Monthly Archives: August 2011

Wardle Off Road Tri and ITU London Hyde Park

Two big races on the calendar last weekend, first up on Saturday was Rochdale Tri’s new event the Wardle Off Road Triathlon (WORT): 160m pool swim (yes, I did type that right – a mere splash!), 20km MTB and 8km trail run. Even though it was so short the swim caused some excitement with a slightly random start order leading to some (good natured) bun fights at the walls. Out of the water in 2min 30 (now that’s my kind of swim) and on with bike shoes for the couple of hundred metres jog to T1. The early section of the bike was uphill on tarmac and good trail and I made up a good few places here until there weren’t that many people ahead. A short descent before the big climb up onto the moors starting on cobbles before going off road proper, on and on we went up and up (well that’s what it felt like anyway) a bit boggy at times but rideable all the way. Shallow descent for a bit (i.e. you had to pedal) before a sharp left turn for the main descent, quite techy on a choice of either marsh/bog or a stream bed. I chose the latter and was clattering down OK until suddenly a 2 foot drop-off appeared, messed this up a bit but still emerged out the bottom unscathed. Fast descending from here back down to the road and the start of the second lap.

I’d not seen anyone for a while either in front or behind so eased up a bit, so imagine my surprise when a Rochdale Tri guy appeared out of nowhere and overtook me on the long climb. He steadily pulled away but I was able to keep him in sight all the way back to T2. Managed the techy descent a bit better this time (i.e. committed to the big drop off and hit it fast rather than pansying around) although I did have to take a bit of a detour into a bog when a slower/lapped rider totally took my line away as I was trying to overtake (not that I’m bitter at all!).

The two lap run was a bit of a rollercoaster, up and down, on grass, mud, stones and bricks (as well as a bit of road), with two stream crossings for good measure. Felt like I was running quite well, and soon reeled in and overtook the Rochdale Tri guy. Best (worst?) bit of the run was descending a flight of steep steps, running along for 50m then straight back up another set of steps – a real leg burner! Ran strong to the end and finished in what turned out to be 3rd place. This meant I earned my first ever paycheck from triathlon, £20 – think I’m going to turn pro!

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Thanks to Martin Holden for the pics, see more of his photos at http://www.energypicsphotography.com/

Sunday saw me up bright and early to travel down to London to watch some low key race in Hyde Park, nowhere near as prestigious as the WORT. It turned out that the same day saw the Charity Shield at Wembley between City and Utd and hence a very busy train – I was glad for my reserved seat in 1st Class!Via the medium of Twitter I found that Jacqui was on the same train so we met on the platform and travelled the short distance on the Tube down to Hyde Park together. The sun was shining and the last of the age groupers were finishing their races, lots of spectators out so a good atmosphere. Hooked up with Rich briefly who was marshaling, as was Tony.

Managed to get a spot by the swim exit for the first section of the race, big dramatic pause on the pontoon before they started and when everyone dived in they put such a force onto it that all the officials had to cling on not to get thrown off the back into the water! Not too much to say about the swim as you really can’t see that much from the bank and they don’t hang about when they get out of the water either. Both Brownlees in the top 10, then Clarke, Hayes and Tim Don a couple of places ahead of Adam Bowden rounding off the GB guys. Poor old Chris McCormack with one other guy were the only people to get dropped from the main swim pack about a minute down.

Headed up to Hyde Park Corner to watch the bike. Was halfway there as they came round to finish the first lap (of seven) and there were three distinct packs all really driving it, plus a few stragglers. By the 2nd lap I was at Hyde Park Corner (where you can see them twice each lap), the groups had come together except a group of three – Ali Brownlee, Brukankhov, Elvery – had about 10 seconds lead off the front. The gap hovered at 10-15 seconds for a couple of laps and Ivan Rana managed to bridge across on his own. Some rain showers dampened the tarmac (and there were a couple of crash victims) and whether it was this or just a lack of interest in actually winning the race but the break moved away and had over a minutes lead towards the end of the final lap. Insane tactics by the peloton, giving the best runner in the field (Brownlee) a big head start on the run – makes you wonder if they all think they can’t actually beat him so why bother trying?

Headed back into the park to watch the run where it comes out round the back of the Serpentine onto the main road. The heavens had completely opened right at the end of the bike and it was bouncing down. To no-one’s great surprise Ali Brownlee was in the lead as the runners came through for the first time and this was where he was to stay eventually taking a comfortable victory with time to spare to walk down the finish chute giving high-fives. Behind third place was still up for grabs (Brukankhov safe in 2nd with his normal strong gurning run) between Jonny Brownlee and Javier Gomez. Between laps we had the added spectacle of the marshals trying (and failing) to clear a small lake from the run course which had added a water splash for the runners to negotiate. By lap 3 Jonny had built a small gap and he extended this to the finish to take 3rd place. A great weekend for the GB team with two wins (Helen Jenkins had won the ladies race the day before) and a 3rd, a great place to be with just a year until London 2012. Will Clarke was 14th, Adam Bowden had possibly his best top-level performance with 32nd and Tim Don trailed in 51st never having looked too happy on the run.

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Alpe d’Huez Long Distance Triathlon

Anyone with even a passing interest in pro cycling know about the famous 21 virages of the ascent to Alpe d’Huez in France, the scene of many classic Tour de France moments. Since getting involved in cycling I’ve wanted to tackle them myself, and what better way to do so than in the Alpe d’Huez triathlon. The race organizers offer two distances but since it’s quite a way to travel you might as well get your money’s worth and do the Long course – 2.2km swim, 115km bike finishing up the Alpe, 22km run.

Logistically Alpe d’Huez is actually quite hard to get to from the UK in the summer and after mulling over the options for a while Rich and I decided to fly to Geneva then hire a car and drive to Alpe d’Huez. This option worked out pretty well for us and we arrived at about 8:30pm on Monday evening in our rather swish Alfa Romeo Giullietta hire car. Thanks to Viv, Jerry, Harsh and James (who had arrived in time for the Tour the previous Friday) dinner was on the table as soon as we arrived, then it was out for a beer or two (in a bar with a slide to access the toilets!)

Tuesday was a bright and sunny day, which was a nice surprise as the forecast had been for rain. Maybe the forecast the rain on Wednesday (race day) would be wrong too? A pretty standard T-1 day involving bike building, registration, sleeping, eating etc. We went for a quick spin down a couple of turns on the climb and back up again, feeling slightly fraudulent easily overtaking people who had clearly done the whole climb! Around tea time the clouds rolled in and it started raining – I think we were all hoping that this would get the rain out of the way and tomorrow would be a nice day.

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The first problem to tackle on race day is actually getting to the start, as it’s about 1000m lower than Alpe d’Huez down in the valley. This means a 30-40 minute bike ride with race kit on your back, mainly downhill of course. The weather was dry but overcast and dry tarmac allowed us to get some cornering practice in on the way down. The entrance to transition was a typical French queue (i.e. a total free for all!) and whilst we were waiting Rich noticed that his inner tube was bulging through the sidewall of his tyre. On the plus side he had found what had been causing the tic-tic-tic noise from his bike on the way down! We just about managed to patch it up before the start, but in the slight panic none of us really paid too much attention to the race briefing, especially the swim start procedure. A nice touch was that they had racked people together in their clubs so we got to meet all the other Man Tri guys, rob Arnold and crew and Spencer.

We were amongst the last to get into the blue blue water of the Lac du Verney and were making our way towards the start line – in not too much of a rush as there were many people not even in the water on either side – when suddenly everyone ahead started swimming. Guess that was the swim start then! The swim was two laps with little sailing boats as the turn points rather than buoys. I had an OK swim I think, held a pretty tight line on the inside of the pack and managed to avoid getting too smashed up at the turns. Came out of the water in 41:43 for the 2.2km and pretty much the first think I noticed was that it had started raining. This caused quite a lot of faff in transition as I wanted to take my waterproof with me on the bike, but my waterproof was in my rucsac, which was in a plastic bag, which was in my T1 bag (and in the end I didn’t even use it anyway!). On top of this socks, shoes, arm-warmers, bike jersey, gilet and track mitts were donned – a speedy transition it was not (6:39!!).

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A short climb out of transition then the first 15 miles of the bike is basically all downhill and very fast. Of course it’s only a warm up for the first climb of the day up to Alpe du Grand Serre, 9 miles at an average gradient of 7%. A nice steady climb but it was taking quite a while so I decided to throw a few more coals on the fire at halfway (you can see this on the power plot above). It was quite warm at the bottom but as we climbed it got colder (say it ain’t so!) and the rain started to come down with a bit more enthusiasm too. Managed to break the zip on my bike jersey when I tried to do it back up which necessitated a lot of no-hands riding and fiddling to sort out. Passed Viv about 3/4 of the way up and we had a quick chat.

Over the top and grabbed a new bottle of water from the aid station before starting the long descent, roads very wet now so taking a lot of care on the corners. Halfway down there is a short climb and the first sighting of our support crew of Harsh, Jerry and James. The next section of the bike was probably my least favourite, a long slog up the valley on false flats towards the climb of the Col d’Ornon. The scenery looked spectacular, what I could see of it anyway as the weather had really closed in now, very wet and murky. Grabbed a bottle on the move at the top and overtook Rich in the process as he was stopped at the aid station eating bananas and chatting to Harsh and the guys. Didn’t take him long to notice me though then chase and drop me on the descent. This one was very wet and had some sharp hairpins. Also a section with a BIG drop to the right which you were only separated from by a foot high concrete wall – not a place to take any risks! This descent was the only section of the bike where I started to feel cold, but I wasn’t too worried about this as I was sure I would soon warm up on the Alpe which was now just minutes away.

One of the special things about Alpe d’Huez is that there is no run in to it, you can’t even really see it until you take a left turn and the road just rears up in front of you. I had caught up with Rich again after the descent and we hit the Alpe together which was kinda cool. The first 6 or so corners are the steepest and it’s just a case of getting your head down and and grinding up it. The corners themselves are slightly curious as rather than being very steep through the apex they actually ease off which gives an opportunity to go up a few gears and get some momentum for the next steep section. Or to have a bit of a rest! I was slightly over-enthusiastic on this lower section with predictable consequences later on. There’s not too much more to say really, it was just a case of sticking to the task and counting down the corners. Towards the top I started to feel on the verge of a bonk, and also that it would be really nice to stick your arms in the air at the top, get off and not have a run to do! Getting enough food in is probably one of the main challenges of this bike course. In duration it’s only slightly less than an IM bike but it’s very hard to have a regular eating strategy as you are either working hard uphill or flying downhill on wet tarmac where taking a hand off the bars is not top of your list of priorities.

Anyway, eventually bend 1 is reached and then you ride into town past a few hardy spectators who have not been put off by the rain and murk (in fact, given the shitty weather there were an impressive number of supporters out, and thanks to anyone who gave me an “Allez Robert” along the way). Overall the bike took me 5hrs 10, with a 1hr 10 ascent of the Alpe.

Into T2 and found my spot and run bag without too much trouble. In the background I could hear the post-race interviews with the leading men which was slightly demoralising! Another tardy transition with a change of socks as well as shoes, took off my bike jersey but left arm warmers on and put gilet back on too – it really was wet and pretty bloody cold now we were up high.

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The run is 3 laps of a mixed trail and tarmac course with a few ups and downs and one longer climb towards the end which leads to a lovely descent on the road back past our appartment to the start finish area. The start of each lap takes you past the finish chute and then away again which was a bit of a tease! It was fairly quickly apparent that whilst my legs were OK I was really really low on fuel. Fortunately there were frequent aid stations serving Coke and bananas (and other stuff I’m sure but that’s all I paid attention to) which kept me going. So the tactic was run to the aid station, grab a cup of Coke and a hunk of banana, bit of a stroll whilst eating these then off and running again. Very cold on the course and I was glad I had stayed well wrapped up. Traded places a few times with Amy Marsh of Team TBB as whilst I couldn’t go uphill anywhere near as quick as her, she could do with a bit of fell running practice (oh, she was a lap ahead of me I suppose I should add!). Hammered the final downhill back into town and finally I could use the finish chute that I’d already had to run past 3 times!

Did the run in 1hr 48 for a total time of 7hrs 53. A great event and I would recommend it to anyone. I’d even be tempted to do it again myself so long as you could promise me some decent weather!

Waited in the finish area for Rich who had a strong race with 8hrs 27. Sadly Viv had pulled out on the run which was a shame. Back to the ranch to get properly warm and dry, chill out for a bit then back into town for a well earned steak and frites (at Smithy’s Tavern, recommended).

The next day dawned… bright, warm and dry of course! Our flight home wasn’t until late so we had plenty of time to chill out, strip bikes, pack, have lunch, have a second lunch and watch the leaders of the short distance race reach the top of the climb, with our very own Tim Don out front. Then it was time to leave for a long but relatively uneventful journey home.