After qualifying for this year’s European Sprint Triathlon Championships at the Newbiggen Triathlon in 2013, I knew that if I was ever to get anywhere near a medal this would be the course to do it on due to its hilly terrain.
Come race day and it’s raining. This is great in one way because I know it will be a guaranteed optional wetsuit swim, and being a non-swimmer I need that. On the other hand I’m a bit concerned as I know how fast and technical the downhill descents are on the bike course.
I make my way with friends to the transition to set up. Luckily I’m competing in one of the later waves so I am able to cheer on friends and other competitors. Amidst the excitement of the other races, and in what seemed like no time at all, it is suddenly time for me to get ready.
As the 35-39 age-groupers are called up to walk along the blue carpets to enter the water I start getting slightly nervous. With the water temperature below 22ºC wetsuits are optional and looking around it is clear that the majority of competitors have opted to wear one. We are requested to enter the water and the race begins.
I put everything into the start. Find a good rhythm, make sure to sight the large buoys as best as possible. Swimming is my weakest discipline but I know I’m giving it my best shot and I am happy with my performance.
I leave the water up the ramp and across the bridge past the spectators towards transition. Still out of breath from the swim, I remove my wetsuit, put on my helmet and unrack my bike. This is my chance to try and make up some time and I am determined to seize it.
I mount the bike after the mount line knowing that James Manson (who beat me in Nottingham one month earlier) is just in front of me. James and I tussle along the first straight, but once we hit the first hill my light body frame gives me an advantage, I overtake James and give it everything in my attempt to break away. My aim now is to try and descend as fast as possible, but without falling like several earlier competitors had done due to the wet road conditions. I try to take the best lines I can, maintaining as much speed as possible.
I am on the third ascent and can see the bike of Jonny Mclean ahead. Jonny won gold last year and is one of my main rivals, so I know that if I can keep pace I will be close to a medal position. Seeing Jonny gives me a much-needed boost as the hills are the biggest I’ve ever had to endure in a race. I give it everything I had and finally catch him with a few kilometres of the race to go. Jonny and I then tussle for position, and as we get closer to transition I want to make sure I am in front, so I gave one final push and overtake him into T2.
Jonny and I both have a fast T2 but I come out a few seconds in front. I can’t believe how well the race is going but I have to maintain focus …. there’s still the run to do!
I manage to maintain a good pace along the path which is all the way around the lake with some long ascents and descents. My only option is to give it everything I have and try to stretch out my lead. I manage to slightly increase the gap on the downhill section and this is reliably relayed to me by my friend who has somehow made it to the other side of the lake to scream updates.
With the finish in sight, I grab a British flag and accelerate to the line. I’m overwhelmed with emotion at the thought that I am possibly the European champion for my age-group. Jonny comes in seconds later and we both congratulate each other on a great race in the way of a huge man hug.
My friends confirm I have won the race, I feel emotional that I have actually realised my ultimate triathlon dream. I would give anything for my wife Toni and my two daughters Emily and Katie to be there to enjoy it with me.
Later that day I attend the award ceremony and receive my medal, feeling so honoured. I’m very thankful to have friends around me to celebrate with and they certainly make my European glory even more of a special experience than it already is. Thanks also go to all at British Triathlon and to Kitzbühel for putting on such an amazing event. Finally I must give a massive thanks to my family who are a constant support and a source of much encouragement.
Were you also racing in Kitzbühel? How did you get on? Let us know in the comments!