The former Saracens fly-half stacked up 247 points for France in his 14-year playing career, and is most famous in this country for the drop goal that defeated England in the final minute of the 1995 Five Nations international. It was his debut then, too, but his preparations were built on more solid foundations.
Tomorrow’s Toshiba Windsor Triathlon sold out in just five days. That means up to 2,500 triathletes racking today at Alexandra Gardens, including many ladies and gentlemen dipping their toes in the multisport waters for the first time. One of those beginners is Thomas Castaignede, who we spotted at registration while knocking back a nutritious bacon sandwich and instant coffee (polystyrene cup, of course).
“I’m doing the Olympic-distance tomorrow and have swum twice in the last four years. I haven’t biked much recently; in fact, the bike I’m using [a striking black Claude Butler road bike] is my friend’s.
“Normally you do a lot of training for six months and then relax for a week. Me – I did nothing for six months and have trained for the last week. It’s a bit like exams when I was at university.”
The North London-based 36-year-old delivers the damning verdict on his triathlon training with a grin. A niave grin perhaps? That will be confirmed from 7.50am tomorrow morning.
“For me, this race is not about going fast. It’s about the challenge. When you stop playing [professional rugby], you need to have other activities where you push yourself to the limit. Tomorrow I will go at my speed. It may not be quick but it’ll be enough for me.”
Castaignede’s primary goal is to finish before the first elite woman. His aim is around the 3hr mark. Aileen Morrison, Lois Rosindale and co set off at 9am. Last year’s elite women’s winner, Jodie Stimpson, clocked 2:03:21, so the Frenchman should fulfill his wish – if all goes to plan.
However the race pans out, he plans to do more though “it depends how long I’m in hospital after this which’ll dictate the one I choose! I hear this [Windsor] is one of the best in the world, though, so this could be the peak.”
One thing we do predict: if you’re side by side down the finish chute with one of the quickest fly-halves to have ever graced the game, chances are you’ll be waving him goodbye.
Good luck to Thomas and all triathletes who are racing this weekend, including our staff writer, Matt ‘Mild Multisporter’ Baird, who’ll be taking on his first Olympic-distance tomorrow.