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Archive for August, 2012

Embrunman

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Last Wednesday myself and TBB team mates Bella, Dan and Powder made the annual trip to Embrunman. Embrunman is an iron distance race in the French alpes and is considered by some to be the toughest days in all of sports. This is because the bike course isn’t your standard out and back down a highway but instead goes over several big climbs including the famous Col d’Izoard adding up to 5000m of vertical climbing in total for the ride. Because I’m up around 77kg Embrunman much like Aple D’huez aren’t races that suit me but I’ve done them this year with the goal of strengthening up my ride in the lead up to Kona.

I raced Embrunman last year for the first time but I was pretty new to long course back then and I ended up having the absolute toughest day of my life so I was looking forward to an improvement this year. The 3.8km swim at Embrun is pretty special, it get’s underway at 6:00am when it’s still dark but during the swim the sun rises and you can see the sun hitting all of the Alpes surrounding the lake for the first time for the day. Team TBB’s Dan Halksworth set a good pace on the swim so myself, Dan and Powder exited the water with more than 3 minutes on the main favourites.

Out of transition and onto the bikes for the 186km ride we headed straight up a steep 7km climb. Dan took off and Powder dropped back so I was solo up the first climb and down the descent on the other side. It took me another 15 minutes before I caught up to Dan and we both rode together to the 80km point on the approach of the Izoard.

When I was younger I used to have some big Saturday nights and on Sunday I would always swear off alcohol for life but by the time the following Saturday rolled around again I’d forgotten about my promises the previous Sunday and I was ready to go again, so 7 days was the perfect amount of time to forget about a hangover. I think the same rule applies for Embrunman. At the base of the Izoard I knew what was coming up and I thought after suffering so badly last year why have I come back here? So 1 year is the perfect amount of time to forget about how hard Embrunman is. I had a laugh at this thought and then got serious again because 80km into the ride is really were Embrunman starts. The rode goes from a gentle 2-3% up to a 7-10% gradient for the next 15km all the way to the peak of the Izoard at 2360m.

Dan and I still held a 3 minute lead at 80km but I had to pick up the pace because I knew the two Spanish favourites, Marcel Zamora and Victor Del Corral would be coming up fast from behind. Dan dropped off and I was solo again. My goal was to manage the lead so I reached the peak at the same time as the two Spaniards which was going to be easier said than done, when climbing 1 or 2kg makes a big difference and I would be giving 15 -20kg away to these blokes, they’re jockeys with saved legs.

I eventually reached the peak of the Izoard first with a 30 second buffer over Del Corral. A few minutes into the descent Del Corral caught me and we flew down the hill together. At the Alpe d’Huez tri I’d really taken it easy down the descents but I went for it at Embrunman and had my rear wheel skipping out sideways a few times at 70km/h+ which isn’t much fun. Del Corral and I stayed together for the remainder of the ride until half way up the last climb of the day when I got a gap on him and then descended back into T2 with a small lead. Leading off the bike at Embrunman would have to be my best bike performance ever.

I just got through the 42km run without much effort so I didn’t leave myself flat for the final push into Kona and I crossed the line in 3rd place. Once again I’m back in Leysin and back into training. I think the strength I get out of Embrunman will be a big asset when Kona comes around.

All the best.

DD.

Alpe D’Huez

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Last week I headed off with six of my team mates for the annual Team TBB trip to the Alpe D’Huez triathlon. The race itself is one of the hardest races in the world but just to make things a bit tougher we ride there and back from our home base in Leysin. Day 1 – 165km, we leave Leysin, over the Col de Forclaz, into France, lunch in Chamonix and then onto Albertville for the night. Day 2 – 115km, we leave Albertville, over the Col du Glandon and then up the Alpe D’Huez itself to the race hotel. Day 3 – an easy swim in the morning and then the feet up for the rest of the day.

Day 4 – race day. The 2.2km swim for the race is held in the freezing cold waters of the Lac du Verney at the base of Alpe D’Huez. The swim for me didn’t really go to plan, amongst other things I got a punch in the face which left me pretty dazed and with a blood nose so I came out of the water a bit further back in the pack than expected but this wasn’t really a concern because the swim makes up such a short portion of the race in long course triathlon that it’s pretty insignificant really and after doing a few long course races now it’s defiantly true when they say long course triathlon is just a wet duathlon.

A few km’s into the bike and I was up in the front group again for the 115km course which has 3 major climbs, including the Alpe D’Huez which adds up to 3000m of vertical climbing in total for the ride. A few km’s into the first of the climbs it was down to Team TBB’s Aaron Farlow and Steve Bayliss, the Italian Alessandro Degasperi and myself. About 20 minutes into the first climb a French race referee came up next to the group and gave Alessandro, Steve and myself a drafting penalty. Strictly speaking we were within 7 metres of each other but generally there’s some lenience given on this rule when riding up the climbs. I’ve been racing and living on and off in France for over 10 years now and unfortunately dubious decisions made by the French are just part of life. It’s so common that there’s a term for it, it’s called ‘getting frenched’. Everyone who’s raced in France over the years has a story about when they got frenched.

The rest of the ride went to plan and I felt pretty good up the Alpe D’Huez and I lead into T2 with a 4 minute gap to the 2011 race winner, Spaniard Victor del Corral. The penalty given to me by the race referee earlier required me to stand in transition for 5 minutes and during this time I watched Victor come into T2 and run out in front of me. I tried my best to catch Victor on the run but he was just too strong.

Without the penalty the run would have been a nice cake walk to victory but that’s all academic. The main reason for racing Alpe D’Huez was to get in a really good hit out in the lead up to Kona and I did that so all good.

I’m back in Leysin now and back into hard work. I’ll have another 1 or 2 races in Europe in the lead up to Kona but just like Ale D’Huez they’ll be hard training days and nothing to serious.

All the best.

DD.

The press conference