European Champion

Three of the TORQ team went to the European Triathlon Union (ETU) Championships in Kitzbuhel, Austria. A special mention has to go out to Iain Robertson though for taking the European title…

Iain Robertson report (Olympic distance race): After watching Alistair Brownlee racing up the Kitzbuler Horn in 2013, I was keen to qualify for the European Championships in the hope that the age groupers would be able to do the same course. Unfortunately this was not the case, but the organisers made up for it by putting on a brilliant event over a very testing and spectacular bike course. The venue was set around the very picturesque and crystal clear waters of Schwarzsee lake.

On arrival in Kitzbuhel, the weather was quite changeable and the sprint distance and elite women had cold and wet conditions. The weather cleared on the Friday evening and we headed out for a recce of the course, the roads were still damp which made cornering on the fast downhill sections interesting. There was plenty of debate leading up to the event as to whether a TT bike or road bike would be better on this course. I had been so comfortable on my Wilier this year that I decided to go with the TT bike and hope it was the right decision

The course looked incredible with some breath-taking views. I was hoping that although I would be racing hard, that I would still be able to take in the amazing surroundings. The day before the race we had clear blue skies and there was time for a second recce before the formalities of registration, team briefing and racking. After the 2nd recce, I was happy that I had brought the right bike and I knew I was really going to enjoy this course.

The morning of the race had arrived, the mist rose over the lake and the atmosphere was building. I felt nervous as I knew I was up against a strong UK contingent and there were bound to be strong Swiss and Austrian athletes who would be more used to the hills than someone from Norfolk! There was plenty of time from transition closing to the start of my wave, which was the penultimate one of the day at 09.00. This gave me time to catch up with team mates, which helped lighten the mood.

On to the pontoon and there was a drum roll prior to the starting hooter to heighten the tension. We were finally off and I had made a good clean start. I knew that I would not be quick enough to go with the faster swimmers, but just concentrated on my form and hoped I could get onto some feet for assistance. Instead, I ended up swimming the whole way on my own with others tapping my feet, I don’t mind clear water though as at least you can concentrate on keeping a good line with no interference from others. Approaching the end of the swim, I felt strong and I thought I was quite well up.  There was a long transition of almost 3 minutes, so there was plenty of time to get prepared for the bike and for me to make up vital seconds running to the bike.

Transition went well and I could see that I was still in touch with my main rivals. Once out of T1, there is a fast run down to the beginning of the first hilly section – a chance to get the legs moving before the tough hills. I felt like I was going really well and felt comfortable on the TT bike up the hills. The descents were great fun, but you really had to concentrate on the line and braking. As I finished the first lap, I still felt good and was passing people constantly from the early waves and the odd competitor in my AG. The second lap was tough and I felt as though I could have done with another gear.

Entering T2, the atmosphere was electric with lots of ‘Go GB’ shouts. A friend shouted that I was 6th off the bike (I had come in just behind TORQ team mate Chris Standridge). We acknowledged each other and were quickly out of T2. The run course was undulating, but I knew it would suite me. It had heated up quite a lot, so I knew this was going to be tough run. There was loads of encouragement on the course. I had gone past Chris and caught Matt Ellis (fellow Norfolk lad) towards the end of the first lap, neither of which I had beaten before. I had no idea who else from other countries was in my age group as there was no body marking. I knew I just had to keep pushing. I came across the line and thought I may have a medal. Regardless of the colour I knew I had had the race if my life and could not have given any more. About 45 minutes later whilst enjoying a post race dip in the lake I heard that I had won! I could not believe it. This was a perfect birthday present as I turned 39 the day after.

Chris Standidge report (Olympic distance race): The European Champs in Kitzbuhel was to be my big goal for the halfway point in the season, before a bit of downtime and then pushing on towards the British Champs and World 70.3 Champs. Having had 2 silver medals in my last European Champs back in 2007 & 2009, I was keen to put in a good performance and get back on the podium.

Kitzbuhel as a setting was perfect, with mountains in the background and brilliant sunshine on the day of the race. There had been plenty of talk in the weeks leading up to the race as to whether a road or a TT bike was better on the bike course, which had plenty of climbing and fast descents. As it happened, I don’t think there was much in it. I had opted for my new road bike – the Wilier Cento Air, which in training had proved to be very quick and responsive.

I had a solid swim and was out in about 5th place, with only a small gap to the leaders. The 35-39 age group had been the last wave to start and meant that on the bike course there were plenty of people to work your way past. On to the run, I think the combination of the tough bike course, the hot day and running at altitude meant for a very hard day, but I held my position throughout and ended up 5th in age group.

Nick Shasha report (Sprint race): Coming soon after my career best age group win in the Nottingham Big Triathlon (more on this later!) I had high hopes that I could put in a top performance in at Kitzbuhel in the European Sprint Triathlon Championships.

This race would mark my tenth for a GBR age group multi-sport team (and my 12th in a GB vest – Masters Athletics, but I’m not counting honest) and only my 2nd GBR triathlon outing, since racing at the World Triathlon champs in London last September.

The day before the race was absolutely beautiful, so I thought I’d take advantage and do my first ever non wetsuit swim in a lake (hey, I’m new to this triathlon game) just to get used to the possibility of a wetsuit ban on race day. I needn’t have worried. Race day turned out to a stormy grey wet whirlwind of a day and unfortunately the tight schedule meant no swim warm up was allowed, so we went off almost as soon as we got into the water. The first 200 metres went well, but soon after a mild panic came on and thereafter my swim was well below par. This incident probably cost me about 2-3 minutes. Despite the torrential rain, I managed to recover well on the bike and put in my usual super fast run at the end to salvage something from a day that started badly. Not exactly the performance I was looking for, but another experience in the bag that I can develop from.

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