Dijon Weekend

What a weekend for British sport, Alsitair Brownlee destroyed the field at Kitzbuehel, and Jodie Stimpson made it a GB double at the worlds toughest triathlon. Then Murray breaks the 77 year wait for home soil Champion, then to top it all off the Expatriés girls and boys conquered the Dijon Triathlons , and although admittedly not all are GB they did all behave as if they were by talking loudly and by using the words ‘Bring’ and ‘Take’ correctly.

The first nice surprise of the weekend came the friday evening as we picked up our dossards, no queue and a choice from 3 gifts – a race belt (practical) a towel (also practical) or an umbrella (less practical during a heatwave but a wise choice nonetheless)  Everyone made their selection, then headed back into the very pretty centre of Dijon for an early friday dinner.

Saturday – Sprint – Nick, Kristine, Arlett, Georgia, Cat, Blythe

It was 9:40 when Georgia found out that the race start was 12:30 not 14:30 as she had decided it was, so she hurriedly got her things together and the ladies plus nick cycled down to the lake. The sun was already shining and the day was warming up nicely as they crossed the fairly main road into the ‘Tri-Zone’ – however the transition zone wasn’t scheduled to open until 11:30, so they decided to kill some time over in the shade by the lakes ‘lifeguard hut’, and it was here we met Olivier.

Olivier was the son of the head lifeguard for the lake, 15 years old, and had decided (as he was there) to give the Sprint Triathlon a whirl, all he had was a bike and absolutely no idea what he was about to do. It was pretty clear he needed a hand, so we fished out a spare wetsuit for him, and helped point out some if the finer details, all the while praying that he wasn’t subsequently going to thrash us round the competition !

The girls were showing a few signs of nerves, perhaps because for many of them its the first time they have had to run into the water to start (the lake had a lovely sandy beach which later in the day became full of sun worshipping topless old ladies) or perhaps it was because most of them were about the same level and so it was anyones guess as to who would be the first round. Also Nick was starting 8 minutes after them, so the question remained – was he going to catch them, and where.

The gun sounded and they all dashed off into the lake, Kristine instantly flipping onto her back, Georgia powering off into the lead Arlett competently into her stride, and Cat and Blythe actually getting their heads into the water and doing actual front crawl !! 8 minutes later and Nick started the hunt, catching both Bylthe and Cat, but there was no catching Georgia who was just behind the leading women to get out of the swim, with Kristine and Arlett not too far behind.

Onto the ride a gently rising  few kms along the river before turning sharply and hitting a nasty little hill, only a few kms at around 6% but it was a shock to the system, everyone began bunching up as the legs span up the hill – it was here nick caught the rest of the girls. First Kristine who was in 3rd place but looking reasonably comfortable, then not 50m further up the hill Arlett, who introduced nick to some new swear words as he passed her – she was not enjoying the climb ! Then another 50m in front and Georgia came onto the horizon, again it was clear she could think of other places where she would prefer to be, but by that time they were nearly at the top and respite was close – or so they thought, a small down, then back up again, made even worse as you could see those in front coming back down the other way.

The ‘down’ was also a part of much speculation, apparently up to 18% in some parts, the ladies were actually more apprehensive of this than the up, and it was warranted, as always though a very well organised triathlon, and a marshall just at the right point reminding everyone to slow down, it was tricky and steep but nobody had any issues – even Blythe who was riding on Sebs superbike negotiated the tricky course without problem or incident. All that was left was the quick 5km run at the end, but as the girls had all been soo close together, it was still anyones competition, and although a little slow on the swim Cat was now chasing down the lead 3, and the run is her strong point  so it was all to play for.

Nick crossed the line first for the team, then a few minutes behind but still not looking too flustered it was Kristine who followed to win the girls competition. Just behind her came Arlett who had tired a little on the run, but managed to recuperate and stay ahead of Georgia who finished a tantalising 3 seconds behind her. Although Cat had a great run she couldn’t catch the others, but put in a good performance to come in a couple minutes later, then finally completing her second triathlon on a bike she didn’t know or understand and getting round a longer course more quickly than her first triathlon Blythe crossed the line to the cheers of everyone waiting at the finish.

Everyone received their ‘sack of goodies’ at the end, then made their way off, except for Seb and Nick who went for a paddle and to chat with Olivier who had loved his first triathlon and had nearly (but not quite) beaten Nick round ! That evening after dinner the group split, as the boys had to prepare for the LD the next day, so walked the baby back to the hotel for an early night, while the girls hit the town in search of young single men to take advantage of, but apparently there are slim pickings in Dijon !

Sunday – Long Distance – Nick, Seb, James, Rich

The boys (plus Kristine and baby) were all up early the next day for breakfast, and down at the start for the opening of transition at 9:30 for the 10:30 start, the format of the start (entry points / briefing location) had by now been fully understood so the set-up was relaxed, however the water temperature was 21°c, which was 3° more than the previous day, so all signs pointed to a scorcher of a day. It was about that pont when it dawned on them that they had just gotten up and started the day, and by the time they finish the competition, the day will pretty much be over – not an inspiring thought !

The swim was 2 x 1.5km with an australian out and in on the beach in between, the course was very well marked with small boats with sails marking the line down to the end marker some 700m away, doesn’t sound far….. but it was ! Some were too eager in the wave and dashed into the water before the official start, so they were dragged out of the water and eventually the gun sounded and everyone rushed into the water, everyone except Rich who calmly strolled in waving to the camera as he went. The first lap was a little hektic, but as things evened out it got easier, and everyone did a quicker second lap than first.

Nick was first out after 51mins but struggled with getting his wetsuit off and was lucky to be out of transition before seb got in only 8mins behind, a few minutes further back was Rich who demonstrated an interesting running technique out of the swim (see photo) then finally came James finishing his longest ever swim – and not in last place ! Onto the ride, the same beginning as the sprint but then much further along the river, Nick was feeling weak on the ride and spent the whole time wondering when Seb was going to overtake him. Rich decided to take the ride easy (a decision he would later regret) and James with renewed enthusiasm now the swim was finished soon caught him and overtook him to take 3rd place.

The ride had lots of ups and downs, then several big hills, the 3rd of which was the same hill as in the previous days sprint so nick had a clear advantage as he ‘knew’ that part of the course, and at 60km Seb still hadn’t caught him ! Only 1 hill left and it was a tortuous one as you had to go down it before coming back up, as you descended you could see the people on the other side coming back up and none of them looked happy ! and it was as he got to the top of that last hill that nick saw seb coming the other way ‘Salut mon petit Lamby’ Seb cried, nick remained silent, primarily because he could hardly breathe let alone speak, but secondly because in about 30secs time Seb was about to discover the hill that faced him !

The end of the ride was simple, the same 18% drop as previously then flat back to the base and the annoying business of a 20km run. Nick was still first in, but by now convinced that Seb was going to catch him very soon, more so as the decision to not wear socks had meant a quick transition but could feel the blisters already forming. The tactic was simple 5min kms, hold that, get round. The run course was back and forth, 2 loops but there was a section which you actually did 3 times, so plenty of opportunity to see where everyone was and what speeds they were running at. Nick was just after the 3km when he saw Seb coming the other way – ok, so about 15mins of margin – could he maintain that !!

After a relaxing lunch in the centre the girls had taken up ‘picnic position’ on the grass just after the transition zone, and they all cheered as nick went by – it really is fantastic to have that sort of support during a competition, makes you forget about all the aches and pains if only for a few seconds. Past them, then out of the shade into the bright sunshine which was beating hard – even the topless old ladies were covering up ! At the next turn around point all competitors where given a garland, then its back to do it all again – 2 garlands and you could finish. On the way back nick saw seb again, this time about 4km behind – looked like he was slowing down, then after the other turn around point at 13km he saw James who had just got off his bike (and so was at 2km)  so that only left 1 question – where was Richard….

The question was answered after passing the girls for the last time – there he was – with them !! had he magically overtaken everyone and already finished ?? nope he had decided to take it easy on the ride then smash the run, but he had taken it too easy on the ride and missed the cut-off by 3minutes – he could have easily pushed a little harder and made up 3minutes, but just didn’t know, shame as he would also have easily finished the run within the total time limit, but these are things you learn I guess – the Brownlee philosophy – go hard from the start, just keep going.

Meanwhile nick finally past the last turn, and completing the slightly-over-20km in 1hr 44, seb now about 6km behind was slowing due to lack of nutrition on the run – perhaps the only fault of an otherwise exception competition. So nick finished in 5hrs 43, Seb a little behind in 6:09 and finally James looking strong all the way round on the run, although he said he didn’t feel it ! – crossed the line in a well fought 6:36

To make the day even better Oliviers dad – our new found friend Bruno the chief lifeguard (yes thats right the Dijon equivalent of Baywatch David Hasselhof)  came over and presented us with a bottle of Bourgogne wine from the very region we cycled in (in fact the first big hill) to say thanks for helping his son. Really couldn’t have asked for  more hospitality in a city which now ranks as one of my favourite French places (Hotel guy was excellent too). A quick comparison of tan lines showed Rich was the clear winner – after all he had spent the most time on the bike – then  a steak dinner and early bed.

A wonderful weekend with something for everyone, well organised, good gifts, different distances, relaxed atmosphere, doing the races on separate days mean we could all cheer each other on and the city itself is amazing as were the people AND great weather AND GB finally winning a few sports competitions as well – frankly I didn’t want to come home ! I almost hope that Paris Triathlon is cancelled next year so we can go and do this one again ;-)