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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