Since 70.3 Worlds last year, I had pretty much geared my whole next 12 months about performing in this event in 2017. I had gotten onto a good roll with my racing in 2017 and was carrying great confidence leading into the race. I was trying to avoid a lot of the media before the event, and I just wanted to go into the race and see what I could do. I have had a great year in 2017, but I was under no illusion that this race was going to be a different beast compared to anything else I had done this year. You only race guys like Kienle, Gomez, Tim Don, etc. once or twice a year after all!
My training had been going pretty well in the month leading in, and Matt Dixon and I just tried to keep a similar approach to all my other races I had done this year. My program is very focused around 2 or 3 key days each week, and then a high priority on recovery between these higher intensity days. I had strung together some consistent weeks and was confident leading into the race.
I was ranked No.2, and by that ranking I got 2nd choice of start position on the pontoon. I had a quick chat to Tim Reed, he let me have the farthest right position with the most direct line to the first turning buoy, in exchange, he was going to get on my feet. The gun went off at 7:30am, and immediately the cross current of the Tennessee River made it hard to make a direct line to the buoy. We then swum upstream for 800m, and it was here that I lost the feet of the leaders Ben Kanute and Javier Gomez. I was a little disappointed, as I had swum on Ben’s feet earlier this year at St George 70.3, but I was not able to match his pace this time. The lead duo gapped us, and I lead the main chase pack out of the drink about 60sec down.
Onto the bike, the first 10km was all about asserting position before we hit the climb. I wanted to be near the front of the group heading up, incase anyone was looking to go on the attack. I didn’t feel my usual self on the bike, and was finding it hard to maintain decent power. I knew it was in my best interests to make the bike hard, and hopefully tax the legs of the more pure runners. However after hitting the front a couple of times to try and split it up, I couldn’t shake anyone from our pack of riding. Javier Gomez came back to us after about 40min of riding, but Ben Kanute continued to put time into us. I was feeling a little frustrated, but at the same token, I have made the mistake of being the rider that sets the pace and burns all his matches. I knew I had to play it smart if I wanted to be in contention on the run.
Our group grew in size to about 10 athletes as Sebastian Kienle and a couple of others caught us about 2/3 of the way through the ride, and despite Kienle’s best attempts, he could not split the group either. We came into T2 about 3:45min down on Ben Kanute, and we were left to fight it out for the remaining podium spots.
I felt good starting the run, and despite starting off the 1st 5km section in low 16min, Javier Gomez still managed to put 45sec into us. I was left running with Tim Don, Sebastian Kienle, and Maurice Clavel for positions 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. The run was extremely undulating, with steep uphill sections, followed by quad annihilating downhill’s that made it very hard to get into a sustainable rhythm.
After about 7km, Tim Don asserted himself as the strongest runner in our chase pack, and I was left fending off Kienle and Clavel for 4th place. I managed to clear out with about 1km to go in the run to secure a very satisfying 4th place.
I really wanted to get on the podium at this race, but I am in no way disappointed with 4th place. I gave it everything I had on the day, and played my cards as best as I could. It is definitely an improvement on last years 5th place, and that gives me confidence I am heading in the right direction. As satisfied as I am with my result, it has also left me wanting a lot more, and I will use this hunger as fuel for the rest of the season and next year.
I am eternally grateful to my team around me. Without them, I would not be able to pursue my dream at the level I do. Thank you so much to Giant Bicycles Australia, FFWD Wheels, Wattie Ink and ROKA sports for providing me with amazing gear and unlimited support. It is an honour to represent you all!
From here I am taking a little down time to replenish the mental and physical aspects. I am racing the Island House Invitational Triathlon in November as my next race, something I am super excited about!
Until next time!