Aniche Duathlon, France

Danielle Stewart has been recognised by British Triathlon, through her previous season’s results and has been added to the elite squad (11 in total). Being on the TORQ team means that she will be entitled to receive some funding towards some medical and training costs incurred in the coming year.

In return Danielle will also be expected to race some draft-legal duathlons and as the UK has a limited number of races, she will race these elite competitions in France on the French Duathlon Grand Prix. This series is a draft-legal format, so lots of tactics will be required, as she will be racing the best duathletes in the world. This was Danielle first regional championship in France and demonstrated why she has been recognised by British Triathlon by winning the event.

For further information, read the British Triathlon Elite team article – BTF website

Here’s what Danielle had to say:

I have never been to France on the Channel Tunnel before but after a very easy 35min journey from Folkestone to Calais, I am not sure I will go by ferry again! With the race not starting until a very sociable 13:30, we were able to make the journey to the race and back in one day. The weather wasn’t prepared to play nice and decided to rain all day while not being particularly warm. Typical British duathlon weather in fact and almost comforting since everything else was new to me! I speak only a little French, the race was draft-legal, men and women started together and the run was a “proper” cross country! All of which made for an interesting race.

On the start line, the commentator was explaining to the crowd that there were two British athletes competing, the young and talented Rhys Park and me! The commentator then went on to tell the crowd about our achievements – no pressure!! After this I wasn’t sure what was being said but suddenly the starting gun went and took me completely by surprise! I hesitated as I jumped, but then as I went to run I managed to slip on the wet, greasy road while the male athlete behind knocked me over completely! I hadn’t even taken two steps before falling flat on my face while the whole of the field of athletes proceeded to run over the top of me! #Ouch! #Embarassing! #not how to impress the locals!

 After a moment of re-gathering myself, I got up off the floor and started to chase down the field of competitors. I very quickly worked my way through the athletes only to find that the wet and slippery road run that I expected became a very wet and muddy cross-country run after only 800m! Despite slipping and sliding all over the pace, I was secretly pleased to find that it was an off-road run as I really enjoy that style of running.

Approaching T1, I found myself in amongst the men with a lot of jostling about for a clear run in to transition. I managed a fairly smooth transition but wasn’t quite so slick when it came to handling my bike! I have spent most of the winter without a bike to train on. After falling on the start-line, I became conscious of not wanting to slip on the bike. The course was 4 laps of 5km with some very tight, technical turns through a residential area along with two dead turns around a cone per lap. I was really struggling to stay in a pack since the men who I could run with were much stronger than me on a bike – especially when accelerating out of the corners. I had to work really hard on any straights in order to try to catch up again. I soon realized that my saddle had started to drop through the race too as I became very aware of muscles I didn’t know I had! On the 3rd lap I was overtaken by somebody I thought was the next female in the race. This made me work even harder so as to try to not lose any more time on the bike.

Arriving at T2 I was relieved that I had just about managed to stay on the bike (albeit by having to put one foot down on the road to save myself!), despite touching wheels with a cautious competitor ahead of me as they braked suddenly before one of the dead turns! I managed a smooth transition and got out on to the 2nd run, quickly setting about trying to chase down the female that had overtaken me on the bike. It wasn’t until half way round the run when I managed to catch that person that I realised that the female was in fact a male and I no longer knew what position I was in the race. Crossing the finish line I was told that I had won the race! I couldn’t believe it! My first draft-legal competition in France and I had won!

Something that really stood out for me at this event was the number of young people taking part in duathlon. There were so many children competing in races being held throughout the day. It was fantastic to see and really made me think how good it would be if there were more children’s events run alongside some of the senior age group events within the UK. It was also great to see the local residents out on the street enjoying the race. Nobody seemed to mind the roads being closed and people were just happy to enjoy the spectacle. The effort that went into the prize giving was also commendable. The podium was made from tables of various heights with white table cloths, flower pots and a home-made sign saying “Duathlon Aniche”. There was even a dance routine from what I am guessing was a local youth dance club!

Thank you to TORQ for all the support, nutrition and good advice the day before the race at the Triathlon Show at Sandown Park. It all came in very handy for what was a fantastic experience racing in France.’

With thanks to our sponsors: – Triathlon Frames – Aero Wheels – Aerobars, Saddles and Finishing Kit – Power Meters – Wetsuits – Helmets & Glasses – Cycling Footwear – Cables & Housing – Running Footwear – Groupsets – Swim Goggles (Sable Water Optic) – Team PR – Transition Bags – Tyres – Pumps, Tools and Bottle Cages – Custom Trisuits and Cycle Wear