May 9, 2012

Sables D’olonne: First French Grand Prix

After just one day in St Raphael I was all packed up and ready to go at 2am for Sables d’olonne, our first Grand Prix race of the season. We took the team van to the airport and had a nice little flight from the south up to the north. Sadly when we got there it was raining, windy, and cold – weather I definitely didn’t pack for. Once we got there we picked up three rental cars, met a few other people who are on our team (representing Russia, Italy, and UK) at a train station, and drove the hour from the airport/train station to Sables d’olonne.

This Grand Prix had two parts:
1) At 5pm (the same day we were traveling) we had a super sprint team time trial.
2) The next day we had the actual Grand Prix (just a regular 750m-20k-5k sprint tri)
The team TT was awesome, and wasn’t like anything I have ever raced before. It was a 400m swim, 10k bike, and a 3k run which you had to complete with your five person team. At the start they send each team off in one minute intervals so there is no fighting in the swim or working together on the bike with other teams. At each transition, you couldn’t start the next discipline until you had your entire team present, so after the swim and bike the race official stops you at the line until the entire team is there then they let you go. At the end of the race your team’s time is the first three people across the line, but the first and third runners from the team have to be within 10m of each other at the finish - which makes for very interesting tactics. Out on the run the faster runners will actually push the slower runners along to make the overall time faster. As it turned out my team mate, Dmitry Polyansky (who is currently ranked 2nd in the world), ended up giving me shoves the entire 2nd lap which was kinda embarrassing, but at the same time totally awesome! Our team had a good swim, an average bike, and a solid run to finish in 4th place (we missed the podium by less than 2 seconds) out of 14 teams.

The next day we woke up to pouring rain and howling winds that were easily over 100k an hour. The ocean was a washing machine and even with my surfing/beachgoing/lifeguarding experience and swimming background I would not have even come close to going in the water for any reason! After changing the location, canceling the bike, talking to all the coaches and managers, the race directors wisely decided to cancel the race. I was bummed I didn’t get to experience my first true Grand Prix, but at the same time I’m sure 75% of the field would have died if they had tried to race.

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