of that squad help you with your 2014 goals?

Yes, everyone in the team has performed at a very high level already in their careers so between us we hope to bring in some awesome results over the next few years. We'll meet regularly throughout the year at races and team training camps so it's all very involved. At each race the team manager will be present as well as mechanical support from BMC/Shimano. We're lucky enough to be working with some brilliant companies so we have top level equipment and we're also supported by the Bakala Academy so any testing or scientific support, we have that as well. They really have everything covered. We just got back from Lanzarote from our first team camp, it was brilliant having the whole team together for the first time. At the peak we had 30 people there!

Will Clarke on the BMC TMO1 ©Bert StephaniA new team also means a new bike sponsor in BMC – have your got your new steed yet… and how is it? I'm guessing you will be riding the timemachine TM01?

We've had our TM01's for a month now and what an awesome bike it is! I believe we have the best bike on the market now and not only that we have mechanical support at every race we enter so it will always be in peak condition. It is a fantastic looking bike, it performs brilliantly and fits like a dream plus it's the first time for me working with Di2.

On your website you have your career goal as “To be the first British Pro Male to win Ironman Worlds.” Is the 70.3 distance still the main focus for 2014, or do you plan to race an Ironman in 2014?

I certainly want to start pointing my career towards Kona as soon as possible, it's the pinnacle of our sport and my main motivation now. I'd love to give it go this year but I've agreed with my coach that the best path for me is to crack 70.3 racing first before graduating onto something even longer. The whole points qualifying system makes it complicated, so to get on the Kona 2015 start line I really need to get some points on the board at the end of this year. So yes, I want to do an Ironman at the end of 2014 so I can get to Kona!

Uplace-BMC Pro Triathlob Team ©Bert Stephani

I believe you will be returning to South Africa this coming weekend for your first race of the season? Any expectations for that (other than staying on course!), so early in the year?

I really hope I can do something in South Africa this year. I actually feel really good in training at the moment and I'm stronger then I was at any point last year. I trained hard till now, treated my body really well over the past few months and I think I'm getting an extra boost from Freddy and also being part of Uplace-BMC. I think it'd be nice to start my first year with the team with a good result!

Any other major changes or plans for 2014 we should know about?

Not really, I'm really excited for the season and I hope everyone has a great winter in preparation for theirs.

If you would like to keep an eye on progress please check my website www.will-clarke.com or my twitter feed @theclarke.

Will Clarke on the BMC TMO1 ©Bert Stephani


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