1st U23 Elite
After the 17hour flight from JHB to Atlanta, Alabama USA we as the SA Triathlon team were very relieved to see that all our bikes had made the long trip safely. One last short flight from Atlanta to Birmingham departing at 8:30am and landing at 8:30am even though it was an hour flight gave the first indication that it was going to take a few days to settle into the new time zone.
I was rooming with Theo Blignaut a fellow elite athlete and the first call of duty was to build our bikes and then head out for a run to flush the legs after almost 24hours of non-stop traveling.
The week was spent pre-riding the bike course (or so I thought) and just fine tuning the body all in preparation for the big day which would be Saturday 19th May. Due to the nature of ITU events the pro/elite athletes race on a lap course to make for a more exciting spectator friendly race. In all previous ITU races I have competed in the u23 elites always race on the same course as the open elites and the amateur age group field have their own 1 lap bike course due to the higher number of athletes participating. For the above mentioned reason I had spent the whole week training on the 10km pro/elite loop on the bike.
On Thursday 17th May was our u23 elite race briefing where I was informed that we would be competing on the same swim (2x750m laps) and run (2x5km laps) course as the pro field but our bike course would be on the more technically demanding 1 lap 30km bike course as opposed to the 3x10km loop which I had initially expected. This threw a small spanner in the works as I had now not had a chance to ride the 30km Epic course and there was not enough time before race day to do a lap without tiring my legs out so I made the decision to go out on the Friday before the race and ride the more technical sections of the course just to ensure I was not going into race day totally blind. A World championship race puts enough pressure on an athlete as is so this curve ball was doing my nerves no favours.
I woke up after a great night’s sleep which is unusual before a big race and began my normal pre race rituals. Arriving at the venue I did my usual bike and run warm up and then into transition to rack my bike. My fellow u23 competitors were also racking their bikes and we all began sizing up our competition. My Giant XTC carbon 29er was all I needed to show my competitors that I was here to win and it would take a lot for any of them to match me on the day. Bike check, nutrition check, puma FAAS 250s checkand I was off to my race start.
BANG, the gun went and we were off. Carsten Madsen from Canada took an early lead on the swim with myself and an athlete from Slovakia settling into a comfortable pace about 5meters back. After the first loop of 750m the Canadian had about a 20m lead and I decided it was time to push and close the gap to him. It took me 300m to the first buoy and I was on his feet, and then came the decision to either keep pushing past him or just allow him to tow me home. I decided that we still had a lot of racing to do and once on the bike these guys will not be able to stay with me.
Into T1 in a tie for the lead and we had about a 40sec lead over 3rd place. I pushed hard threw the first section of single track loving how the short wheel base of the Giant XTC 29er just ate up the single track. Unfortunately I miss judged one tight section of trees and clipped my handle bars going down hard. I shot up and was back on the bike in no time but now stuck behind the Canadian. The trails are very tight making it tough to pass slower riders. After 5minutes of trying I eventually made my move and began building my lead. The big strong Slovakian athlete had now bridged the gap and we went over the long climb together. My lack of knowledge on the bike course cost me dearly when we entered what I didn’t realize was the last 10km of single track riding. The Slovakian had clearly done his homework and he sprinted hard to enter the single track first. I didn’t realize it then but I was about to spend the next 20minutes behind him. I had managed to get out and practice the infamous BLOOD ROCK garden section on the Friday so I was hoping that the Slovakian would dismount and give me the opportunity to pass but this was unfortunately not the case, we both flew down the rocky technical decent and at that point I realized this rider needed more respect than I was giving him and I began focusing on the final leg of the race which is my favourite! The run.
We flew into T2 and I was prepared for a battle. Bike racked, helmet off, Puma FAAS 250s on and I was in my element! I pushed hard for the first 1-2km and realised this race was mine, all I had to do was run smart and make no stupid mistakes. The Slovakian had been working hard on the bike to drop me but didn’t get it right and now he was in my playing field with tired legs. Looking back perhaps it was a blessing that I got caught behind him as I was fresh coming off the bike. After lap 1 I got a split that I was 1minute up which gave me a boost of adrenaline when I realized I am actually going to become the ITU U23 Cross triathlon World Champion. I pushed hard on the 2nd lap until about 2kms to go when I just eased up and began to enjoy the moment. I had run another 2minutes into the tall Slovakian crossing the line nearly 3minutes ahead of 2nd place.
Coming across the line and winning my first world title was something I will never forget, the satisfaction of working hard and achieving my goal was immense!
A massive thank you goes out to all my sponsors who made this dream of mine a reality.
Giant RSA: no athlete could ask for any better quality equipment than that which you have provided to me. The Giant XTC 29er is both fast and agile perfect for Xterra/Cross triathlons!
Orca: racing/training in orca garments is second to none, always providing a cut above the rest in terms of quality and comfort as well as performance
Transact: Your financial investment in me is something which I cannot thank you enough for! As any young athlete finances are always our major concern and providing me with this opportunity to focus my attention on racing and not my bank balance will not be forgotten.
Puma: running to victory in my FAAS 250s could not possibly have been any more comfortable, in any race environment comfort is of vital importance and I could not think of a better shoe to put on in any race than my super fast Puma’s.
Williams bike shop: it is here under the guidance of William Keith that I have learnt everything I know about mountain biking, he is both my mentor and my friend and without his help and passion towards my racing career I would not be where I am today.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!!!