The story of the Pho3nix Sub7 and Sub8 Project, Powered by Zwift is shaping up to be not just about the four banner athletes Kristian Blummenfelt, Joe Skipper, Nicola Spirig, and Kat Matthews. It is also about their teams of pacemakers who each have signed on to support one particular athlete, sacrificing time, effort, and even their own personal races to be here. Why would a competitive athlete at the top of their own game do that?
Speaking with the pacemakers, it’s partly the novelty and the challenge that have drawn them in. Triathlete Imogen Simmonds was recruited as a cycling pacemaker for Spirig. She says, “I think it’s such an awesome project that is bringing together not only triathletes but also the three sports in their own individual entities. I think it’s really exciting as well trying to break a world record.”
Fellow triathlete-turned-cycling pacemaker Lucy Buckingham adds, “I’ve never actually done a paceline being so close to other bikes, so that’s been really new and quite challenging for me. But it was really fun on the track today to do it with the other girls.”
World Tour pro cyclist Alex Dowsett, a pacemaker for Skipper (previously for Alistair Brownlee), remarks, “It’s a phenomenal venue. I’ve never been on a circuit so flat and fast.” After coming back from racing the Giro d’Italia, to him the Dekra Lausitzring must feel like a holiday.
But more so than new personal experiences, becoming a pacemaker is a chance to support the athlete they believe in.
Buckingham says, “I’ve been a massive admirer of Nicola over the years. It’s nearly 10 years since we raced in London in 2012. We were on opposing sides, I guess. But I think Nicola is the definition of true grit and determination and to be on Nicola’s team I’m just really privileged.”
Cyclist Dan Bigham on Team Joe says, “It’s a good opportunity to bring together practically your entire support network. It’s an awesome opportunity to support Joe and see what he can achieve… Our team will win because we’re the fastest.”
Matt Bottrill is Team Kristian’s linchpin, having assembled the cycling pacemaker team for Blummenfelt. He states, “It’s been an awesome project. It’s going to be amazing to see the best athletes go neck-to-neck.”
For Team Kat, their principal athlete is the prime mover. Though many of them were also signed as Lucy Charles-Barclay’s pacemakers, Matthews contacted them one-by-one to get their buy-in to her attempt to go Sub8. India Lee says, “Because we’ve got Kat, got the best cyclists, and we’re having the most fun of everybody here.”
Ruth Astle adds, “Our team’s going to win because we’re just much faster.”