James shares The Boys of Verneuil’s stellar racing tips

Verneuil sur Seine team event – Sprint distance – May 14, 2017


by James

Handsome Expatries in the team in photo above : Bruno, Luca, Guillaume, César, James

The team sprint event at Verneuil sur Seine organised by the Trinosaures triathlon club was one that caught our interest some months before the start of the season; something a bit different from the normal individual competition, where teams of 3 -5 would race together, with the final time counting as that of the first 3 finishers in the team. So there was some room for the strategists to play around with, such as use of cycling ‘domestiques’ to head the group peloton and preserve the legs of the faster runners – more on how this worked out further on.  We put together our team with some mix of strengths – James and Luca on their first events post-marathon, Bruno doing his HIM Lisbon “recovery” from the week before, César willing to support mainly during the swimming and cycling sections, and finally a late addition of Gauthier on his occasional return to the club during his studies in London.

The stress and excitement began early on race day – transition was to be closed before the first team departure at 9.30. Unfortunately with Gauthier arriving a little late and the road closure already being in place, we were the last team to enter for transition set-up – with 5 minutes to spare! The first stress therefore was being warned about disqualification if we weren’t out of the transition area tout de suite! This stress of course triggers silly mistakes; based on this, here are the first of a few lessons we can share so you don’t make them yourself:


  1. Allow plenty of time to get to the event and plan your route accordingly.
  2. Don’t leave it until the moment before the race to prepare your bike – pump your tyres and attach pedals etc. well in advance.
  3. Don’t leave the transition zone with stuff you should have left behind, such as wearing your running shoes or race belt.

With set-up done, we finally had some time to catch our breath and check out the surroundings – the Base de Loisirs Val de Seine is very much like Cergy, with the entry/exit to the water from a small sandy beach. The water was clean and a not-unpleasant 16 degrees, with good visibility and the weather (at that point) seeming fairly calm. Teams were released together at 1-minute intervals, and so as team number 64 we had an hour to prepare ourselves and warm up. This kind of staggered release avoided the normal chaos of a bunched start, and so would be welcome for those who prefer swimming to open-water wrestling. So began our swim, which unfolded without any problems, César helpfully offering James and Bruno the occasional nudge in the right direction when their sighting veered off. We finished all together at a moderate overall pace – 17:50 in total for 800m.   

Jumping onto our bikes, we successfully formed a close peloton and hit the cycle course at a good speed of about 35 km/h, each of us taking our efforts en tête. The course was two laps of around 9km, with two u-turns / demi-tours at each end, causing each team 4 points where they’d need to brake and then re-accelerate. It was however mid-way during the cycling that the worst mistake of the day was made – at a roundabout at the end of lap 1, the pack was split due to confusion (not least from a race course volunteer) as to which turn to take! Thus we offer lesson number 4:

  1. Where possible study the course beforehand, to know what you’re doing during the race.

This slip-up caused the two main domestiques, César and Gauthier, to be dropped from the group, leaving the others to complete the second loop as a three. Almost as divine punishment, this was followed by a huge and heavy downpour of rain with gusts of wind stinging the skin and eyes and making the roads slippery. Return to the transition for T2 was completed after a cycling time of 31:17 – not bad given the unfortunate circumstances we had to overcome.

Wet trainers were then pulled on for the final run to the finish; except for César that is, who had decided at this point his cheering and encouragement talents would be more beneficial than running! Two laps of 2.4km on grass / gravel offered a chance to make up some of those lost minutes. So legs were pushed to their limits, with Luca bravely going outside his comfort zone to run at 4 mins/km. Thankfully the rain had now disappeared to be replaced by sunshine, giving us that extra little lift during the final few minutes.


With a run time of 18:55, our overall time came in at a respectable 1:13:29 and a mid-table finish position of 47th out of the 75 all-male teams involved. Turning our minds to the refreshments at this point, we realised our final error of the day:

  1. When in need of a post-race apero, ensure there are plentiful supplies of beer and humus!

Having none of those essential elements, we were forced to settle for soft-drinks and the normal ravitaillements as we had the obligatory post-race debrief. In short, we highly recommend this for another year – perhaps targeting also the all-female and mixed categories. With the right collection and balance of talents within the team, this could make for a very fast and intriguing competition for the Expatriés to return to in the future.

Karen will take part in a similar competition two weeks later in Longueil, as part of a 1-man / 4-woman mixed group, see meetup here if interested: