On Wednesday 18th April we travelled out to the holiday resort of Eilat inIsrael where the European championships would take place the following Sunday.Israel seemed an odd place to hold this event, even if they are involved in the Eurovision Song Contest and European Champions League Football. Still, it’s interesting to visit new places.
We set off with high hopes of success, but I guess I was also slightly nervous as a good result was needed following all of the problems of last year… my whole 2011 season just goes to show that anything can happen in sport!
The first big challenge to overcome was how to get the tandem to the airport. Once in its special box for air travel, it doesn’t actually fit in our car. Luckily our friends at Reepham Rotary Club came to the rescue, not only providing a volunteer driver with a big enough vehicle (Thanks Robert!), but also contributing towards petrol costs too. That was a massive help and meant it was one less thing for Jill to worry about! Thanks guys!!
We met Luke Watson (guide) at Heathrow airport who was flying in fromGermanywhere he has been working recently. Jill and I negotiated the tight security and repeated questioning fairly quickly, but Luke wasn’t so lucky. The El Al staffs weren’t happy when he tried to tell them he was travelling for the triathlon race as they couldn’t understand why he didn’t have a bike of his own! Once resolved we were on our way and all was fine despite possibly the noisiest flight I’ve ever experienced, meaning no sleep on our overnight journey.
We arrived in Eilat on Thursday afternoon following a short delay in Tel Aviv caused by a sandstorm meaning our plane could not land…Welcome to Israel!
Once settled into our apartment we quickly unpacked the tandem and went for a gentle spin around the bike course we would use in the race to loosen off after all the travelling. On first impression I was a bit disappointed in all honestly as it was so flat there would likely be little scope to gain an advantage for a cyclist-turned-triathlete like myself. Still there were a few technical sections, a dead turn to negotiate and a little wind…
Over the next few days the priority was resting, but we also did some run practise using the dreaded blackout glasses we have to use in Paratriathlon and some swimming in the Red sea where we would start the race on the Sunday. Everything was going well and all three of us seemed quite relaxed, but how would we go on the big day?
Well in short the answer was “Awesome”.
In the swim we started fast from the gun to try to get out of the melee and quickly settled into a brisk pace. Beforehand we had decided that I would set the pace from the back with Luke speeding up if I started tapping his feet or slowing down if he felt any tension on the tether rope. Whilst I was definitely working hard I was feeling pretty good, but had no idea how we were doing in relation to our rivals. Exiting the water onto the shingle beach before a short run into transition it turns out we had completed the 750 swim in a PB of 10:40 to take a 2 mins 40 seconds lead. T1 was completed fairly quickly to extend our advantage a little further.
Out onto the bike and things were looking good as Luke shouted that we were well up on our nearest rivals. In fact the next closest tandems were the two women’s pairings from GB including Charlotte Ellis guided by Luke’s girlfriend, Jenny Manners who would go on to win their category. We kept the pressure on throughout the bike, pushing hard out of the tight turns to get back up to speed as quickly as possible whilst Luke showed off his excellent bike handling skills on the technical sections. The Matrix Tandem performed exceptionally, with light spoked wheels the order the day due to the wind and course.
It was extremely hot on the bike with temperatures reaching 35 degrees, but it was surprisingly windy too. That turned the bike section into a much harder proposition than expected with some really tough sections into that wind being to our advantage. We took another 30 seconds or so out of our nearest rivals from Serbia, who will be competing in the cycling events at the Paralympic Games this summer, to give us well over 3 mins advantage.
The run was simply about getting around the largely flat 2 lap course in one piece. We were almost certain of the win by the start of the second lap if we could just maintain a steady pace. However, the rails almost came off when I ran full speed (which wasn’t very quick!) into a water station helper who had stepped out in front of me at the last moment. Running in blackouts, I had no idea he was even there and Luke had no time to warn me…Thankfully I was just slightly winded and could carry on quickly, but it could have been worse.
Our Serbian friends ran well taking a large chunk of time back, but having built our lead, we had time to relax a little as the finish line approached with Luke picking up a few GB flags from the crowd for our victory celebrations. It was certainly good to get back to winning ways! Not a bad debut in Paratri for Luke either!!
Hopefully the result in Eilat will now stand us in good stead with regards to selection for one of the funded places in the GB team at the World Championships inNew Zealandlater this year.
Next up is a few local events followed by the National Paratriathlon Championships on the 26th May inNottingham…