So, the Challenge Championship in Samorin, Slovakia.
Where do I start. Well first off the venue. It’s held at the X-bionic sphere, a purpose build Olympic training centre, and I tell you what you’d be hard pushed to find a better venue than this. it’s got everything you could possibly need, both from a sports complex, and hotel.
Going into this race, I knew it was going to be a massive step up, and I was going into the race with very few expectations, and I kept saying that provided I was happy with the race I executed I would be satisfied, but inside there was a bit of me that knew that wasn’t true. I was really going there for that top 10.
Leading into the race, the legs were feeling good. I’ve come off the back of some great races the past few weeks so confidence was high, and I was hoping it would go the same way again. I sat down before the race and made a plan, with coach Chris, of what we thought was going to be a competitive time, and I knew that I could be in the mix.
With the field that was assembled for this, the days leading into the race were a mixture of the final training sessions, albeit with a fair few more photographers around than normal, race briefings, media and interviews thrown in for good measure. It was also really good to be able to catch up with all of the Challenge family, who have really looked after me for the past year since I started my journey into this style of racing, and also friends and colleagues who were out here racing.
Onto race day, and it was actually quite comforting to get back to something that felt familiar. I knew what to do, whereas I’m not used to all the media stuff yet, and that side of things still throws me off my stride a bit.
The days leading into the race, there had been talk of altering the swim due to the current flow in the Danube river where the swim was due to be taking place, however come race day, Challenge really pulled out all the stops and managed to close the damn, and slow the river so we could have a fair and honest race, and I think that was really appreciated by all the guys who were racing.
So onto the race. We had been told before the race, it would be an open water start, so as all the Pro males were making their way into the water, down the ramp, all of a sudden the hooter went to start the race. Half in, half out the water, it was chaos, but fortunately I was in the water, if a bit behind the line, and after a hundred meters or so, I managed to find the feet of the main pack, and that’s where I sat, fairly relaxed for the remainder of the swim. I know that if I’d started on the line, I would have been out the front with Ben Kanute who managed to get himself a little gap, but as it was I exited the water in 10th, in a group with the main contenders
Through T1 and it was on the bike, in a massive pack. I was feeling in control, keeping the power under wraps, holding the gap to the guys in front at around 25m back. The great thing about the Championship is there is a 20m draft zone, and really makes for honest racing. That’s when my first mistake happened. I let myself slide to far down the pace line, and one of the athletes in front of me let a gap go, and just like that me and a couple of others were gapped from the pack of around 10. From there I pushed hard, with David McNamee to try to rejoin, but by the end of the bike I think we lost around 2 mins to the guys. Frustrating to say the least, as I’m pretty sure I would have been able to stay in there.
Anyway, no time to dwell on that it was onto the run. I went out hard. I had time to make up and I wanted that top 10. Maybe I went out a little hard, I was closing down the guys in front, and as I was told, going through 10k, there were 8 guys within 3 minutes!! Right here we go…
or maybe we don’t. Whether it was the heat , or perhaps I had pushed a little too enthusiastically on the first 10k, from there the gaps to the guys in front pretty much remained the same, and come the last couple of km it was a case of enjoying the event, soaking up the atmosphere as I had my position in the bag.
13th at my first race ever at this kind of level. Initially I was pretty fed up, and I was kicking myself for some stupid mistakes that had cost me the result I wanted, but I can’t be too hard on myself. That’s the first time I’ve ever really ridden in a pack with more than about 3 athletes in it, and usually then I just sit on the front, because at the end of the day, these races are meant to be an individual ride. This race was different. The guys here were world class, and I knew I had to play the game to be in with a chance, and with the 20m rule there wasn’t much benefit to be had anyway. All in all, a lot of learning and experiences to be had from a wicked race, and I’ll definitely be back stronger to challenge again next year!
My splits for those that were interested
Bike 1:59:22 – 45.3km/h