Lining up on the sand for the start in a brisk 4 degree air temp was a little undesirable, and I was really struggling to stay warm, despite a decent warmup in every layer of clothing I had brought westside with me. The water was a much more inviting 19 degrees and during the swim I was determined to try and string it out as much as I could. I lead for the first half of the swim and then settled into the feet of Guy Crawford, who was setting a nice pace, for the rest of the swim. I was happy to hear that a break had formed and there were 6 of us who navigated the frosty transition to our bikes together.
In my mind, 6 was still too many people to be riding with, so I immediately went to the front once we were upon 2 wheels. I rode hard without looking back for a while. After about 10 minutes, Terenzo Bozzone came around me with some words of encouragement and we set about trying to do some damage. For the first 20 kilometers I had no fine motor control over my hands in the 4 degree air temperature and I couldn’t even press my Di2 buttons to change gears. As you can imagine, wet lycra is not the most suitable attire for these arctic conditions. My toes and fingers were so numb it hurt, but the sun started to heat things up by the second lap and I was able to resume basic motor functions a little more easily.
Terenzo and I both worked extremely well together, and it was great to see our hard riding was paying off as the time gaps kept opening to the chasers. We continued to do about 10 minute turns on the front, and we were both really motivated to lock those first two podium spots down. We were rewarded with a course record 2:02 bike split, my fastest bike time over 90 kilometers to date. We hit T2 and Terenzo decided to forego socks, so I was immediately chasing from the start. I bridged up to him after about 1 kilometer and settled into a much more manageable pace. I sat on the shoulder of Terenzo who was pushing quite a furious pace for the first 7km lap, but I tried to remain relaxed and just go with it, tricking my mind into thinking I was comfortable. I was having disturbing flashbacks to Geelong earlier this year where I was in a similar position with Craig Alexander, who like Terenzo, is also a 5 time World Champion. I let Craig dictate the race to me back then, and I didn’t want to make the same mistake this time.
I moved to the front about half way through and started to sense that Terenzo might be starting to hurt a little bit more than I was. I was aware that he raced (and won) in Taiwan a week prior, and perhaps that was starting to catch up to him in the later stages of this race. With about 3km to go I picked the pace up a fraction, not necessarily to drop Terenzo, but to just start to hurt his legs coming into the finish. All of a sudden I noticed his breathing was a little fainter than it was a moment ago and someone yelled out that I had a 10 meter gap.
I didn’t need any other encouragement and I got a surge of adrenaline and picked up the pace even more. I didn’t dare look back and just pushed to the finish line, absolutely thrilled that I didn’t get caught in another sprint finish because the Appleton track record is currently sitting at 0 from 4 sprint finishes. It sounds cliché but running down that finish chute is an indescribable feeling, and it’s always over far too quickly.
Terenzo crossed the line shortly after, he always races hard and he pushed me the whole way. He has been someone I have looked up to for a while, so to go toe to toe with him was an amazing experience. James Cunnama crossed the line in 3rd with a very swift 1:11 run split to complete a Team Bahrain Endurance clean sweep of the podium.
The crew of Triathlon Western Australia put on a sensational weekend, and I think I speak for everyone when I say this. They have achieved something special with this event and I am elated to join the honour roll of champions at this event.
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