Bob De Wolf is the manager of the fiercely talented BMC-Etixx Pro Triathlon team that includes some of the world’s top triathletes. Trizone caught up with Bob to see what makes this team so successful, and what goals BMC-Etixx has set for 2017.
Love of triathlon sparks family business
“I first got into triathlon when I was recovering from a football injury. I got really passionate about it and never played football again,” Bob told Trizone, “my brother and I got very involved in the sport, and we decided to leave everything behind and move to Lanzarote to live and work in one of the biggest sport resorts in the world.” This bold move was just the first for the brothers, but it didn’t stop there. They immersed themselves in everything involved in the sport from heart rate testing to coaching, organising and running training camps. “That’s where we established our network, and that’s what lead us to get involved in the professional triathlon sport,” said De Wolf.
“Now I oversee the different operational departments and the day to day management of the team,” said De Wolf. “My brother is sports director of the team; looking after all sport related matters and has the day to day contact with the athletes and connecting them to our physio, doctors and the sports side of things. He also makes sure the coach-athletes relationships work well.”
Clearly defined structure moves the team forwards
A definitive structure within the team keeps the whole team moving forwards. “Our project started in 2008 and we went from having just one athlete to becoming one of the leading teams out there,” Bob told Trizone. “Another side to the team is offering the best return on investment for the sponsors. We want them to be happy with what we’re doing. That’s almost as important as the very sports specific elements of our team,” said De Wolf.
“We have a marketing structure in place so the journey is smooth and efficient for an athlete, and the benefits go straight to both the sponsors and the athlete,” said De Wolf. “We have a social media activation manager and a marketing adviser to help both the athletes and sponsors.”
While BMC-Etixx boasts seasoned athletes like Liz Blatchford, Bart Aernouts and Ronnie Schildknecht, the team is also eager to find the best up-and-comers and foster them as athletes. “We have athletes winning 70.3 and Ironman, like Liz Blatchford who has already delivered at the highest level. She’s a valued member of the team and as already given us so much,” De Wolf told Trizone. “On the other hand though, we have athletes like Will Clarke who came from Olympic distance and is now doing amazing things.”
Bob De Wolf can spot talent and secures it for his team
BMC-Etixx signed four new athletes this year which has helped grow the team exponentially. The new additions are thanks to Bob de Wolf’s uncanny ability to pick the new up-and-coming athletes from the world stage, and he’s incredibly keen to help encourage these young athletes. “We’re looking for those who have delivered, or who have great potential. We also need athletes who are open to work within the structure we provide, and work within a team,” de Wolf told Trizone.
“This year we signed Patrik Nilsson, a 25-year-old Swedish athlete who has finished in sub-8 hour time in two Ironman events. He finished in 7:53 in Barcelona; it’s very exciting to have an athlete like that coming on board with so much potential.”
While the BMC-Etixx team has high hopes for the championship events, especially with young talent like Emma Pallant, Maurice Clavel, Ameila Watkinson and Patrik Nilsson, De Wolf is keen to maintain focus on other events too. “We need to win important races along the way,” De Wolf told Trizone, “you can’t just focus your whole season on the world championship. Since 2014 we won six continental championships along the way and that enables us to communicate a good return for sponsors.”
BMC’s powerful involvement and the Time Machine 01
The team started nine years ago, but was only a small skeleton of what it is now. “In 2012, BMC had their own road cycling team, and their own mountain biking team, plus some individual triathletes,” said De Wolf. “Also in triathlon they saw what an impact a team could have on return on investment; they’d seen it in road cycling and mountain biking. In 2013 we started a cooperation with BMC as exclusive bike partner for the and in 2014, they became official name sponsor and one of the key partners for the team.
Starting out with the TM01, the team members were thrilled with what De Wolf called an ‘incredible bike,’ but the timemachine 01 is even better. “We had a number of our athletes go over to Switzerland and have conversations with the head mechanics and engineers. It’s really fantastic for us now to ride the new timemachine. Our athletes feel like they’re on an even faster bike now,” De Wolf told Trizone.
While triathlon may be slightly flattening out in all age groups in Europe, there’s still growth, and De Wolf is keen to capitalise on that. “It’s one of the most emotional, positive sports with a truly unique identity. As far as sponsors go, we’re looking to work with non-sport related brands too. With five continents involved in triathlon, it’s not just the sporting brands who can benefit from involvement with triathlon and an elite team like ours,” said De Wolf.
The future is brighter for De Wolf’s team, and all signs point to Kona. “Our team objectives definitely include we want to be standing on the podium at Hawaii,” Bob told Trizone.
Bob De Wolf and the BMC-Etixx team are on an upwards trajectory that has no end in sight. We’re excited to see how the whole team, and the four newcomers fare throughout the 2017 season.