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.