The Cardiff Triathlon was both a successful and enjoyable event for me in several ways. Firstly I was able to support and see in action an athlete I’ve been coaching for six months now, racing in the standard distance event. It was great to see how Milo put in to practice some of the things we’ve been working on and put together a great race. There was once again a strong Racepace team spirit with four athletes racing and we all enjoyed watching England win 6-1 after the event to top off a great day!
For me the race would be my only draft-legal triathlon of the season, and given my ultimate ambitions in elite level triathlon, I find the racing exciting and challenging, so couldn’t wait to get underway. A midday start for my wave gave me time to check out the various sections of the transition area and specifics of the run course and then assemble at the swim entry area for the race briefing. With GB qualifying spots on the line for the 2019 ITU World Age Group Champs in Lausanne, Switzerland, the standard was high in my wave which included all the men under 35. A competitive swim start reminded me that even though the swim is my strength it’s important not to be complacent, and I worked hard all the way to the first turn bouy, fighting for my space against plenty of other strong swimmers. I was in 2nd place with a cluster of people, with one athlete pushing on ahead, so I made the decision to put a surge in to move up to the feet in front which required me to work a little harder than I felt I could maintain for the full 750m. I managed to close the gap, which wasn’t easy, and had the effect of stringing out the athletes behind in a single file line. I concentrated on swimming efficiently and trying to recover as I hung on the to fast-moving feet in front, and before long arrived at the pontoon ramp exit to make the short run into T2. I soon had the top half of my Arena Carbon Tri wetsuit down to my waist and made note of the athletes around me.
A quick, smooth transition with my wetsuit quickly off, and I was out onto the bike having moved into the lead with only one athlete close behind. I got my feet in my shoes and tried to pedal smoothly and recover while I waited for company. Before long another athlete caught me and we started to work together, riding for 30 seconds or so on the front before taking a break tucked in behind on the wheel and sheltering from the wind. We had to complete four laps of a five km course so after one lap there were lots of athletes on the course from both our wave and the waves behind. We managed to get a couple of other athletes to share the work with for some short sections before pressing on to chase down the next group on the road. In pre-race discussions with my coach Rodge we had identified the final few hundred metres of the bike course had a technical section and a few corners and could provide a good platform to attack any group I happened to be riding with. So on the final lap I put in an effort and using my handling skills I gained myself a handful of seconds before arriving at the dismount line.
After a quick T2 my tactic gave me a little bit of breathing room to take the first part of the run to find my legs without either losing ground or pushing harder than would be good for me. I viewed the run as a 5km time trial so aimed to run as fast as possible, meaning I soon arrived at what felt maintainable and then concentrated on ticking off the kilometres whilst maintaining as fast a pace as possible. The two lap ‘out and back’ course gave an opportunity to see the chasing athletes – my companion from on the bike was looking tired but several athletes from the chasing pack were looking strong and trying to close the gap to me. I pushed hard and gradually increased my pace as much as I could as I neared the end of the second lap, in order to finish strongly. I completed the 5km run with an all out effort, aware of the possibility of athletes in other waves posting quicker times, and broke the tape to finish first in front of the impressive Wales Millennium Centre. My time was quick enough to win the event overall by around 50seconds, and I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere while I waited to see team mates Bob and Samantha finish from their respective waves.
The whole day was a really enjoyable one, and being able to watch the elite sprint distance British championships, who competed on the same course we had, really whet my appetite to return to that level of racing next season.