What’s an American doing racing European Champs? Well, I’m over here in Europe for one. And secondly, I needed a race. An actual race race. I even got a few days of rest leading in to this one…I didn’t have to ride my bike to it! I had finally put in a good block of training, so it was time to see where that left me in the racing aspect. So, it was off to Wiesbaden, Germany for the 70.3 European Championships race. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than a tough field. All the hype leading in to the race was the fact that Michael Raelert had pulled out and was focusing on Vegas. It still left no shortage of great athletes on the line. And, a Saturday afternoon drive of part of the course also indicated that the strength of the field would be just one thing that made this race tough. The bike was one of the tougher courses that I had seen…and this was from a car. It was definitely worthy of a championship billing. You had to not only be good a pedaling a bike…something most triathletes can do quite well…you also had to be good at handling a bike…something most triathletes are notoriously bad at. Add to that the damp conditions that race morning brought, and it was again a championship worthy course. For you U.S. folks, it was probably similar to the Wildflower bike course in terms of hills, but it had A LOT more turns and fast descents.
The swim was in a different location this year. It was in some sort of lake that appeared to be man made with a big crane in the middle and a ‘pipeline’ of some sort running from the crane to the shore. How they fit 1.9km in that lake would have been a big question mark to most race directors. Leave it to the Germans to figure it out. The swim was out, right turn, u-turn, turn left around the crane, swim straight for a bit, get out and run about 10m, and then back in the water for 550m or so. Did you get that? Neither did most of us, but there were enough buoys that it was actually quite straightforward. I had forgotten a bit about the race start intensity, but managed it ok. My swim was about average. I was solidly in the main pack until the 10m run across the land where my 1,2,3 and dive became a 1,2,3 and sink as the ground suddenly disappeared below me. I was dead in the water, but recovered enough to grab back on the pack and exit in a good position.
Once again, nothing like a championship race to dust off the cobwebs. The run out of the water saw me just about get dropped before the bike even started. But, I had a decent transition…not ITU style but decent…and was on the bike at the tail end of the bunch. I kept the pack to that oh so painful 10-20 second gap for about 15-20k and then I was in no man’s land. I would stay here with 1s and 2s passing me until about 45k into the ride. I settled down and quite worrying about that, and just started to ride the 2nd half of the ride well. Slowly, I reeled in about 4-5 who had passed me and dropped 2 that I was riding with. Richie Cunningham and Sebastian Kienle had crashed about 35k into the ride, and I had no idea where I was in the field as we came to the end of the ride. I had no idea how much time I had lost, but I figured on probably 10 minutes. A short glance at the splits showed about a 8 minute gap to Mathias Hecht who had one of the quickest rides. And, most of that time was in the first 40k, so good and bad. 8 minutes is still a lot of time, but I minimized the damage late in the ride.
On the run, I just figured I’d run as well as I could for each of the 4 laps. I picked off a 1 or 2 the first lap and saw a few more ahead as I started each lap. It pretty much went this way until the end. I passed Thomas “Hell on Wheels” Hellriegel with about 1.5k to go. I crossed the line in 7th…breaking my 12th place streak in good fashion.
This blog will pretty much wrap up my 2011 European adventure. It is back to the U.S. in just over a week. My season is kind of just getting started, and the remainder is still a bit to be determined. Next up though is the Rev3 Iron Distance race in Cedar Point, Ohio. After that, I am not entirely sure, but I would like to also race the Rev3 Half-Rev in Anderson, S.C. and then hit a WTC 70.3 event as well as a possible later season WTC Ironman event. I’d like to be on the start line in Kona in 2012, so I will likely be playing the points game a little bit with the other WTC Pros.