This was the race we’d looked forward to: the only BUCS competition this term, but a highlight of the calendar. With five hundred people competing, it is the biggest duathlon event in the country. Hosted at the iconic Castle Combe race track, athletes get to fly around a track that has held motoring events for over 60 years, and holds a great sense of speed. One blessing of the race is that it kicks off at 1:20pm; a civilised time we were very grateful of after the 8am start of the Hillingdon Duathlon just weeks before.
We set off from uni, managing to fit nine people – with bags and bikes – into one minibus. With two people taking the train, and two more making their own way there, we had a thirteen person team. Sam O’Neill and Hendrik Frentrup deserve a special mention for driving us to the race and back, so thanks guys! Due to Lucas Miseikis turning up nearly an hour late however (!!!) we had to quickly register when we arrived, set our bikes in the transition zone, and have a short warm up. It was time to get our game faces on for race start.
Due to torrential rain the previous week, parts of the course were still water logged, and despite the best efforts of local Bristolians and their buckets, the water wasn’t going anywhere. This meant a change in the course, which didn’t bother me as I had no idea where we were meant to be going anyway! We set off, and it was clear the standard this year was serious. A pack of runners in GBR kit took the lead immediately, disappearing off in to the distance as I was left in the bottom twenty runners. Just to tease us, the first run consisted of a mile run out, and a mile back to the transition zone. This meant that I could watch all the people running the other way, already building a substantial lead while I was still going away from the finish line. But this was to be expected, I am a slow runner.
It was then into transition and onto the bike. With a swift T1 (transition 1) of 38 seconds, I had already made up a few places, and subsequently spent the next 25 minutes redeeming myself from the run. I am a cyclist after all, and with the thrill of being on Castle Combe race track urging me on, I was moving up the rankings well. The long sweeping corners meant there was no need to stop pedalling. You would just get your body low, lean in to the corner, pedal your heart out and get as close to the wet white lines at the side of the track as you dared. Hugh Mackensie (our fastest competitor) stormed past me on his bike, already lapping people, him and the front runners were 4-5 minutes in front by now. The sound of a triathlon bike carving up your right hand side, the carbon wheels resonating with the unrelenting speed they are being forced to spin at. It is a surreal sound, and I hope one day to hear that noise from my own bike!
After a death defying hairpin bend to get into the transition zone again, I was off my bike sooner than I would have liked, and onto the run. I had overtaken a lot of people including three Imperial competitors on the bike leg, and knew it was only a matter of time before they caught me again on this run. A gruelling final 2 miles tests you’re ability to shift disciplines quickly. The second run went in a new direction, over the grass and up a short incline where the combination of jelly legs and poor grip caused me to stumble and slip my way up the course. Eventually we were back on tarmac (flooded tarmac), and I was waiting for the first Imperial Triathlete to jog past me and say “Hi Ed” smugly as they over took. It was Richard Flint. “Hi Ed” he said predictably as he went by. I wanted to say something smug back but between clutching my burning abs and trying to get enough oxygen in me to keep going, there wasn’t the time.
With 800m to go, it was Marcus Bishop’s turn. “Hi Ed” he said, almost as if they had planned it from the start. I could see the finish; I could see the back of Marcus’s head bobbing away up the course in front of me. At that point I decided to man the &*%$ up and locked onto Marcus’s right flank. 400m to go. He could hear me behind him; he’d picked up the pace. 200m to go and we both broke out into a full sprint up the finish line, neither of us wanting to let it go, but I just had him, piping him through the gates by a second. With my goal achieved, I threw my dignity to the wind and proceeded to puke up against the railings, four times.
After regrouping with the team – hot chocolate in hand – we shared race results and learnt that we had done exceptionally well. Hugh Mackenzie did Imperial proud with 12th place, a sensational achievement. Sam O’Neill rocked in with a 39th place, closely followed by Jean-Claude Besse who despite suffering a double puncture in the bike stage still managed to finish in 40th. I came 168th. Nothing by the fast people’s standards but a great success in my books, because I finished in the top half! Other notable finishes were Hendrik Frentrup in 80th and Kees Jan de Vries in 94th; both competitors new to the world of triathlons.
Post-race, we headed out for a well-deserved pub dinner and a pint in Chippenham, followed by the incredibly well received homemade flapjacks Harriet Nerva had brought. She knows the way to a man’s heart. Now that the race was over, everyone’s nerves had gone and the tense pre-race atmosphere had lifted. Especially from Sophie Kirk, who barely said a word before the race due to worries about her premiere duathlon.
Coming away from today without any BUCS points is always a disappointment, but we had a solid race, with a great team of guys. And when you compare Imperial’s one minibus to the three minibuses, four transit vans, and thirty competitors Bath brought, I think we showed them that Imperial is becoming a serious competitor and hope they will be looking out for us at the next event.
Speaking of the next event: we are always looking for new talent, and always welcoming new members, whether they want to train with us full time, or just compete due to commitments in rowing, or rugby. Our next event should be made even more special by our sponsor, Jaguar Land Rover, who might be providing a fleet of Land Rovers to take us to future races. Find out more on this website, or check us out on facebook.
|99||Kees Jan De Vries||MBUCS||94||50:14.3||10:48.5||01:27.9||24:54.2||01:28.8||11:34.9|
Imperial Triathlon Club