Race Report – European Championships

Where to start? Well I suppose I should say that this year’s championships were set in the picturesque and very upmarket town of Kitzbuhel in Austria on the 21st June.

Kitzbuhel: Eyecatching setting

Kitzbuhel: Eyecatching scenary

When this venue was announced a year or so ago I was positively thrilled given it’s in the alps and would undoubtedly include a challenging course. OK, so it wouldn’t be as tough as the Elite able-bodied athletes faced in Kitzbuhel at last year’s ITU World Series race (for anyone who didn’t see it on TV let’s just say it was brutal!), but it would definitely be hilly, right? Err, Wrong! The course wasn’t entirely flat but it didn’t present much of a challenge either given we could have been riding/running up (rather than between) mountains. Damn it!

Regardless of the course, Matt and I knew we’d have a tough race with the new factoring system still in place meaning we’d once again start 3:43 behind the B1 (Blind) athletes with a quality field on the start line too (as you’d expect). I’d also hardly ran since mid-May due to an adductor muscle injury apart from gingerly racing in London (May 30th) and a few short, slow outings at home. Realistically under such circumstances we would struggle to get on the podium on a good day, but you can only go out and race as hard as you can.

Our Austrian swimming pool

Our Austrian swimming pool

The swim in the calm waters of the Swarzsee seemed to go OK, no major drama’s and it felt like we were moving better than in previous races. The staggered start system does however mean you don’t know what the B1’s have done. In our wave we also had no one to draft off as Luke and Dave (GB) took a chunk of time out of us as usual before we emerged from the water 3nd with our friends from Spain tickling our toes.  It turns out our swim time was almost identical to Yokohama and London but we’d lost time to a number of the B1’s and the Serbian pair in our group had come out 40-odd seconds ahead too. Damn it again!

We’re claiming the fastest T1 (first transition) though! Usually we lose a few seconds here to Dave and Luke but as there was an issue with their timing chip we’ll just presume we were faster. Our T1 was actually pretty good – there was a tight U-turn just after the bike mount line so we had decided just to keep running until we got past this before mounting, although people must have wondered what we were doing.

The bike course was just over 20km and consisted of 4 laps of a largely straight out and back circuit. It was slightly downhill to the very tight U-turn at the further point with a steady drag back up before a quite technical section near to transition which was neutralised with no over-taking allowed due to safety issues. We set about our task of pulling back some time on those in front and distancing those behind catching a number of pairs in putting down the fastest bike time. We were only just about able to get round the far turn though with other pairs later revealing they had actually bumped up the curb and used the adjacent car park to increase there turning circle! We were lucky through the neutralised zone so didn’t get held up too much there, but any advantage from the slight uphill section was negated by a tailwind. We were in 5th spot at this point. Damn, damn, damn!

Matrix clearly make the very lightest of tandems

Matrix clearly make the very lightest of tandems

Our T2 probably raised even more eyebrows than T1…as we dismounted the rear brake on the tandem appeared to stick. Never one to miss a good photo opportunity, Matt picked up the tandem and started to run. I thought about helping but decided to leave him to it and save my energy for the run:-) Thankfully he didn’t take me out swinging it around to park it in our allocated space! Maybe this is why you have to keep you’re helmet on until the bike is racked? Our T2 time wasn’t all that bad considering as we only lost a few seconds.

Out on the run and the moment of truth. You can get away with missing a few days of running without a problem, a week or two even. 5 week’s however might show a bit more and so it proved. I ran 18:03 for the allegedly 4.9km’s (more like 4.6 I reckon). We lost a bit of time but not as much as in previous races and we held on for 6th spot ahead of one of the French and Israeli pairs who had started in the first wave. The Serbian guys who we;d caught on the bike came through like a steam train for 5th and I just couldn’t respond.

Happy with the result? Hell no! It’s the first time I’ve been off the podium at a major championships except for mechanicals/crashes.  Happy with the performance? Reasonably given my lack of run training recently. Positively I had no real issues with the injury and no reaction afterwards.We finished in the top 8 so scored much needed ranking points toward World championships selection later this year. I got everything out of myself on the day and really that’s all anyone can ask.

Jill and I also managed a few nice days walking in the mountains and relaxing after the event which was good…and our hotel was pretty awesome with an amazing 48m infinity pool on the top floor over-looking the mountains. It was quite posh to be honest, so much so that’s it’s the only place i’ve ever been where a small amount of diet coke is poured into a glass by the waiter for you to test before they fill it up properly!

Oh, and congratulations to Iain Robertson from Tri-Anglia who won the Male age group 35-39 category with Matt also racing to 4th place.

Next year’s European’s are in Geneva and apparently it’s really hilly with a 12% climb on the bike course…I’ll believe it when I see it!


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