After 4 years hiatus the world cup weekend in Edmonton is back. Despite some pretty ridiculous weather patterns rolling through every couple hours the weekend was a success for all. Kids of Steel saturday, and Juniour elites/agegroup/elite all on Sunday.
Chantell arranged a great homestay for me for the weekend with Byron Unger (triathlete, ex Canadian Swimmer, and Anesthesiologist extradornaire) and his girlfriend Mel at UofA. Can't thank them enough for taking me in on such short notice and providing the hospitality that they did. Great folks.
We arrived on Friday, keeping the time in Victoria to a maximum and getting in our key pre-race sessions with the comforts of home. Once in Edmonton using the pools at the Kinsmen centre was a great strategy. Especially Sunday morning, made it feel like just another day of training with a hard brick in the afternoon.
Saturday night I went for a short run after a ferocious hail storm had passed. I felt very off on this run, wobbly and uncomfortable. Not sure what the story was but I was also very tired that day, having a 2hr nap and a solid 9 hr sleep. Sunday morning the ship had righted and I felt fine. I think sometimes the body, when ready to race, sends signals to not overdue things and really focus more on rest. Often i'll feel sluggish before a great performance.
Jon planned this race out well for me. We kept the head down after Monroe and put in a focused 10 days with a sharp taper near the end of race week. With this being an 'A' race on my schedule we payed particular attention to getting some more leg speed with two key speed sessions for the run.
Starting to get used to these late starts. 4pm allows you to have a relaxed morning and leave everything to the last minute because even when you think you should get going down to the race site you still have a couple hours to delay.
It had rained from Friday to Sunday afternoon. Things brightened up for our race however, roads were dry and perfect temps for fast racing. With the cold, wet conditions leading up to racing everyone, including myself, was rolling into check-in overdressed. I would give the award for most bundled to Austrian Franz Hofer who exhibited full winter cycling kit, toque, and ski gloves on a mid July Sunday, only in Canada!
The water temp in the duck pond had plummeted with the hail storm 24hrs prior from 22C to 18C. This meant perhaps the first wetsuit swim in the history of the race for elites (someone might want to check into that). If Edmonton is to try and get this event to the WCS level then the swim needs to be adjusted somehow. Lining up I gave myself a two spot buffer from one particular brazilian that i've had some blows from in races past, however it didn't help as within the first 100m I had both goggs knocked to my cheeks. There was no fixing them, not with guys behind you ready to pounce. I essentially became blind and swam by feel. Surprisingly this worked ok, you can go along way by the feel of bubbles on your face to navigating a swim properly. I tried to maintain as best position i could and once out for the 750m beach run i readjusted the goggles and had eyes again. I saw i was in company with Jimmy Seear and Hunter Kemper, not a bad spot. The second lap I weaved my way up a few spots so i was in the mix of the pack for T1.
My helix came off smoothly and I mounted my new Cannondale Super Six ready to address the 6 lap bike course. Up the first climb I had a flashback to 2007 where i thought i was going to explode. This time around i felt strong and confident in my legs to bridge me up 5-10s into the chase group that had formed led by Kemper,Seear and Leckie about 10s down from the leaders. On the groat road downhill our packs merged and the lead bunch had formed with about 25-30 riders.
On the second lap I heard someone (i think simon) yell that the chase of about 15 guys was making up time. I felt good and rolled to the front for a pull as we made our way back to the park. Once there i realised that this was the prime lap. I kept it controlled by strong for 10-20s and then had a couple of brazilians come by as we turned into the park. I sat 3rd wheel as we turned left into the tranny section. Perfect position i thought as the lead out brazilian peeled off for his teammate. After the last corner to the line I swung wide and started my sprint. The brazilian however had taken a wide line as well and in the process had boxed me in with an overlap. There was no way of slowing and getting around him to the line so i tried to squeeze past but there wasn't the room to do so. Edged by a half wheel. The opportunity was there.
In this race I found myself much more aware, alert and focused on the task at hand. I had a mental note of where the strong riders where at all times and knew exactly how far into the bike we were for nutrition timing.
The climbs were strong but not crazy. With them coning off the centre line it actually made the climb the most technical part of the ride i thought.
As the pace accelerated into T2 i heard Simon give me a heads up for his wheel as he passed. I jumped on and we dismounted in the middle of the group. A hungarian guy however slipped right in front of Simon, bringing him to the floor as well. I had to leap over simon's rear wheel with bike in hand to avoid the same fate.
Out of T2 i found my legs were responding well. I had the leg speed to hit out the first mile in a large group. After we re-entered the park for the first time things began to disperse. I found myself running with teammate Brent McMahon who was tapping out a steady pace. He was slowly picking off athletes as they fatigued over the second 5k and I made sure to follow his lead. As we neared the final climb/descent on the run I made a pass on brent and on the downhill used my long legs to open up a gap with another long legger Latin from Estonia. Latin took the lead thru the transition area and then I surged by him on the out and back to the far park turn-around. As I neared the far turning cone I felt someone coming up inside. It was Brent. He made a great tactical move by coming up inside on the gap i had left and taking the inside on the turn. He then really put in a strong surge out of it leaving me on the brink of his tail. Back to the finish was a slight head/cross wind. I gave everything to get close to him and gain the slight advantage. As we neared the chicane to the finish line he put another surge in to try and reel in Noble from Ireland who was starting to tie up and that was the dagger.
Crossed the line in 17th with a great all round performance. Lots of fun, something i'll remember for a while.
As we hit the recovery area I came up to brent who was hunched over and put my pinky in his ear. 'Just checking for blood' i told him with a smile.
Next up Hamburg WCS
Photos courtesy of Byron Unger, thanks.