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Joerie Vansteelant interview
Posted on: Friday 18th January 2008
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It's not often you get the chance to interview someone as talented, yet at the same time so grounded, as Joerie Vansteelant, the 2007 World Long Course Duathlon Champion. Joerie is renowned in the duathlon world, not only for his great cycling prowess, but also his friendly, kind and out going manner. Brother of the legendary duathlete Benny Vansteelant, who tragically passed away last year, he agreed to talk to Tri247 about coping with the tragic loss of his brother, his plans for 2008 and, as a newly-appointed member of the ITU's duathlon committee, what his hopes are for the future of his sport.
AE 2007 was a very difficult year for you and your family; it was also a very tough year for the sport of duathlon as it lost one of it's greatest sporting heroes. Despite this, you did an amazing job of staying focussed and strong and finished the year on a tremendous high when you won the World Duathlon Long Course Championships. This amazing strength of character must be an inspiration to the sporting world, can you tell us little bit about this and how you managed to cope with such an incredibly tough situtaion?
JV This is very difficult to explain. Duathlon, as well as being my profession, is also my biggest hobby. Running and cycling is what I like to do most, so I had the feeling I could get rid of my emotions by continuing to race and train. Personally for me, if I have a problem there is nothing better than to go out for a run in the forest. Of course in the beginning it was a bit difficult on the bike, I was too careful, but I realised very fast that sitting inside, and being sad wasn't helping me or other people around me. The best thing we all could do was to try our best to move on.
AE A memorial race is being held for Benny, can you tell us more about this?
JV The event will be part of the ITU World Series in 2008 and it will be held on June 1st in Torhout, near Bruges. The race format will be non-drafting and very exciting because there will be four transitions. The distances will be: 10k running - 30k biking - 5k running - 30k biking - 5k running. The running course will be in the city centre. The bike course is mainly straight and flat, on big roads, but which are very scenic as we pass by two castles. There will be separate age-group and elite races.
AE You were recently appointed a member of the ITU's Duathlon Committee; what does your role entail?
JV The role of the ITU Duathlon Committee is to simply work out some proposals, we cannot make any decisions. So my role is to help bring forward some good ideas. Our long term vision is to get duathlon into the World Games. Not the Olympics, because it is just not realistic. The IOC wants to make the Games smaller, so there is no way duathlon will get in there. We also want to build up a good World Series, with at least eight or ten races. My proposal is to have four short distance events and four long distance events and the five best results to count. This way short distance athletes are motivated to do a long distance event and vice versa. We will need some help from the national federations to get this World Series going well!
AE We've seen the prize money increase in triathlon, but not in duathlon and, if you look at the way the prize money is structured, duathlon gets a minute amount compared to triathlon. Do you think it's time for the ITU to let go of its hold on duathlon and pass it over to another governing body - Powerman for example?
JV No, I don't think the solution is there. Like I said, it is very important that we have a good long and short term vision. If we can build up a good World Series then we can start increasing the prize money. A co-operation with Powerman would be good, but this is not possible at this moment.
AE Duathlon is a great sport and many would say that it is tougher than racing standard distance triathlon; some would also say that it really doesn't get the credit or exposure that it deserves. What are your thoughts on this?
JV I cannot say if duathlon is tougher than triathlon, because I've never done a triathlon! Of course it is true that duathlon doesn't get the credit or exposure that it deserves, but that's the way it is. There are a lot of sports which deserve more. The only thing we can do is try to promote our sport as well as we can, and work together.
AE If you had a magic wand what would you change or improve about the sport?
JV Very simple, I would bring duathlon into the Olympic Games and all the problems would be solved at once.
AE You are such a dominant force in duathlon, with such a strong bike and run, have you ever thought about doing a triathlon?
JV Not at all! A lot of people have asked me that, but I just don't like swimming. For me it is very boring.
AE What does a typical training day look like for you?
JV Usually I do two workouts a day; one running session and one bike session. Depending on the weather, I will either do the bike in the morning or the afternoon. If the weather is good I always do the hardest workout first. Sometimes I run twice a day, but this happens very rarely. I also do three sessions of stability training a week, this helps to prevent injuries.
AE We heard that you linked up with European bronze medallist, Tom Lowe, as your training partner prior to the World Championships. Do you think this helped contribute to your victory?
JV Yes, at that time I needed a good companion, someone I could talk to very easily. Unfortunately he was injured, but he was able to do a lot of cycling with me which helped me to do my hardest workouts even better. He has also proven to be an excellent cook; very healthy and very tasty!
AE Do you ever take part in pure running or cycling races?
JV I used to do a lot of running races, but less and less because my program is quite full with the duathlons. I never do cycling races because there are just to many crashes.
AE What's your best 10k time?
JV Absolutely no idea, but I think if a short distance duathlete wants to be at the top of the elite field, he has to be able to run about 29 minutes.
AE What are your plans for 2008?
JV My main focus will be on the European short course championships and the World long distance championships. Of course, I will try to be good at the World short course championships as well, but it is just not my type of bike course over there in Rimini (Italy). As I won the World long course championships last year, retaining my world title is my main goal. My other plans are to move into a house I recently bought. I hope to be in there by the end of June.