It was a star-studded conclusion to the Expatriates Challenge on under the hot sun at Sartrouville on Sunday, 9 September. The Brownlee brothers were in town to race with their team in Sartrouville along with a wide assortment of teams for the Ile-de-France league including the upstart Expatries; James, Paul’s (Betts, Guillochon, & Shoemaker), and Sean. It was a day of the veterans, with James being the only Senior in the mix for a show down of youth versus age.
It was also the day when the Exparties Challenge Veterans championship was to be decided with Shoe, Jamie, and Betts all running neck and neck in the points race. Unfortunately Jamie succumbed to a ham string injury earlier in the week, or he might have broke under pressure and played limp. Knowing Jamie, he had to be hurt real bad not to show up to this race and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Sartrouville is a compact sprint, with an out and back swim (against then with the current), three loops on the bike punctuated by one very steep but short hill and a very technical course with lots of turns, and then a double-ended out and back run which gives the runners two looks at the competition coming up from behind. Like all things triathlon, plan on last minute changes. The swim was supposed to have been a short upstream section followed by a long downstream leg to come out at the transition point. Rather than having to make the long walk to the start, we put in and came out at the same point with up and back triangle shaped course and a very short trip to the T1 zone. After a false start caused by an enthusiastic fire boat captain, the racers regrouped and the gun went off.
Surprisingly, Shoe emerged from the water first, with Sean 20 seconds back and James another 40 seconds back. Betts and Paul G brought up the back. Shoe struggled with his wetsuit while Sean took a seat to put on socks. James made a lightening fast transition, which left he and Shoe headed out of T1 together. Quickly Shoe took the lead and never looked back. On the bike everyone had the pleasure of being lapped by the Brownlees and the elites, but it was nice to actually see them on the course and give them a French shout-out, “Allez Brownlees”! Back to the race, everyone held their own on the bike, keeping it competitive for the run. Unfortunately Paul G succumbed to the technical course and went down, not too hard, at a round about. He got back up and finished the day, sporting a little road rash to mark him as a gritty and determined triathlete.
Shoe led out on the run, with James, Betts, and Sean all giving chase. Taking a right out of transition you run down the quay, double back and get the opportunity to see who is where, run a long stretch down the quay, double back again, and then finish with a 300 meter run through a neighbourhood to come into the park and hit the finish line. Shoe made it to the first double back and shortly after saw James coming up and Betts chasing hard, with Sean bring up the rear.
On the long hot stretch Betts caught and passed James, who just didn’t have enough in the tank, and set his sights and his strong run on Shoe. At the next double back Shoe could see Betts giving chase and, with bragging rights on the line, Shoe kicked it up a notch to open the gap and finish with a strong negative split to secure the win and the Veterans championship. Betts followed a mere 23 seconds latter and James took the third place honours about 4 minutes down. Sean was nowhere to be found after 10 plus minutes, so we spread out to look for him. He got gassed in the heat, not having the Vichy conditioning of the others, but managed to finish the race and get a free pass to the medical tent for a 10 minute time out. Paul G picked himself up after his fall on the bike, focused on the task at hand, and put his head down to come across the finish line in good time.
After the race we got the chance to talk with the Brownlees, putting in a good word about the Expatries Triathlon Club to Johnny Brownlee, and collect some autographs. It was a good race, a fun day, and all finished and will live to race another day. Plus, we can all earned the bragging rights about the day we raced OLYMPIANS!