Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Xterra European champs Bronze medal

Xterra Austria was one of my breakthrough races in 2007, when I came off the bike in 2nd behind Nico LeBrun, but that year I faded on the run and lost a lot of time and places. Last year I struggled with form and with the emergence of the the new breed of pro's such as Michi Weiss and Franky Batellier, I barely managed a top 10. This year I was motivated and desperate to get both series points and the extra prize money that was on offer for the events' new European Champs status.

In the gorgeous aqua marine waters of the warmest lake in Europe I started hard on the 1.5km non wetsuit swim, desperately hanging onto any ones feet that came by me. After the first buoy, when things had calmed down slightly I realised I was swimming with top US swimmer Brandyn Roark Gray and UK's own Nicola Duggan, for me this was esteemed company. Stay in this pack and you'll only be a couple of minutes down on the leaders I told myself. Some how I made it out in that group, just outside the top 20 and only 2.5 mins down on the leaders.

On the 500m run to transition I gave it some gas to catch last years winner (and World Champs' silver medalist) Michi Wiess who was just 100m ahead of me, I knew this could be a good wheel to follow and get me up the field. Swiftly on with my Bell helmet and we exited T1 together, but before we could start doing the damage Michi punctured and ended his race. I'd have to chase on my own! I got into a great rythmn on the hilly technical course, keep the cadence high on my new Rotor Q-rings. My Canondale Taurine was handling great as I passed rider after rider. Just after half way round the first lap I caught the German pair of Ronny Dietz and Felix Shauman who were 2nd and 3rd last weekend at Xterra Germany, I knew I was going well at this point as I never caught them at all last week. Pushing my Schwalbe tyres to the limit I caught the flying Fin Vanstarata on the final descent of lap 1. At the turn around point I then realised I was in 4th with only Olivier Marceau and the 2 leaders in the European series (Frank Battelier and Karel Zadak) just ahead of me. As I caught Olivier (which I've never managed to do before), I pushed things too far and crashed over my USE carbon handlebars, luckily nothing was broken and I got back in my rythmn and set about chasing after Karel.

All race I had the run problems of 2007 in my mind. I kept drinking my Maximuscle Viper and taking solid food too. Guy's like Olivier and the other ITU road triathletes were going to chase like mad on the run and not take any prisoners. Another solid lap in the muddy conditions with the drive chain still running smooth from Squirt lube and not collecting dirt and my Sundog shades keeping the muck out of my eyes. I exited the final descent on Karels wheel. We shared the work up to T2 where we were only 1 minute behind Franky.

A smooth transition, on with the Montrail shoes and the 2XU number belt and cap. We would now see if I could finally run with the top guys and get on the podium in a championship race. After Global tour wins in Japan and Saipan, today was my chance for a medal at the European Champs. We settled into a good pace together on lap 1, taking turns to keep the tempo at the front. Halfway round the final lap and my legs were heavy it was pure adrenaline keeping me going, Karel tryed a few attacks and on the 3rd attempt he got a 10m gap. I was in major pain and just couldn't close the gap, slowly it became 20m and then 30m as the finish approached.

Luckily Olivier and the others hadn't made any inroads to our lead and I straightened up the 'Panasonic' and 'Snow and Rock' logo's on my chest for the press, and celebrated my Bronze medal with a victory leap through the finishing pond that the organisers had constructed.

A great party followed the race and then it was a quick bike clean and back in the bike box (, to be opened in 4 days time in another continent. Two days of washing kit and light training and off to Maranuma for my chance to defend my first ever world cup win in Japan last year.