The Pho3nix Foundation today revealed the bike pacing teams that Alistair Brownlee and Kristian Blummenfelt have selected for the Pho3nix Sub7 Project, Powered by Zwift.
The audacious attempt to go faster than seven hours over the full distance of triathlon requires extraordinary effort, the likes of which have never before been achieved. Pacemakers are seen to help these champion athletes stay on target pace and break both physical and mental barriers, Defying The Impossible.
Teams Brownlee and Blummenfelt have closely guarded the composition of their pacemakers from each other, but their approaches have an eerie similarity in philosophy. To pace them over the 180-kilometer bike leg, both athletes have each recruited cyclists who race each other on the continental and UK national circuit.
The core of Brownlee’s pacemaker team are five riders from the Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling Team, ranked the #1 UK UCI Domestic Team for three years. Headlining this team of cyclists is Alex Dowsett, a multiple Commonwealth Games medalist who set the 2015 UCI Hour World Record of 52.957 kilometres, and currently riding at the 2022 Giro d’Italia. Commonwealth Games medalists Charlie and Harry Tanfield ride the same Yorkshire hills Brownlee does, and have pulled in young teammates Ollie Peckover and Zeb Kyfinn. 2022 individual pursuit British national champion Dan Bigham is another heavy hitter: his individual pursuit time is the third fastest in history, and in 2021 he broke the national hour record previously set by Sir Bradley Wiggins.
“One of Alistair’s sponsors, HUUB, also sponsors the Ribble Weldtite cycling team,” explains Nigel Mitchell, Brownlee’s technical project manager for Sub7. “These athletes have specialised in team time trialling and their performance coach and rider Jacob Tipper has brought these riders together. We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve got what we think are some of the best riders in the world for this type of event.” Tipper will act as directeur sportif on race day, calling the shots during the bike leg.
Mitchell adds, “Everybody feels that they’re working as a team to support Alistair with this, so much so that they’ve all committed not just to the event itself, but also to specific training.”
Blummenfelt built his cycling pacemaker team with national-level and elite cyclists also based in the United Kingdom. With high-performance coach and time trial specialist Matt Bottrill overseeing the team, the roster includes Paralympic Games gold medalist tandem pilot Adam Duggleby MBE, Welsh national champion Gruff Lewis, Scottish national champion Kyle Gordon, British national champions Chris Fennell and Phil Williams, British All-Rounder Thomas Hutchinson, and Loughborough University student athlete Axel Dopfer.
Bottrill says, “I know a lot of the top time trialers in the UK, but the hardest factor was trying to get people that could ride the equipment that we were going to need to achieve this record.”
He was also focused on recruiting a team that could work together to push high watts in turns, keeping Blummenfelt on target pace. “We already had some good riders in place, but the other process was getting riders that we could establish in a team and weren’t going to be selfish. We’ve got eight pacers whose goal for the last 10 years is trying to beat each other. Now you’re trying to take these guys and say to them, ‘You’re now teammates.’”
Some more big names are set to be announced soon as Brownlee and Blummenfelt’s swim and run pacemakers, with additional information on each athlete’s overall pacing strategies and speed targets to achieve their Sub7 goals.