The World Duathlon Championships were decided in Nancy, France over the weekend of 22/23 September with Tri Team Dawson scoring a bronze!
Nancy proved a scenic brackdrop for this run-bike-run festival covering all categories of athlete from age group to elite competitors. The event start, finish and transition area were based in Stanislas Square: ‘Place Stanislas is considered as one of the most beautiful plaza’s worldwide’ according to the tourist info blurb and it was pretty impressive with tall buildings, arches and lots of gold everywhere. See more here.
I had forcast a tough race beforehand. Yes, I won this event in 2010, but the course that day suited me down to the ground and standards maybe wern’t quite as high then as they are now. I knew it would be difficult to win an event like this against better runners than myself with what appeared a relatively easy bike route also not helping matters. On the positive side, my running is improving…
A late change of guide was also made with Carl Shaw stepping in for Luke Watson. Luke felt his form wasn’t too good and that Carl’s bike ability would be an advantage, especially in a duathlon. I have to admit to being surprised when I got the call from Luke, but I really appreciated the fact that he was so honest and gave me the best chance possible. All credit to Luke: AWESOME!
After an early 8a.m. start, the first 5km run proved somewhat challenging with a mass start (with the visually impaired athletes in blackout glasses!) and something like 22 right angle corners, narrow sections, gravel and little ramps to deal with. Needless to say there was a lot of hand holding going between Carl and I as he needed to keep a really tight rein on me to ensure I got round safely. I still got bumped a few times and caught another runners heals almost causing me to fall – apparently they slowed on a downhill section and we didn’t – which was all very off-putting. After things settled down I was able to get into a rhythm and relax a little. It was really nice to hear GB elite athlete Tim Don giving us a shout of encouragement from the side of the road too as he prepared for his event later in the day. Jill also gave us a shout towards the end of the 5km to say we were pacing it well and so it proved as we lost less than 60 seconds… not too bad as it would have been 2 minutes a year or so ago.
Out on the bike and we had work to do if we wanted a medal as we were in 4th place. We hit the bike hard to see what we could do. Carl wasn’t taking too many prisoners around the tight technical corners and two U-turns we had to negotiate on each of the four laps either. The bike circuit proved harder than expected with a long drag into the wind each lap but this was to our advantage. We put in the quickest bike split to overhaul our British team mates Haseeb and Rupert and also the Germans to put us into 2nd spot. We didn’t quite catch the French but it was close…We’d given ourselves a chance.
The second run is always hard in a duathlon as the legs don’t really want to know. It was another lap of the same course used earlier in the race so only 2.5km to go. According to Carl, nobody was running all that well and whilst we slowly lost time to the French and Germans who past us again coming out of transition, they wern’t gaining much ground. I tried to keep the pace high although I was suffering, but at least we seemed secure in 3rd with over a minute’s advantage. I made one last big effort towards the end heading back into square (mainly to see if I could get Carl out of breath!), but it wasn’t enough as I could hear the crowd cheering the victors and we were still running. We pushed on regardless and made it through the finish line in just under 60 minutes, 30 seconds down on the French Winners.
Whilst it would have been fantastic to win I was still really happy to make the podium at a world championships again. The time gaps to the gold and silver medal winners wern’t insurmountable either, especially if I can continue improving my running. If the bike had been longer or really hilly like the 2010 event in Edinburgh who knows what might have happened!
Well done also to Haseeb Ahmad (Tri 6: 4th) and Adrian Howden (Tri 4: 5th) who made up the rest of the British contingent in the Paraduathlon race.
Results for the TRI 6 category can be seen here.
Another fun trip done and dusted and now thoughts turn to New Zealand for the World Triathlon Championships where I’m in for another tough race no doubt.
Thanks to Jill and Carl for their efforts in France!