Clearwater 2009

November 18th, 2009 by

I’m home, I’m unpacked (well, the bike can well and truly stay where it is for a little longer, let’s not get carried away) and feeling a lot closer to human after the travel. Therefore I have had some time to reflect properly and objectively about Clearwater at the weekend. I still stand by my initial belief that it was the toughest race I have done, and boy oh boy was it fast – the winning times posted by Michael Raelert and my good buddy Julie Dibens are lightening quick, which is what winning a World title on that course demands.

– Obviously not snapped within the middle 6 miles! (where the shuffling occured)

My final lead in to Clearwater was productive . Once I had got over the ‘yet another niggly leg problem’ just before the Longhorn 70.3 I was able to fully dive into one last block of solid training work. I met some great news friends in Austin – Terra and her husband Zane welcomed me into their home wonderfully, and as I already mentioned, Richie and Pat were wicked training partners for that final 2 weeks stint. Cheers a bunch folks, it made such a difference. From Texas I wandered over to Florida to what is without question my second home! – Carolyn is a homestay extraodinaire, and that is about all I can say on the matter. She kept Julie and me housed and also ensured that Dann and Joel were fed and watered at every instance. It made for a great little training group for our final few session and I think we all appreciated the banter during those final days before the ‘serious face’ crept in.

This year has been one long up and down as far as I my training and racing has gone, and I certainly don’t want to start moaning about lack of consistency. We all have issues in our careers, and that’s part of the deal; it’s how we cope under the circunstances that shows true character, and I am proud of how I worked things out as best I could to be on the startline. I’ll be honest, at various points over the last 3 months I was almost on the phone to British Airways to see if I could use my ticket for another trip down the line.

That being said, come race morning I knew I had got there in good condition, all things considered. All the pre race ‘faff’ was done; travel, rego, briefings, tv interviews, bike racking etc etc and all that was left was to get nervous and put the wetty on. I have very rarely exited the water outside the top 3 in a 70.3, and I have never done so at Worlds. However I have a tendancy to get pretty worried before swim start. I’ts a layover from racing ITU where the pontoon starts were generally a boxing match nightmare for me.

Nonetheless, I got my tactics right, as after a couple hundred meters I’d avoided the mass start issues, the upper cuts and jabs and found myself right at the very front of the race following the stand up paddler. I love it when a plan works out. It just makes life so much easier the closer to the front you are; sure some feet to follow and draft is probably better, and I ended up having that after half way, but it just gives you a buffer to iron out any problems come transition. – Unfortunately my buddy Richie found this out to his cost, as he grabbed the wrong gear bag, and only realised he had the wrong helmet as he approached his bike. His race was effectively over before it had really begun. I’m gutted for him as a podium was there for him. Fingers crossed he pulls it all together in Arizona this w/e.

The bike was nothing short of crazy fast. There has been plenty chat and discussion regarding the drafting out there; but it is what it is in Clearwater. The course profile is virtually flat, there is rarely any wind and there are minimal corners to slow us down. The real sticking point with it is that we only get one lane for much of the 56 miles, which means it gets congested – especially once you throw in the media vehicles and race ref bikes following us. In an ideal world the World Champs would be elsewhere, and the rumour is that after next year it will indeed move as Clearwater will be out of contract.

The real problem is the fact that the girls and guys don’t have seperate races; and in this instance it meant that we started to catch girls quickly during the first 20miles – but we didn’t pass them!  They started getting involved in our race – in effect we were getting ‘chicked’!! At one point my mate Joe Gambles rode past me to say just that to me, pulled in front of me and ANOTHER girl rode past him … I started laughing at seeing his aero helmet shake from side to side in laughter. I think the worst part of this probem is that guys got yellow card blocking penalties – Luke Bell had to take a ‘stop and go’ which cost him a minute; he’s a helluva a rider and rode us back down with 10 miles remaining. In my mind the only solution is to to have separate races for men and women, just as happens in ITU events … a few minutes separation just isn’t good enough anymore.

The run boiled down to a foot race, just as everyone imagined it would. The bike preme is the only factor in the race at Clearwater that can really shake the bike up – last year it was atop the bridge at 34 miles, but due to an extra dog leg early in the race we didn’t hit the bridge till 42 miles. I had made a move to the front from 35 miles and along with Andrew Starykowicz, Terenzo Bozzone and Phil Graves we had a decent gap through to the 45mile marker. Terenzo reckoned it was the cross on his back as defending champion that sucked us back in, but I think we just weren’t ever gonna get the break. There is only so fast we can ride …. breaking away from a 47kph group of guys is a long shot!!

So no matter how ridiculous the bike splits seem, the bottom line is that 15 guys rolled in together with another 10 less than a minute later. If you didn’t have your run legs packed in transition it wasn’t a good day to be racing! I had an average first 3 miles and a less than average next 7 … I only picked it up during the final 3, and salvaged a few spots to maintain the top 20 place. You have to race to line no matter what and I am happy I did that.

Once again congratulations to Julie; she worked so hard for this one, and after consecutive 4th place finishes she was as deserving a winner as there could’ve been. So often girls have held her wheel and ran her down, but not this time. -Just imagine the damage if she had a hilly course to race on!