June 16th was the date for the European Triathlon Championships and my first major goal of the season. After Israel last year it was Turkey’s turn to host the event that took place in the holiday resort of Alanya.
This would be the first event using modified rules for visualy imapired athletes: two categories according to level of impairment, no blackout glasses for the run. The athlete will also be required to swim next to rather than behind their guide come the World Championships in September…
A 17 strong GB group travelled for the Paratriathlon race with a large support team accompanying us. This included a Physio, Mechanic, Sports Psychologist. Performance Analyst. Coach and Team Manager. In my case it also included the most important member of my support team: Jill. This was the first time we have enjoyed this level of back-up following the announciment of a UK Sport lottery funding for programme leading up to the Rio 2016 Paralympics. As a team we had high hopes of success whilst personally I was looking to defend the title won last year with Luke Watson on guiding duties that day.
This time out I was racing with Carl Shaw, whilst Luke lined up with Dave Ellis (a former Paralympic swimmer) who had come through a talent identification process earlier this year. With our GB team mates likely to challenge for a medal alongside our friends from Serbia (Lazar Filipovic and his guide), I knew it would be a tough race.
We had been informed it would be a mandatory non-wetsuit swim due to a predicted water temperatures of 27 degrees with air temperature expected to be 29 degrees (there are specific rules around use of wetsuits) . I’ve never done a triathlon without a wetsuit, but I was feeling confident this wouldn’t be a problem, and perhaps it would even prove useful over any weaker swimmers. Sea conditions were also quite choppy in the days leading up to the race which again I felt would be helpful for us. As a result, I couldn’t really tell if the wetsuit was making any difference or not. The swell did make swimming tethered somewhat ‘interesting’ however!
In the end the ITU declared that as the water was only 25 degrees (hmmmm…) with an air temprature of 36 wetsuits would be allowed after all. Sea conditions were very calm too – damn it!
We had a fast start before Dave and Luke came past. I think we held them until a Ukrainian pair cut right across us at the turn buoy getting tangled up with our tether rope and causing us to lose a little ground. We narrowed the gap again by the end of what seem like a long swim, but the other GB team had gained a valuable 12 seconds. In transition we lost another 12 seconds, partly because I had decided to use my wetsuit on the basis it might be quicker. The downside to this is you have to take it off and even if you do it quickly you will lose a few seconds to those not wearing one.
The flat 6 lap bike course covering 19km (it was a bit short) consisted primarily of riding up and down a very straight section of paved road followed by a couple of tight turns at either end of the course. This made for a bumpy ride throughout, but it wasn’t too exciting – give us a hill please! Initially we seemed to pull back our deficit quickly. As we passed Dave and Luke I could hear Luke shouting something to his stoker… “here they come” or similar. We set about trying to develop something resembling an advantage before the final run as I’m not exactly noted for being fleet of foot. We seemed to be going OK but I had a feeling we wern’t gaining enough. By T2 we had about a 1 minute.
Out on the run things didn’t start that well as I had numb feet – possibly linked to a recent back problem – and my shoes seemed to have melted in the heat meaning it felt like I was running on marshmallows to begin with. Neither issue can be used as an excuse though as I simply didn’t run very well on the day. By contrast Luke and Dave were storming around the 5km two lap route and soon came past us to go on a take the victory by a considerable margin. We were well beaten.
Our Serbian friends were unlucky in my opinion. They came in third only to be disqualified having not realised they had been awarded a time penality for incorrectly racking their bike meaning Italy took the bronze in our category,
The GB team took 6 wins and a number of other podium places with some great performances to maintain our place at the top of the rankings.
Here are some video highlights of the event: –
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So, what next? Well after a short rest it’s been back to training this week ahead of the Norwich triathlon on 7th July and the National Championships in Liverpool on the 14th July. Both events will be used as preparation for the World Championships where I will look to defend the title won last year in New Zealand. I might have to up my game though on recent evidence!