June 18, 2012

Toulouse French Grand Prix

To keep this blog as short as possible I’m going to try and update you with bullet points on the lead up to the most hectic race weekend of my life.

Saturday – Drove from Saint Raphael, France to Cremona,Italy for a race.
Sunday – Raced then drove back to France.
Monday- Trained, did the rest of my laundry in the bathtub, went to the Saint Raphael team picnic, “packed” (I couldn’t fully pack because my bike is the first thing that goes in my bag and I needed to ride 3hrs the next day before I left).
Tuesday- woke up at 5:30am, cleaned my house, ate as much food as possible, rode 3 hours, did more laundry, then broke my bike down and finished packing ALL my stuff to move to Banyoles, Spain. Got a ride from my friend Kristian McCartney to the train station (I’ve never ridden a train in my entire life so I was scared out of my mind the entire time, and I have quite a few ridiculous stories about that travel session, but I will not bore you with those) and after 7.5 hours and a few trains I finally made it to Banyoles, Spain to meet up with the USAT development team and was able to run for 30 minutes (in the rain) before the sun went down.

From Wednesday to Friday it was just the usual race prep week. We were basically all on our own, but we were able to work out a schedule and get some solid sessions in with each other. The second day there I did my long run with Greg Billington, the third day I swam with the USAT crew (Greg Billington, Gwen Jorgansen, Kelly Whitley, and Lukas Verzbicas) and did a solid 2 hour ride with Erin Densham. Friday was a cruise day because things were about to get real the next day.
So come Saturday, Jono Hall (the USAT high performance director) and I decided it would be more efficient and cheaper to drive from Banyoles, Spain to my French Grand Prix race in Toulouse and back instead of me having to pack my bike and catch a train to Toulouse, race, then pack my bike again, take a train back to Banyoles to race the next day. Once again, I could spend hours writing stories about the things that got mixed up in communication with my French team, but instead I’ll just breakdown the race:

So Toulouse FGP is a super sprint team relay where you get to draft with other teams. All the teams start off with two people, then those two people tag an individual person, who then tags the final two people. Everyone does the same course, which is a 400m swim, 10k bike, and a 3k run. This sounds easy compared to an Olympic distance event, or even a regular sprint distance triathlon, but the pace is so high the entire time the challenge is completely different, but just as difficult as the other distances.

My team mate Pierre Antoine and I ended up getting chosen to lead the relay out, and I was under instruction to swim as hard as I could. I ended up being second out of the water behind Vincent Luis from France. A bonus was that I ended up not having to swim very hard because I got into Luis’ draft right away and we gapped the rest of the field around the first buoy. After that I knew if I just stayed with him we would have a solid lead and I would have more energy for the rest of the race. We ended up having about a 10 second gap after the 400m swim and decided to try to stay away on the bike. We maintained our lead to the first turnaround point 2.5k into the bike leg, but then Luis decided it was too much effort to keep that pace up with just the two of us and we both sat up and let the chase pack of 20 men catch us.

After that it was a high paced tactical race where I took an effort wasting gamble. A breakaway of 3 men attacked the field and got a gap, when I realized our pack was going to let them go, I signaled to my team mate to bridge me up to them. We both attacked the group and got a gap. We made it to within 25 meters of the breakaway, and my team mate popped. He was completely shattered and wasn’t able to get me up to the three men. I decided to try to bridge the rest of the way on my own and got out of the saddle and sprinted for about 30 seconds but literally only made up about 10-15 more meters. I was getting close to maxing out and was stuck in a terrible position. What do I do, use the rest of my energy to bridge up and then have to walk the run, or just sit up and wait for the group? I decided to sit up and wait and ended up getting bad positioning going into T2. At the time I thought it was a good idea and had it worked it would have been (that group of 3 had a 25 second gap into T2), but  I was pretty toasted on the run because of those two efforts. In these races you can’t afford to waste any energy because the quality of the field is extremely high. A lot of the guys in these races have already qualified for the Olympics this year, so this isn’t just an ordinary field of triathletes, these guys can fly! I ended up tagging my team mate in about 8th position or so. After that the race was out of my hands and I warmed down while my team finished in a strong 6th place. It was insanely hot outside and considering the amount of talent racing this race I think we did pretty well!

It was about a 5.5-6 hour drive round trip, but Jono and I made it back to Banyoles by 9pm, just in time for some dinner and a good night sleep to get ready for Banyoles ITU World Cup the next day.

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