Matthieu the courageous in Versailles

Triathlon du Roi Versailles Sprint distance – 22 May 2016


by Matthieu Flauraud

Last Sunday, I had a strange experience in completing the Versailles Triathlon, the supposed-to-be race of the king.

To tell the truth, not being a king of triathlon and not even a prince in any of the 3 disciplines, I felt at least quite confident about doing a reasonably good race on that Sprint for two reasons. First, I managed to get a relatively good training during the pre-season and second, I completed quite decently (well, according to my non-royal standards) my first HIM in Aix some weeks before, at least for the segments, which were not cancelled (cycling and running). So I was coming full of confidence to complete, what I thought, would be a matter of some 1h30 -1h45 or so. But I should not have under-estimated the race, and my day did not exactly go as smoothly as I thought it would.

First, the weather did not help. It was muddy all over the place, and the light rain upon arrival transformed into heavier rain with grey sky. By the time I put my wetsuit, I was already wet, even before going to the swim.

Still with hopes of a good race, I started asking myself why I was doing that. Then, we went to the water. The good news about that was that it would clean the mud on the feet, but the bad thing was that c.350 persons in the water moving in the same time on the starting line following the organization’s instructions not to put their feet in the water (and avoid shard of glass) transformed the water color from brown to very dark. Then the starting signal was given, and I got off too rapidly, almost swimming like in water polo for the first meters. I struggled to find a regular stroke, in what was the first open water swimming for me this year. It took me some time but I eventually found my cruising speed.

Once, out of the water, my T1 transition was catastrophic. Since it started to be cold and presumably windy (on top of raining), I had decided to put a windbreaker on. But thin synthetic fabric and water do not match well together. It took me several minutes to put my top on and tighten it. Very frustrating (especially when seeing amused faces looking at me). Then, I started the ride on a positive note: unlike the other riders around me, I was able to climb relatively easily the very first meters uphill of the race, since, as Nick suggested it in the pre-race instructions, I had put an easy gear.

The race this year was much better compared to last year, since it was made of two loops of c. 10km each around an old velodrome, with some bumpy and hilly portions. Quite exciting in fact. But very soon, 3.5 km only after the start, my back wheel started to make a weird noise, just after crossing a puddle. I first thought it was the effect of the water and would go away, but it did not. Stopping somewhere after, it became clear that it was a puncture…at the wrong time and the wrong place. It was not my first one, but I wish I were more used to changing an inner tube. It took me so much time! My tools to take off the tyre out of the wheel almost broke. It took me ages to take the inner tube out and put it back in, and when I wanted to inflate, I misused the CO2 canister, which went out of air and became cryogenically cold, sticking to my fingers for some time. At that moment, I felt ridiculous, and considered not to finish the race. But I was kms away from the start. And I had a canister left. So, this time, I used it slowly and cautiously, but correctly.

During that whole time, there were many cyclists passing me (including David, who nicely cheered me on ), but when I eventually got back on the bike, it seems that there was no one left on the velodrome and I was the last one. So I had the entire lap for myself (actually a quite nice experience), except that…after some time, a guy from the organization on his motorbike came and asked me to be his new best friend, staying only a couple of meters behind me the whole time in the last lap (not such a nice experience)… until I eventually overtook a guy (there was eventually one), who he finally stayed with. But that was 500m before the transition.

Once at the transition, cool, I found a familiar face, cheering on me (thanks Karen !). That gave me some motivation to try to make an efficient transition, but I had a hard time entering into the transition area, since many participants, who had already finished their race were leaving the area with their bikes going in the opposite direction. To make it worst, after changing my shoes (and leaving my wet cycling shoes for my wet running shoes), I started running on the wrong side of the area before realizing that the transition exit was on the far end opposite side (uphill).

At that time, it was already a long time that the timing did not matter anymore. So I started the run part, which was extremely muddy. After the start through the woods, the path lead to the “pièce d’eau des Suisses”, around which we were supposed to run twice, offering a nice view over the Chateau. It was a nice (but wet) view. But, once out of the woods, the nicest thing was that I had to pass three times in front of the Expatries tent, under which the competitors of the day (all finishers) and fans – were celebrating in champagne, humus and other stuff. So I received three times, like champions do, a very nice and warm support from my friends, which helped me finish at good pace (I eventually overtook another participant in the last meters). That was a nice moment, and although the race has been quite a pain until there, I felt very happy at that time to be where I was and to have eventually decided to make and finish the race!! Despite all the rain, mud and wind, it has been eventually a nice day.