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Gold at Llandudno

With four of the team racing at this hugely competitive event, we were after big performances and we certainly got that. Chris won the event overall (1200 entries), Nick and myself had solid performances and Hamish was racing well until ‘the pothole of doom’ got hold of him…

Chris’ report: After a few days off training following Bala Middle, I was keen to get back to training for my next big goal - the National Champs at Liverpool, which was 5 weeks away. I added Llandudno as a bit of a sharpener over the Sprint Distance, choosing it because it was local, but also competitive as it was the final World Qualifying Race over the distance. I’d already managed to get a slot at Chester at the beginning of the month, so I was fairly relaxed and could just concentrate on a good performance without worrying about people around me. This race has run for a couple of years, but it was good to see that competitor numbers had swelled massively to nearly 1200 this year, which meant a number of different age group waves, but a lot of people on the course on some quite narrow roads.

The sea swim started smoothly enough. I managed a quick start and was leading into the turnaround buoy, having already swam into a number of jellyfish. I could feel the stings on my wrists and hands where the wetsuit wasn’t covering. On the way back, 2 other swimmers swam up to me, so I decided to just sit in and conserve energy for the bike. I exited the swim in 3rd place, had a quick transition and there was just 2 of us who exited the long run out to the mount line for the bike.

The bike course was a 6 mile loop repeated twice, which is effectively half up, half down on a beautiful coastal road. It was questionable whether it was a road bike or TT bike course, but as I only ever ride my TT bike during the season, I stuck with my faithful Wilier Twin blade. I wasn’t bothered about the uphill, but felt I would probably lose a bit of time on the downhill compared to people on road bikes, so I just tried to nail the uphill section as hard as I could. The power meter was reading some scary numbers at times, but on this occasion just ignored it. The downhill section was pretty steep for a TT bike and also passing people from previous waves made it that bit more difficult, so I just tried to limit my losses. By this stage I was clear on the bike, and just riding as hard as I could. It was pretty eventful with such a busy course. On the first lap I had to follow an ambulance down and got held up quite a bit and as I headed into transition to the dismount line. Somebody coming out the other way to start their bike leg whilst fumbling to get their feet into their shoes crashed straight into me, getting our bikes all entangled. I knew I had lost time with both incidents, but felt I had nailed the uphill sections, so I could still have a decent lead. The halfway turnaround would give me a better view of my competitors, so I headed out a decent pace on the run. At the half way mark I was surprised that I had about a minute lead, but knew I had to keep the pace up, so I could fight for the overall positions. In the end the run was a bit disappointing time wise with an 18:09, I was looking for more like 17:15-17:30, but it was enough to get the win overall, so I came away from the race happy.

Nick's report: I took on Llandudno after only 8 months of swimming and it was my first ever sea triathlon. Slightly alarmed by the endless initial swim to the start, I soon got into my rhythm on the swim and emerged mid-pack. Out on the bike, I quickly past other riders up the climb though conceded to a few on the fast and technical descent (I like my collar bones!).

Into transition and normal service was resumed on the run and I did my usual trick of passing many more.  It’s now a wait to see if I’ve secured a roll-down place for the World championships in September. I’ve already made the GB team for the 2014 European Tri Champs in my first season of tri but making the Worlds would be extra special – fingers crossed.  

Hamish's report: Two weeks had passed since the European Championships and I felt I was ready to take on the World Championship Qualifier for the Sprint Distance at Llandudno. I have raced at Llandudno previously over the standard distance and last year I claimed second overall and an age group victory. Thus I was pretty familiar with the course.

In my opinion it was a course to use a road bike on with a technical bike course which included a reasonable amount of uphill and not too much on the flat where a TT bike would dominate. I was shocked at the number of people on the day who were discussing whether they should have taken their road or TT bike with them instead. A part of racing is preparation. Either getting to the venue to ride the course or at least looking at the course profile, pictures and video clips from previous years.

I met up at registration with fellow TORQ athletes Chris, James and Nick along with Amphibia owner Adrian. We spent a few moments chatting about the race and then we went our separate ways to get setup in transition. I entered transition and realised how big the race was. Over 1200 competitors and with a narrow promenade the transition zone was at least 300m long. That would be interesting running through in bare foot. Thankfully it had been swept. The sea looked relatively calm and there was about a 100m swim to the deep water start. A good opportunity to warm the arms up for the swim.

The time soon came to get the wetsuit on and make my way into the water. Needless to say, the water was more than a couple of degrees cooler than the sea in Turkey, but it was still bearable. I lined up behind Chris and hoped that I would have a good start and be able to draft off him. The hooter sounded and it was a frantic start. Lots of quick swimmers all aiming for the same place. A few arm clashes were had and someone pulled at my leg. Within the first minute I was stung by a number of jellyfish. One to my face, one to my neck and a sting to my right wrist.

I had a reasonable swim and started the long run through transition. A swift flying mount set me going on the bike. I knew the course very well and it wasn't long before I was on the first climb. I even managed a bit of a smile near the top, probably the thought of the super fast downhill to follow:

The downhill wasn't too technical, but I definitely had an advantage as I had previously raced upon it. When I got up to speed, I sat on the top tube to get more aerodynamic and zoomed past many athletes on the way down. The final section of the descent is a little bumpy with a number of potholes which I avoided first time around.

The second climb passed uneventfully but the course was getting busier with athletes from the next wave. As I reached the summit, a draft busting referee went past. Good to see them working hard and stopping drafting. I soon overtook him on his motorbike on the fast section downhill. I was closing rapidly on two athletes. One was overtaking the other and left me a small gap on the right hand side of the road. I should add at this point, this section of the road was one way. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn't avoid the mass of potholes. Thud. A horrid noise that no cyclist wants to hear. I prayed it wasn't a puncture. In the seconds that followed, the rear end of the bike started squirming around. I glanced down and my rear tub was flat. Not good at 50mph! I gradually slowed down to a more manageable speed. For half a moment I thought I would be able to cover the last 2.5k of the bike course on the flat tub but with the bumpy road surface it wasn't going to happen and I didn't want to risk damaging the wheel beyond repair.

I took the hard choice of slowing to a stop and dropping out. The three letters a triathlete never wants to see on a results sheet. DNF. It was a long solitary walk back to transition.

James’ report: I had been looking forward to Llandudno sprint triathlon ever since I entered it last winter. Sea swim, closed roads, technical bike and a flattish run - my type of course. Even better that I was 1 of 4 of the team doing the event (TORQ en masse) and not forgetting team sponsor Amphibia also racing and sponsoring the event.  

I would like to say I crushed it but I think it is clear that Chris took the honours and even more impressively he looked so smooth and effortless. I was pretty happy with my effort and my time with such a competitive field and will wait and see if I have done enough to join my team mates in London for the World Championships (update YES I’m going).

The race itself was fun in a great setting. I was really enjoying the swim until I realised it wasn’t people hitting my feet it was jelly fish and the subsequent tingling sensations to my wrists and ankles. Although it definitely sped me up to complete the swim portion of the event. The bike was wonderful. I was in my element, climbing smoothly passing people from other waves and descending with confidence and often out-braking people. The run was quite enjoyable, but hard in the heat. As it is an out and back you get to see your competition when you turn for home. Whilst this is normally advantageous, it is not when you see sub 16min 5k runners in the form of team mate Nick bearing down on you, it certainly made sure I hammered until the end!

All our excellent photographs came from Jolekha Shasha thank you!

As ever, thanks to the help of all our fantastic sponsors:

www.wilier.it - Triathlon Frames
www.huubdesign.com - Wetsuits
www.limarhelmets.com - Helmets & Glasses
www.lakecycling.co.uk - Cycling Footwear
www.jagwireusa.com - Cables & Housing
www.shimano.com - Groupsets
www.max-mediagroup.co.uk - Team PR
www.amphibia-sport.com - Transition Bags
www.schwalbe.com – Tyres
www.lezyne.com - Pumps, Tools, Bottle Cages
www.juicelubes.co.uk - Lubrication
www.chapeaucycling.co.uk - Chamois cream, clothing
www.triathlonspecific.com/Sable/Sable.html - Swim Goggles (Sable Water Optic)
 
Love bite or jelly fish you decide...