Promising start to the season at BUCS Sprint

As Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1789, three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and an OUTriC contingent led by Laura Fenwick arriving at races before anyone else. It is perhaps no coincidence that the next club to arrive, Bath University, are led by Laura’s sister…

Having had plenty of time to set up and get ready to race, and caused a bit of pre-race panic by going missing in the changing rooms just before their start time, Laura Depner, Jemima Peppel-Srebrny and Stef Zekoll got the OUTriC day (and their own triathlon careers) off to a strong start. As the morning went on, the swimming got more aggressive and the transitions more furious. That is apart from one unfortunate (non-Oxford) athlete who made even James Walker look like a transition pro. She managed to arrive in T1, only to be hit by the crushing realisation that she hadn’t racked her bike before the race.

Back with the Oxford athletes, Varsity Duathlon runner up Lizzie Sandham, having recovered from what she described as ‘interesting’ driving on the way to the race, and blast from the past Katie Truslove fought it out early on, with Katie showing her running pedigree to finish as the third Oxford woman at the end of the day. Housemates Iona Richards and Renee Haver put niceties aside as they raced in the same wave. Iona took the early initiative in the swim, watched on by Sam Skillcorn as he searched for someone to try (and probably fail) to draft at Varsity. Despite having a bit of time to make up after the swim, Renee’s strength on the bike saw her ultimately finish as the fastest Oxford woman of the day in 10th place overall and nicely inside the top 10% required for a Full Blue chance come Varsity. Lucy Farquhar will also have a shot at her second Full Blue as her 12th place BUCS finish came despite her (apparently sober) attendance of her college ball the night before!

The unluckiest of all the men, those in the first wave and thus subjected to the 5am alarm, showed no signs of it affecting them. There were plenty of great debuts early on in the afternoon, just as the second wave of men were arriving after their lazy 10.45am departure from Iffley.

In what might be his last OUTriC outing before leaving on a free transfer to Imperial after he refused to sign a new contract, self-confessed bike-hater Kirill Mikhaylov did his best to avoid the cycle leg of the race by falling off as he exited T1, but to his dismay he came off unscathed and was able to continue the race. Crowd favourite Alex Barbaro gave a pained wave to his adoring fans as he pulled off an admirable sprint finish in the absence of anyone around him in his wave, though it proved not to be enough to beat his old swimming rival Ali Nicklin, whose futile attempts to chase Laura up the Portuguese mountains on training camp seem to have paid off. The 2.8 second gap between Alex and Ali lends itself well to an exciting rematch at Varsity!

At the speedier end of proceedings, OUTriC newbie Joe Bowness will be hoping he can upset the establishment come Varsity, coming in just behind the increasingly regular top 3 of James Walker, Tom Lewin and David Pearson. James has made the third spot his own over the last year, though not without his familiar series of mishaps. Having managed to complete the correct number of lengths in the pool and find his bike in T1, things were looking good and the OUTriC contingent watched on with baited breath. Seemingly unhindered by Angus’ never-used wooden disc wheel, James arrived safely into T2 and despite a theatrical fall for the cameras on the way, put in a strong run to round off his day.

The race everyone had been waiting for came between David and Tom. David, setting off earlier in the day, had an absolutely storming race and clocked the fourth fastest bike split to give himself an impressive overall 19th place finish and earning himself a shot at that elusive Full Blue. Needing 34th or better to have a shot at a Full Blue, club legend (upgraded from stalwart – see BUCS 2016 race report) and van driver extraordinaire Tom made everyone’s day with his 25th place. He finished a whole 16 minutes quicker than his BUCS Sprint debut in 2012, back when a first class stamp would only cost you 46p. Tom’s meteoric rise is testament to what you can do with an impossibly slow stroke rate in the pool, a determination to never again be overtaken by Sophia on the bike, and next to no running.

Overall another successful outing for OUTriC. Our men’s teams finished 10th, 33rd, 49th and 96th, while the women were 7th, 21st and 46th. Cambridge, a lowly 24th on the men’s side and 31st for the women, will certainly be hoping for a change in fortunes on May 14th, especially with an extra 30 Oxford athletes to contend with!