Behind the curtain: Winner-maker Lubos Bilek

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If you are a triathlete, name Lubos Bilek shouldn’t be unknown to you. At least, it should ring a bell. Lubos is a well-known triathlon coach, whose reputation was boosted again in October 2014, when his athlete Sebastian Kienle won prestigious World Championship Ironman Kona.

If you were given opportunity to spend a whole day with one of the best coaches in our sport, you shouldn’t waste it. So we jumped into a car and travelled to a small picturesque village situated in the mountainous southwestern part of the Czech Republic to meet Lubos Bilek and his athletes from Germany, Switzerland and even England who were having a winter camp there. And we talked, and talked and talked..

We hope, that the length of our interview won’t dishearten you – the decision, what to leave out, from all those precious information, was really hard. So that’s why you probably can’t see where this text ends. But, if you are interested in the world of professional triathlon, we believe, that it will be interesting reading. Lubos has a charm, that should be felt even after we transferred his speech into written words. He stands out among coaches not only because of his relatively young age, but also thanks to a lot of various experiences that has shaped his personality. Well, if your dad is a bricklayer, your mum works in a post office and you live in the Czech Republic, becoming an expert in any field can a tough job..

 

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…………..1979……………………………..1998-2003…………………………….2004-2006…………………………..2008…………………………….2012 CW00

During Lubos‘ PhD studies in Cologne, triathlon association in constituent state Baden Württemberg was looking for a coach. Lubos didn’t fulfil any requirements for this position (experience, knowledge about German triathlon..), but eventually he was the one who got the job!

It is still a small mystery to us – how is it possible, that you got the job for which you didn’t fulfil any requirements?
Well, there were multiple reasons. When I started to work there, I became a good friend with people who accepted me for that position. Of course, I was also curious and asked them what was the reason for their decision. Maybe the most important thing was, that the chief was a former soldier – he served in the army for 30 years.

Yes, you look like a soldier. (Smile)
(Smile) I even didn’t participate in compulsory military service.. But, I guess I have some kind of military attitude – although the interview started at nine in the morning, I was already there before seven. I wanted to see the place. And by pure chance we met in the hall.

Wow. He must have been struck dumb.
Yes, he was quite surprised. He asked me, who I was looking for. I answered that I was going for an interview. And as a former soldier, he was really intrigued by this. If I were late, I wouldn’t be given the job. Definitely. He was also surprised when I said, that I could move to Stuttgart in 14 days. And when he asked me on my personal sporting career, I said: „As a sportsman I have no chance of competing at Olympic Games, but I am sure, that as a coach, I am capable of training someone who will qualify for Olympics.“ Eventually, this personal optimism helped a great deal in my success at this job interview. Plus, another good point for me was that my diploma work was dealing with triathlon.

How did you come across triathlon? We believe it wasn’t your first sport.
That’s correct. My sporting started with table tennis and later I took up also football and basketball. But still my best sport was table tennis. Later, when I started my university studies, I had to boost my strength if I wanted to pass exams from the other sports as well. However, pumping iron had also its downside – I lost feeling for the ball, so I gave up playing table tennis. But, I had a schoolmate, who was a triathlete and we led long discussions about triathlon. Eventually, I tried it and it was love at first sight.

Yes, some photos from your triathlon beginnings can be found on the Internet.
Yes, unfortunately. (smile)

Your triathlon beginnings were also mentioned in a recent short film „Slavní neznámí“

produced in the Czech Republic. It was really great!
Yes, it was. And to be honest, I didn’t expect it. Although I don’t live in the Czech Republic anymore, I still have my family here – aunt, uncle and cousins. We see each other only three times a year, so they were really happy to watch it. And also some of my former schoolmates got in touch – some of them I didn’t see for twenty years! So I was really thankful for the film. They came to see me to Germany and it was very good that in that time Sebastian was preparing for Bahrain, so he was with me in Freiburg, hence they could ask him couple of questions as well.

And Sebastian said that you were awesome. (smile)
(Smile) Of course! He had to! He knew that in the evening he would have to run and I could have changed his training plan. (smile)

When you mentioned Challenge Bahrain – Sebastian didn’t have his lucky day there.
He had a puncture. And because there was really crazy competition, we decided that it was pointless to carry spare material. We were wondering – flat tyre would mean 2-3 minutes time loss, thus the top 10 would be out of question. But we didn’t know that he would have such excellent form. After the race he said that he had never been in better shape – not in Vegas, not even in Hawaii. On those first thirty kilometers he rode average speed of nearly 48 kph. After swimming he was 3 minutes back on Realert (winner of the race) and during those first thirty kilometers of cycling Sebastian was able to caught up with him quite easily. It is very probable, that he would lose Raelert on the bike and he would be able to maintain his lead to the finish. But before the race we made a very risky decision – to ride the fastest tyres possible.

Figuratively speaking, you put all your eggs in one basket.
Yes, we did. On the other hand, if we knew that he would have great form, we would take spare material. And if he spent two or three minutes with fixing the tyre, he could still come second after Raelert, which would mean 50 thousand dollar prize money cheque. But unfortunately, beforehand we thought that there were no chances.

Lubos

But if he won despite the flat tyre – that would have been very impudent thing to do, wouldn’t it? (Smile)
Well, I think Sebastian wouldn’t have won. Still, Raelert ran as a King that day! Half marathon in 1:10 was too fast. On the other hand, when you recall World Championship at Mont Tremblant – four days before the race I said that nobody would run below 1:12 on that course. But Gomez ran 1:09 there! He dashed off from transition area as if it was sprint for 5K – I was wondering whether somebody hadn’t forgotten to tell him that there were many more kilometres ahead (smile). But he really did it! It was incredible!

During Ironman Hawaii, Gomez proclaimed in Breakfast with Bob

that he is planning his Ironman debut in 2017.
Yes, that’s correct. And also Brownlee brothers have the same plans.

Aren’t you a little bit scared?
No! (smile) It is a great motivation for us. I am also very glad, that Frodeno started half and long distance triathlons. I have always picked up big races with good competition for Sebastian. For example we have never been to Ironman Brazil where there is nobody at all. From the very beginning we have raced races as e.g. Roth or Frankfurt. The reason for this is simple – I always knew, that Sebastian is capable of winning Hawaii, so there is no point to hide somewhere from competition – if we want to win Hawaii, we must beat the best guys in the sport anytime and anywhere. In my opinion, going for small races is a waste of time.

Gomez is a great challenge for us. Of course, we must confess, that in olympic and half distances he is probably unbeatable to us. It is true, that we had a really bad day in Canada (World Champs IM 70.3) last year. And to this day we don’t know why. Training showed better results than before Vegas where he won the previous two years. But the race day simply didn’t work out well. I believe, that if he had his great day, he would catch up with Gomez and Frodeno somewhere around 60th kilometer on cycling, than he would break away from them and he would start running with maybe 1:30 lead. Gomez and Frodeno would diminish this lead within the first three kilometers or so without any bigger troubles. If we had a great day that day, we could be maybe 5th or 6th. Defeating those two that day – no chance. We are being realistic.

When you talked about Bahrain, you implied that equipment plays a big role in performance. Is that what you think?
Yes, I do think that equipment is important. For example, in Bahrain there were big differences in cycling. It was thanks to the new 20-meter drafting zone. Traditionally you have only 10 meters – doubling this distance means that the athletes are „more on their own“ during cycling, so they have to work harder and that also means that the equipment is of very big importance. And I think that nobody uses the equipment we have at our disposal.

Really?
Triathlon has a big advantage in comparison to cycling – it has different rules and it permits equipment that cycling does not. And Sebastian has one more advantage – he has a Bachelor’s degree in Physics. Although he couldn’t continue his studies because of his sporting career (in general, professors of Physics don’t understand that you are competing somewhere on Hawaii, hence you can’t go to school), he still has those 6 terms of Physics, so he has good knowledge regarding aerodynamics. Plus, he has great sponsors – for example, Continental gives him tyres that are not buyable. Of course, we are not the only ones – for instance, Van Lierde has also great equipment.

Your bike is special custom made, isn’t it?
No, not exactly. The frame we ride is normally buyable, also Zipp 808, Sram Red.. Only some extra components – e.g. tyres. For instance, when we rode Continental Competition two or three years ago, we could also use Continental Competition 1 – a special prototype. In general, tyres are very underestimated. A lot of people buy Zipp wheels for three thousand Euros and than they just put cheap tyres on them. But it’s a big mistake when you realize that the best tyres, in comparison with those worst ones, save 30 to 35 watts when riding 35 km per hour. This is not only for professional athletes – also good age group racer can maintain average of 35 kph. And having 220 watts, when coming down off your bike, is a very big difference in comparison with 250 watts.

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Then, would you say that Continental has the best tyres?
Yes, in my opinion, Continental is the best choice nowadays. Also those tyres that are buyable – e.g. Grand Prix 4000 – they are maybe just 3-4 watts worse than those used by Sebastian.

Then we shall buy Continentals – maybe we’ll break some PBs (smile).
(Smile) Well, of course, it is also important where you use which tyre. For example, we wouldn’t dare to use the tyres we had in Bahrain at Worlds in Hawaii. Each year during training in Kona we have four to five flat tyres, even though we ride „normal“ tyres in training. Hawaiian roads are full of shattered glass and similar things, so we wouldn’t risk it with ultra fast tyres during the race.

So the flat tyre in Bahrain was probably mere mischance.
Yes, it seems so, because there were perfectly clean roads. There was maybe only one piece of glass or something like that on whole ninety kilometers and Sebastian „found“ it. That happens.

If you would compare Bahrain to other races you took part in, how would you rate it?
I wasn’t in Bahrain with Sebastian, but as far as organization and things around the race are concerned, I think it was probably the best triathlon in the world. For professional triathletes it was really perfect. They paid Sebastian flight ticket, hotel, a car picked him up from airport, it took him to the hotel and for all five days he had a personal chauffeur with a car, who would drive him anywhere. In the world of triathlon this is definitely a new approach. And we mustn’t forget the prize money! Organizers are very well aware of the fact, that if they want to lure the best triathletes, the only thing that a pro athlete is interested in is money. And as far as age groupers are concerned – they need to be offered the highest standard possible. I train two age groupers who attended this race and they were absolutely elated – they totally loved it there! And both of them know other big races e.g. Frankfurt, Zürich, which are considered to be among the best races in the Ironman series.

And what about drafting? Nightmare of all big races all around the world.
All my athletes said that there were no problems with drafting. They didn’t hear that somebody would be given a penalty, but there were maybe 40 or 50 motorcycles on the bike course. And that is sufficient enough. People are scared, and if a motorbike passes you every minute or two, you have literally no opportunity to draft if you don’t want to be penalized.

Do your words of praise also mean that you would consider racing Challenge Bahrain every year?
Yes, I think that it is quite possible that we will be returning there.

Middle East countries are stating a new standard in triathlon and their Triple Crown Series is very prestigious although it hasn’t started yet. We were wondering if these things won’t endanger Ironman and Hawaii. What do you think?
I think that it will. The truth is that activities in Middle East are „just“ the tip of the iceberg. There is another thing – World Championships from Challenge. When and where are they going to be is still not sure, but they are planned. In my opinion, all these novelties will cause big problems to the Ironman series. But still, I think it is good – there will be bigger competition also among organizers and so triathlon could thrive.

What do you prefer – Frankfurt or Roth?
Roth – because of its nice fast course and great atmosphere – we love that race! But for me as a coach, Frankfurt is far more easier. And we still haven’t won in Roth. We were second twice, although our performances were quite good and both times we clocked sub 8 time (7:59, 7:57).

Those are great times! And also the history’s best time on long triathlon course is from Roth.
Yes, we were there that year when Raelert stated that 7:41 record. Sebastian was second in 7:57, what is also a great time, but all day long he didn’t catch sight of Raelert – not once. Only at start and than after the race.

That’s crazy.
But it would be fair to admit, that we didn’t have a great day. Four days prior to the race, Sebastian told me, that he was in very good shape and he will blast cycling in 4:10, but during the race day it somehow didn’t work out. But we like Roth. Although, for me as a coach Frankfurt is easier because in Roth there are no laps in running leg and Frankfurt’s four running laps give me good opportunity to inform Sebastian about splits and situation on the course.

You have mentioned that you still need an Olympic winner to „complete“ your portfolio. Are you currently training somebody who could fulfill this task?
No, I don’t. Well, I train a guy whose aim is to qualify for the Olympics. Now he is 26, so in Olympic year he will be 28 and the first Olympics will be „just“ for experience. Next Olympics are in 2020, there he will be 32 and the question is whether he won’t be „too old“ to run at least 28:45. Because I think that 29 minutes for 10K in triathlon will no longer be sufficient for winning. But I have a guy – Christopher – who I believe could run in Rio sub 30 minutes and that could theoretically mean getting into top10 – maybe even finishing somewhere between 5th and 8th position. It sounds incredible, but Mola, Gomez, Brownlee brothers – they all will run under 29 minutes.

Christopher Hettich christoph_w

How do you like training with Lubos?
Lubos is a great coach. I have worked with him since 2006 and it suits me very well. I live near Freiburg, so that is another great advantage. What I like about Lubos is that I can discuss training with him – I can make suggestions and we can change training plan anytime. And that is really great. I don’t like when you as an athlete must just „blindly“ obey and you can’t discuss training methods.

Is there anything you don’t like in Lubos‘ training?
Working with Lubos is great and I like his style. Maybe I have just a little disadvantage that I am an ITU guy and the most of my team mates specialise in Ironman or half Ironman distances.

On the other hand, you are the fastest among them, aren’t you?
Well, that could be true (smile).

What would you like to achieve?
Olympic Games.

So, the Olympic gold?
Nooo (smile). For Rio 2006 it will be just participation and then we will see. If I make progress every year, step by step, it will be fine.

Have you got anybody that could sustain their crazy pace?
It could be previously mentioned Christopher. I believe, he is able to get there. Couple of years ago, I had Christopher and Gomez together in a training session. We could train with Gomez couple of times – it was thanks to my athlete Ricarda Lisk who dated Gomez in that time. Anyway, once I had this training for Ricarda who was preparing for Peking. Christoph with Gomez were doing tempo for her. And I said to Christoph: „Then, in that last 3K run, put the hammer down and you will see if Gomez follows.“ So of course, Christoph attacked and immediately, Gomez was after him. Ricarda didn’t exist anymore (smile). They did those 3K in 8:36 or 8:37 and Christoph was the fastest.

In general, people see you as a coach of Sebastian Kienle. Do you prefer working with men?
No, in general, it doesn’t matter. I had two women at the Olympics – Ricarda Lisk and Svenja Bazlen (Beijing and London). It is true that for long distances, I have had mainly Sebastian and Andreas Böchrer till recently. But now, I have some new athletes among women – Eimear Mullan, winner of Ironman Mallorca and another girl from England – Alice Hector, who could be also very good at half distances.

Did they move to Germany to train with you?
No, they both live in England – one is from London. She was now in Freiburg for a week and she is here on a camp with us. Poor girl, she didn’t have a chance to try cross-country skiing before, so she is quite amazed by the sport (smile). You know, you don’t ski very much in London (smile). The second girl should have been here with us, but eventually she had to fly to Egypt. But normally, our coach-athlete relationship works via the Internet.

Alice Hector alice_w

How do you like training with Lubos?
A lot! I have been training with Lubos only since November, but so far I am very satisfied. I worked with other coaches in the past, but I was injured very often. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself and they put a lot of pressure on me too, so eventually I was living in some kind of pressure cooker. I came back to sport last year and I self coached. And I had a great time! I got myself together again, but I wasn’t training on a very professional level – I guessed maybe too much. So it was time to make another step to progress and that’s where Lubos came in.

Why did you decide for Lubos?
He was recommended to me by an old coach of mine, who I really respect and it has worked very well so far. (It was Darren Smith, maybe the best coach for olympic triathlon in the world – among his athletes are Jodie Stimpson, Anne Haug, Lisa Norden,..) I didn’t know Lubos before I approached him, so at first I googled his website and I liked it very much – there were athletes and coach, all were smiling and I liked it a lot (smile). And then when I wrote him on Facebook and he wrote me back, there were a lot of smileys – everything from the beginning was very friendly and positive, so I knew immediately, that this was the right thing to do. (smile)

Is there anything you don’t like in Lubos‘ training?
Actually.. (smile) Well, it is not that I don’t like it, it is more that I am not used to it – what I found quite hard in the first two months is, that I did a lot less than I would do. Well, it is not bad after all, because I feel great and healthy, but still, sometimes you’ve got a lot of thinking time. However, trying to fit as much as possible into the day didn’t work for me..

Maybe you just have to get used to it.
Yes, absolutely. Especially with the Ironman, which I am doing, there is a tendency among athletes to do as many hours as possible regardless quality.

What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream is to get to Hawaii.

Only „get“?
(smile) No, I want to be in Top10. (smile)

Did you watch recent Hawaii?
Yes, but to be honest, it wasn’t my plan. Although I like long distance triathlon, I wasn’t really into sitting and watching it all night long. So, I just turned it on – my intention was to watch it for couple of minutes, but eventually I was absolutely glued to it! Females‘ race was so exciting! And when Mirinda started to run, and she was literally flying throughout the course, it was just amazing!

And does it work? Theoretically, if you had a free place in the team and somebody would like to join, but „only“ with coaching via the Internet, would you do it?
Right now I am fully booked, but yes – I coach a lot of people via the Internet. Actually, I make my living on writing training plans to age group athletes via the Internet. You know, in general, there are not a lot of money in triathlon. For example, during our first five years, Sebastian didn’t pay me – I knew, that one day, he would be good and I also knew, that when he wins Hawaii, I will profit from it tremendously. It was a risk, but it was also an investment into advertisement. Similarly, Maurice Clavel, the third guy of Ironman 70.3 Wiesbaden is still not paying for his trainings – you see, he has a big potential – finishing third in the year when he just started with half distances is great achievement. I believe that in 2-3 years, he will get to Sebastian’s level and he will be another propagation for me.

That means that apart from being a coach you are also an investor.
Yes, I am (smile). But my bread and butter are really those age group athletes. Triathlon is not very cheap sport. That also means, that a lot of age group triathletes are quite well situated. It is true, that my coaching is not cheap, but I think, they get quite a good service for their money. For example, if they drop me an email, I try to answer them as soon as possible. Well, to say it briefly – I want people to be satisfied.

Did you always want to be a coach? You started with triathlon during university studies, so what was Lubos Bilek’s childhood dream?
(Smile) Well, those professional dreams and goals were always a resemblance of age. But I always wanted to be a teacher. When I came to the University, my goal was to teach at a secondary or a high school, but during the studies my goal went further and I wanted to teach at a University. Then I started with coaching and that’s where I am now. I must say, that I am satisfied.

Did all these young athletes, who are here with you at the camp, approach you by themselves?
Yes, all of them. For instance, I have two Swiss siblings here who trained couple of years under Brett Sutton and they came to me.

Maurice Clavel maurice_w

How do you like training with Lubos?
Will Lubos read this afterwards? (Smile) No, now seriously. Lubos is great and his trainings also! The best thing about him is that he always knows what is the best for an athlete and his trainings are one hundred percent efficient. When you are with Lubos you won’t do any empty kilometre. But when you want to train with Lubos, you must also have your own head, your own goals and visions – you have to think about things. Maybe it can be said that you have to be a personality on your own. You can’t just come and say, Lubos, do whatever you want I will obey you blindly – this doesn’t work out with Lubos.

What do you hate about Lubos?
Uuuuuuuuf..

Don’t worry, he won’t read it.. (smile)
(Smile) I really don’t know. I think there is nothing I would hate.

What if he pushes you too much?
No, I love when I am being pushed hard! It is the other way around – Lubos must hold me back! I love to race and I love being in the front, so Lubos always tries to calm me down.

What is your biggest dream?
Winning Hawaii.

Do you believe that it could happen?
Yes, surely. Lubos already knows how to win there thanks to Sebastian, so no problem. (smile)

One of the biggest advantages of a training camp is its social aspect – athletes are not training alone. In general, do you prefer when your athletes train in a group or individually?
It is highly individual, but I believe that training group is mostly efficient during swim sessions. It is not only experience of my sporting career, but it is also my coaching experience – when we are at a camp like this and I have for example 15 athletes who jump into that water together, the session gains tremendous quality. Cycling is quite different story. For instance, when Sebastian does long rides (150-180 km) he prefers to be alone. Even if he starts riding with a group, immediately he goes to the front of the bunch and he stays there alone, whatever happens. But he really prefers riding alone – you know, you have a lot of guys who want to „defeat“ world champion in training when they are given opportunity (smile). At home he trains alone almost all year long, but when we are in a camp together or when we spend those 6 weeks on Hawaii and we swim together, he always gets better in swimming very fast. In other words, when I am standing at the edge of the pool and he is swimming, the efficiency of the session is boosted incredibly. It is not just my feeling – it is also measurable – when we compare his swimming in Hawaii with other races, e.g. Frankfurt, his best result is always in Hawaii. I don’t write swim trainings anymore – we have a swim coach for that, but he just needs me to stand there – that boosts his motivation tremendously.

How would you describe your relationship with Sebastian?
Well, I am his coach, but over the years it’s more than that. He sees me as a friend whom he respects and whom he trusts. And he is also honest with me – for instance, three years ago during our first Hawaii he was watching my eating habits with horror in his face and he said I should immediately change my diet, because he needs me for another ten years (smile). On the other hand, as far as races are concerned – I don’t know how much he is paid for his starts – e.g. I have no idea how much Frankfurt pays him for racing there, how much Roth pays him.. I don’t know this stuff, and I don’t want to know it, since our agreement is that my responsibility is the sporting aspect – my job is to make sure he constantly gets better and I believe, that if he is a good sportsmen, the finance will also work out for him. Hence, I pick up races, where he can „grow“ as an athlete so he could win Hawaii and the money will come with success. And as far as the training is concerned – we discuss it a lot.

Are you sometimes a training partner to Sebastian?
Yes, I am. When he swims I run beside the pool, when he runs I ride a bike and when he rides a bike I drive a car (smile).

(Smile) And what about the other athletes?
When I was younger I used to ride bikes with them, but those times have already passed away. If I rode hard for two months, maybe I could ride with juniors, but regarding Sebastian or Andreas – I could sit on a bike all day long and it still wouldn’t be enough.

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Have you ever competed in Ironman distance triathlon?
Yes, I tried it. Once. It was in Czech Republic. I started cycling leg as Sebastian, but unfortunately I am not Sebastian (smile). In the first 60 kilometers I rode average speed of 40 kph and after that.. well, I kind of got tired (smile). So, maybe on the 25th kilometer of running I dropped out of the race.

It seems that most of your athletes ride mostly road bikes nowadays. You don’t ride Xterra anymore?
Well, it is true that 90 percent of the training is on road bikes, only 10 percent on triathlon bikes. As far as Xterra is concerned.. Both, Sebastian and also Andreas used to ride Xterra and they were very good at it. Sebastian won also German Championship three times I think. We enjoyed racing Xterra, but two years ago Sebastian tore ligaments in his ankle and we were limited in training all year long. We didn’t even reach average of 35 running kilometers weekly during all year! I will never understand how he could run for the 3rd place in Hawaii with running preparation like this. But to answer your question properly – we would ride Xterra if Sebastian didn’t have these health issues.
I have one young athlete who could be very good at Xterra in maybe 2-3 years. He has great technique – it’s quite unbelievable how he can ride his bike. Freiburg has a great advantage – it is German center for mountain biking, e.g. Sabine Spitz also trains there. So during winter trainings, our youngsters ride mountain bikes with these guys, hence they have really good technique and they ride very well also in the bunch during triathlon races.

Germany has some very strong bicycle manufacturers. Weren’t they interested in sponsoring Sebastian?
Well, Sebastian rides Scott almost all his life – he got it when he wasn’t so famous, and he stayed with them ever since. And that’s great because we are very satisfied with Scott International (located in Switzerland). It is true that some other brands offer a little bit more money, but not everything is about money. Scott offers three-year contract and their service is absolutely amazing! When there is any problem with the bike – e.g. something breaks, all Sebastian has to do is to call to Switzerland and next day he has what he needed. And that’s far more important than some bigger money – if you had to wait two months for a component that would be a problem. Simply put, we are satisfied and we have no reason for a change. I always tell my athletes that if they are satisfied with their sponsor and somebody else offers them 50 € more, that’s not the path they want to follow. Loyalty is very important. If you changed sponsor every two years, eventually nobody would be interested in sponsoring you, because everybody wants a long-term cooperation.

Sebastian mentioned, that you never measure his heart rate – you just look into his eyes in the morning and you know. That’s like love..
(Smile) Well, we’ve been together for nine years now! I know his girlfriend, his parents, siblings..

Is this approach only with Sebastian? What’s your opinion on measurements like heart rate, lactate and so forth?
It depends. For age group athletes I think it is very important to conduct their training on heart rate basis. All my „internet based“ age groupers use heart rate monitors and some of them also watt meters. Sebastian’s approach to training is quite different – we are training by feel, because that’s what has always worked out for us. We haven’t done any diagnostics in five or six years, because despite of getting faster and faster, he always did bad at the tests – more precisely, he was each year worse than the previous one. Disadvantage of the lactate diagnostics is that you need to push yourself to absolute exhaustion. And bringing top motivation in early December just to test your performance is quite hard. Furthermore, today’s modern science knows that lactate is no performance indicator. My advantage is that I studied Biology – so I can use my knowledge.

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So no lactate, no diagnostics?
Well, we use spirometry as diagnostics – we use respiratory quotient to get an idea where the threshold could be. Because when you do this on lactate basis you can get quite puzzled – there are 23 different models to determine threshold. More or less it is just a mathematical model. You can do one diagnostics in Cologne, another in Prague, the third in Dresden and one more in Munich and each time you will get different results. Diagnostics of my age group athletes is also through spirometry – in the results I see how much energy athlete gains during various kinds of performance – how much energy he gains from fat, how much from sugar. These are important indicators that I use to determine training zones.

Could you tell what type of coaching do you enjoy more – for olympic or ironman distances?
No, I couldn’t. I like both. Similarly, I couldn’t say whether I enjoy coaching professional triathletes more than age groupers. Of course, I was very happy when Sebastian won Hawaii, but I am also happy when anyone from my age group athletes races to his/her new personal best – whether it is in a big race or in a small one.

And do you prefer certain age? Somebody prefers coaching kids to adults and vice versa.
No, still the same. I like any age group. Only difference is in my attitude. For instance, when I coached juniors I was kind of a dictator. Well, like it or not, dictatorship is the easiest mean of leadership (smile).

And very little appreciated. (Smile)
Yes, but people underestimate it. They want to be guided. Kids, adults, all of them want a leader. Of course, adults get more democracy, but still, also that democracy is somehow connected with dictatorship.

Yes, we get it. It’s something like „I will tell you how you can decide“. (Smile)
(Smile) Exactly. For instance, we are at a training camp and we are discussing Friday evening’s program. So I give them several possibilities where we could go and they decide. But I know in advance what their decision will be and I have already booked that bar two days earlier. I gave them possibilities to have feeling that they can decide, but at the end there is only one possibility that is acceptable. (Smile)

Well, that’s what women do with men, don’t they? (Smile)
(Smile) Nooo, men with women.

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Do you sometimes have more of your athletes in the same race?
Yes, it has already happened couple of times. Sebastian and Andreas experienced it in several bigger races. And they always grabbed the first two places. In this scenario, I don’t care who is the first and who is the second. Sebastian and Andreas are very good friends – when Sebastian comes to Freiburg (he lives 200 kilometers away) they train together during the day and in the evening Andreas invites him for a barbecue, Sebastian plays with his kids – simply put, they are really good friends. Or another example, three years ago we were going a race in Heilbronn and Andreas noticed he had a flat tyre shortly before start of the race. So, Sebastian ran for his pump and spare tyre and helped him. That day Andreas won, Sebastian was second. If Sebastian didn’t help him, he could have won. But that’s not what they consider a fair fight. Sebastian said, that he wouldn’t be happy to win under these circumstances. He is happier with the second place after a tough race than to win without competition.

So you are neutral.
Yes, completely. With Sebastian I work on strategy how to defeat Andreas and with Andreas we create strategy how to defeat Sebastian. And of course, Sebastian doesn’t know Andreas‘ strategy and vice versa.

And one last question – what do you think about triathletes?
As far as professional triathletes are concerned – they are really great guys! For instance Andreas Raelert, Timo Bracht, Faris.. you can have so much fun with them! Simply put, the better triathlete, the better personality. In my opinion it really works like this in triathlon. The world’s best are indeed great people. For example, Craig Alexander is very nice, friendly and willing to help. Last year when Sebastian was running in Vegas, Craig always yelled at him and supported him although, he was maybe ten places down on him. And during last Hawaii, when he saw me there, he came to me and congratulated on Sebastian’s victory. He is really a great guy.

We thank Lubos and his athletes for a very inspiring day and we wish them all a lot of success (not only) in this 2015 season.

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