Leaving Oxford in a fury of painful hail, five of OUTriC’s more mature members (in age, not behaviour) set off to Cardiff on Saturday afternoon to compete in the city’s second Olympic distance triathlon held in the bay area. With a serious amount of training and racing over the past few months we were hoping that with a millpond swim, pan-flat closed bike course, and an even flatter two lap run, that we could put some serious dents into our standard distance PBs as there were no Tabs around to smash as per usual. Chris Hutchinson was also keen to see whether shaved legs actually made you quicker on the bike or whether it just made it easier to remove the race number tattoos.
After a fairly uneventful journey over, we arrived just in time to get some slightly dubious free parking from a guy in a sports car, before picking up our numbers. The highlight of the pre-race goodies was the free cycling cap. But the question still remains, peak up or peak down?
Tom, of sufficient triathlon fame beyond the usual Varsity matches now, was hounded for a pre-race interview, in which they asked what he hoped for in the race tomorrow and why he was returning to Wales after his very impressive 5th place last June. After fending off the masses, we then returned to our hotel before searching for food. Impressed with his triathlon and driving abilities, we followed Tom Lewin down the least scenic route possible to end up at the security guard’s hut to a major steelworks plant. He wouldn’t let us through, even though we were stashed to our teeth with Oxford kit. We then sought refuge in Pizza Express, before raiding the local Sainsbury's for porridge and other delights. Walking back the more conventional route, we ended the night watching arguably the worst match of the Euros so far and headed off to sleep in good time for a 4:45 start. Aubert Ribaucourt was disappointed not to meet the hen party staying down the corridor from us. He found alternative entertainment applying the race number tattoos with copious quantities of water #wetterthebetter.
We got up at 4:45 and began the usual routine. By this point George Edwards was halfway down the M4 with his very tired but incredibly tolerant girlfriend, having woken up at 2:30. I hope he makes her a nice meal tonight for her fantastic support! Racking was straightforward, making sure that everything was tightly secured to the bike. Aubert was keen to show the local population his Slice, and it certainly didn’t disappoint on the bike leg. We wandered over the start, lubed up (no baby oil this time) and then jumped into the water at 6:57. At 6:58 the water warmed up a lot, and at 6:59 we were told to get out as there was to be a 15-minute delay due to the fact the buoys hadn’t been put out. Cue lots of cries “I’ve wasted all my wee”! We got back in and were underway at 7:15. Tom smashed the slightly shorter than 1500m swim in 17mins dead, and then proceeded to let a few people past him on the bike as long as they weren’t wearing light blue. James Walker and George were next out, again producing very impressive times! Chris was happy not to end up in Ireland with some suspect sighting, and Fergus Cumming used this as his warm up. Aubert decided he wanted to have more time chatting to people pre-swim so had put himself up for a slightly later wave. He then complained about the lack of people to draft off. Tom had quite a lot of media attention on the bike, be sure to watch the highlights at 5 in the morning on Channel 4 next month. George then made good ground on James through the bike, and maintained this lead going into T2. Fergus, on a much better colour coordinated bike than Wales rugby legend Shane Williams, tore past Chris just after the start of the second lap and proceeded to make hay on the pan flat course. Aubert lost a front bottle attached to his aero bars as well as the bars dropping considerably on his Slice, although he still got to show the local population his Slice. Fergus then nearly came off his bike coming into T2 but didn’t, however this cost him the skin on three of his toes. But he stayed on the bike in front of hundreds of people. The biggest casualty was his beloved Garmin. Chris was then rather over enthusiastic with his helmet removing before racking the bike and got a very lengthy chat from an officious marshal who made him put his helmet back on, remove the bike, put the bike back on the rack, remove said helmet. Although he did use this time wasting to put on some socks to prevent severe blisters like those experienced by a few in BUCS Olympic four weeks ago. Commitment of day goes to Fergus who then ran with an ever increasingly bloodied foot, smashing out a very respectable 38 minute 10k in the process. Tom caught a few people up on the run and came home a place better than last year in 4th with a super speedy 1:55:02. James then made good use of more sensible run pacing to record a 2:04:36 which just snuck him into the top 15. George showed us that it is possible to post a strong Olympic distance run leg even if you’ve swam more than run in the past six months to come in 17th. Fergus, Chris and Aubert then completed the dark blue contingent with 2:09:51 (29th), 2:10:17 (31st) and 2:10:58 (32nd). So we got everyone home under 2:11 and a very strong showing in the sharp end of the field. It’s annoying though that Cambridge have continued their trend of not showing up for races, this really isn’t very sporting from our light blue counterparts.
The morning got even better as we managed to get a photo with Shane Williams and asking why only one of his tyres was red. Tom was then presented with some tat and got a bit of alcohol free beer poured over him at the presentations. Next year he’ll be on the podium. If not, it’s shaved legs time. After smooth talking the reception of our hotel to give us an extension of our rooms as it wasn’t our fault the buoys weren’t put out on time, so we had the luxury of a post-race shower before visiting the Welsh equivalent of Spoons. We all went for sensibly large burgers apart from Aubert who went for double the size of ours, and then proceeded to complain when it wasn’t rare, before returning to Oxford in the rain. Weatherman Hutch predicted it was going to stay dry for the hours of racing and was spot on, which made for a much more pleasant experience than last year.
After quite a few shorter distance races earlier on in the season it was good to see how the training would transfer to double the distance, and clearly it has! The club has gone from strength to strength over the past year and is testament to the hard work which our members put into their training and racing, as well as the fantastic coaching we have had from Rachel Hallam, Laura Fenwick and George. Following on from a dominant Varsity win it is good to see people thinking further afield than the annual duel with Cambridge and such attitude will only serve to improve the club for the race next May and beyond.