Challenge Peguera 70.3 Race Report – by Tom Williams

3-amigosThe UK triathlon season is just too short. As October arrives, some of us just aren’t quite ready to hang up the tri-suit just yet. But with the UK temperatures falling faster than Donald Trump’s Poll ratings, any racing was going to have to be somewhere warmer.  With the promise of sunshine, great beaches and stunning roads, Challenge Peguera-Mallorca looked to be the perfect choice.  And so myself, TTT coaches Phil and Andy, age-grouper Lindsay and Pro Suzie all headed out for one last race. With team support for the weekend being provided by none other than my Mum!

The race takes place in the town of Peguera on Majorca’s south coast. As with many big events the triathlon takes over the town for the weekend, much to the surprise and chagrin of some of Peguera’s less-athletic holiday makers. They were probably not planning to spend their weekend surrounded by people whose average body habitus is similar to that of a malnourished pipe cleaner. Particularly when the aformentioned pipe cleaners insist on spending the weekend compressing themselves in overly-tight, brightly-coloured lyrca. That said, the race does make for a great atmosphere throughout the weekend. Music and fireworks on the Thursday night kick things off. Registration is slick and the volunteers are incredibly positive and friendly. It’s a big race, but as people make their last preparations on the Friday the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.

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A beautiful sunrise greets the 900 competitors as we assemble on Tora beach on race morning.  As the horn goes the race begins with a mad sprint into the surf. I try to make use of my height and run and hurdle as far as possible. It turns out this is quite hard work. Well aware of the number of photographers on the beach I then do my best David Hasselhoff impression and dive heroically over the first big breaker, only to head-butt the shallow sand behind it. I stand and start to run again before the next wave comes in and repeat my effort, well aware that I’m now looking a bit more Benny Hill than David Hasselhoff. I certainly don’t remember an episode of Baywatch where ‘The Hoff’ sets off on a daring rescue only to come straight back in with a nasty graze on his forehead. And I’ve seen a lot of episodes of Baywatch. For the story line, obviously.

I get plenty of chance to practice my run-dive-flounder routine as the big breakers and shallow shore mean I repeat the exercise several times before deciding its actually too much effort and I’m just going to try and swim over the next few waves. Turns out this is just as hard. I’ve been racing for less than two minutes and am already knackered! I console myself that it is bound to get easier once we get through the surf. It doesn’t.

The next problem quite literally rears its head as I try to see where I’m going. Carefully timing my glance up for the moment I’m on top of the wave I assume I’ll have a view of the course before me. What I hadn’t counted on was the next wave being even bigger, so completely obscuring the view. Interesting. Deciding there is very little I can do about this I just swim in what I hope to be the right direction. Unfortunately the right direction was in fact the left direction, not the right direction, so to speak. Several navigational changes later I round the end of the course and head back in towards the shore. As I reach the beach it is a relief to feel the sand again. I stand up just in time to get completely flattened by the next wave which has cunningly snuck up behind me. Nothing makes you feel more ‘pro’ than staggering around like a drunken buffoon wearing an overly tight wetsuit in front of a large crowd! Somebody please; put me on a bike….

Fortunately, this being a triathlon, my wish is granted. I have recently been very lucky to become a brand ambassador for Storck Bikes and Eureka Cycle Sports. I have had the beautiful new Storck Aero 2 TT bike for only a week now but have been loving it and am very excited to be able to race it. As I set off on the new bike, with the sun on my back (and the sea-sickness subsiding) I’m feeling good.

The Challenge Pageura-Majorca bike leg has to be one of the best bike courses in the world. It truly does have something for everyone. Climbing, technical descending, and some good flat out A-roads, it tests every aspect of your cycling. The opening climb into the wooded hills takes you through small villages with spectators cheering you on. An out and back section then lets you see where you are in the field before some super-fast TT style riding mixed with a bit more climbing and descending leads you back into town. The Storck excels; light, aero, fast and perhaps most crucially, it handles like a road bike. At around the 70km mark three of us have been riding in a pace line, when I witness something that I think truly embodies the spirit of our great sport….

On the front of the pace-line is a Brit who reaches behind his saddle, feeling for his rear mounted water bottle. Unfortunately it isn’t there, the whole mount having become dislodged on an earlier descent. With increasing panic he is feeling up and down his seatpost, trying to find his only bottle. At this point the German athlete behind him puts in an effort to close the gap and ride alongside the Brit. He explains to the Brit what has happened, then passes him a bottle of his own. With 20km to go on a hot day this is a great act of sportsmanship. We are racing, but at the same time we are all in this together. The spirit of sport transcending both competition and nationality. Chapeau.

What happens next however, is more of a great act of sporting idiocy. I’m pleased that I’ve paced the bike well and am looking forward to the run (at least as much as anyone can look forward to a hot, hilly half marathon after swimming in a washing machine and a hilly 56 mile bike ride). Hurtling down a fast descent I completely miss the turn back towards transition. As I fly past there is a cacophony of shouts. It is probably best I that I don’t document my exact thoughts at this point. I turn to head back up the hill, but as I do so I see there is a large grassy area between me and the course, so put my cyclocross experience to good use; jump off, shoulder the bike and run. Once across the grass I jump back on but something isn’t right (I later discover I’ve clipped the rear skewer and knocked the rear wheel out of line) so jump off again, whip my shoes off, shoulder the bike and start running again, much to the delight of the group of spectators crowded around the end of the bike course. Some were probably wondering if this is some kind of revolutionary new transition technique. It isn’t. It’s called being a Muppet.

The first kilometre of the run is about getting my head together. I’ve not had the best swim and a daft mistake has taken the shine off what I felt was a very well paced ride. I’m determined to put a decent run together. The lumpy four-lap route passes through the town centre, beach front and past the finish chute and grandstand. The whole route is lined with people. Some are spectating. Some are drinking. Some are wondering what the hell 900 very sweaty people are doing running around in circles in varying states of fatigue, when they could very easily be enjoying a cold beer in the sunshine? They make a good point.

My Mum is doing a sterling job and providing us with updates on position. Phil has put in a superb swim and bike and is leading our age-group. Ian Dempsey is closing in on him and I’m surprised to hear I’m in in third.  The large crowds and out-and-back nature of the course means there is plenty of encouragement, especially around the finish. I’m gaining time but am too far back to catch the two ahead. Heartbreakingly for Phil, Ian catches and passes him in the last 500m. I’m pleased to hold my pace and put together a 1:26 half marathon to finish my day in third. After four and half hoursof racing the three of us finish within 2 minutes of each other. What was that about marginal gains?!

Lindsay has also put in a great performance to take 2nd in her AG, with Suzie right in the mix in the female Pros. Andy has put in the gutsiest performance of all, getting through the race despite a back injury (he’s got real spine that boy). And like any true athlete he cracks on with his usual recovery routine; a malted recovery beverage or two!

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That evening the prize ceremony takes place next to the beach with the sun setting over the cliffs beyond. Lindsay is up first, then it’s a nice moment as Phil and I both take the stage for 2nd and 3rd respectively in our AG.

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webmail-3-doctors-org-ukA great days racing on a great course. Will I be back? Definitely. And maybe I’ll bring a map and compass next time!

Huge thanks to Storck Bikes and Eureka Cycle Sports for their support, Chris for the top coaching, and Helen and the boys for letting me do this crazy sport. And a special thanks to top TTT supporter for the weekend: my Mum!

Until next season,

Tom

 

 

 

 

 

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