Interview with Bob de Wolf, Team Manager of UPlaceBMC Triathlon Team at Sands Beach Active, Lanzarote

What does it take to nurture, develop and manage one of the world’s most successful triathlon teams? As some of the biggest athlete names in triathlon pound the pool in the background at Sands Beach Active, we catch up with the UPlaceBMC Team Manager, Bob de Wolf, to find out more.

Hello Bob, great to meet you again. Tell us more about your role within the team.

Great to be back! I oversee all operational departments of the team – including legal, logistics, accounts, marketing, sports department (mechanics, physio, doctor), and coordinate it all so it runs smoothly.

How long have you been in this role?

This will be my third season. I started on 1st January 2013, and my very first day of work was right here at Sands Beach Active! The original intention was the take the existing Belgian team and turn it into a top international team for 2014. This was launched last year.

How did last year go? Tell us about what happened in 2014…

Last season was phenomenal. We wanted to be the best team in the world, to win races. We won 21 races and featured 45 times on the podium. This was across 10 athletes, which was an incredible achievement. We are exceptionally pleased with how the season turned out, with two European titles, an Asia-Pacific title and six top 10 placing at World Championships.

The idea has always been for us to be a sustainable team – we want to be able to give back to our sponsors, and we definitely achieved that in 2014 – we were one of the most covered topics in the press, and have received much positive feedback from our sponsors.

It’s certainly been an incredible season for you! What’s the plan for 2015?

The goal is to try and do as well as we did last year, but it’s a big goal, to win again! It’s a lot to live up to, but we want to be competing in the biggest races in the world – and to compete to win. The ultimate goal is to win Kona, or the 70.3 World Championships in Austria. To win at least one of the titles for the team as well as being the best team in the world again. It’s going to be extremely challenging!

Are you going to change anything to try and achieve this? What’s the strategy?

The structure we have set is working, with all the support the athletes need; mechanical, mental, physical support, all overseen by our Sports Director. We don’t plan to make big changes because all the important aspects are working, so it is a case of continuing with the good work. We may adapt a little bit here and there but the right people are working for us now, and it is well aligned with our philosophy of dedicated support.

In professional triathlon, athletes have historically received a bike, kit, and some finance, but nothing else. No backing. We have changed this and adopted a strategy similar to other professional teams (cycling, football etc) – by getting all the resources in place.

So you’re here in Lanzarote for a two week training camp at Sands Beach Resort. Why is it the best place for training?

Lanzarote is one of the best destinations in Europe. We are a European team so it suits us, and it’s an ideal training destination. It has almost guaranteed good weather, and also the cycling. Cycling is one of the key aspects of training and it is a phenomenal island for that kind of training.

Sands Beach Resort is such a great resort for the athletes. It offers an amazing competition pool, a gym for core and conditioning, great accommodation and food, and it’s also a peaceful environment. That’s quite important for the athletes too.

What will the next two weeks look like?

Training is all individual, as all the athletes have their own training programmes. There will be quite a bit of marketing activity too, lots of filming and photo shoots, and we will be recording the team video for 2015 along with some professional photography.

It’s an opportunity to create content throughout the season. This is really important for us because our clear vision, apart from being the world’s best triathlon team, is to be sustainable and to offer return for our sponsors, and plenty of visibility. Our sponsors can use the content, it’s why we have our own internal marketing team so we can work really collaboratively with the sponsors.

Have there been any changes in the team from 2014 to 2015?

The only change in the team is that this season we will have nine athletes. Axel left after four dedicated years with the team, as part of the original Belgian team – we felt he had reached the pinnacle of his career. Other than that, everything is in place for this season now.

What are the long term future plans for the team?

We are very open to expanding in partnerships, we feel we have a project which is now ready to attract sponsors outside of the sport. The sport is booming so for prospective sponsors it is a cheap time to get into triathlon (unlike cycling or football). 

Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and not only that, it’s also an honest sport and we are ready to offer a big sponsor outside of triathlon. The plan is to get some big brands on board and to grow the team. A clear aspect of our mission and our vision is to be here in five or 10 years’ time. To become a reliable team to work with, which is also professional, honest and respectful.

Best of luck with 2015, we’ll be following your progress and success every step of the way!

Written by Amy Kilpin