Versailles Sprint Triathlon

The first outdoor triathlon of the Ile de France league season has the reputation for being a little chilly. The water temperature was a hot topic in the days leading up to the competition, with Rabi wondering if ‘Wetsuit optional’ meant he could wear 2, Jamie (aka Tony Bahama) just back from the north of England was threatening to do it just in his speedos.

The final analysis was 15.2°C – so cold but not too bad, it was blustery but with sunny intervals and the rain held off, so all in all one of the better years to take part in the ‘Triathlon du Roi’

Due to the popularity of the course and organisational difficulties, the participants were split in 2, the ladies and unlicenced men at 12, the licenced men at 16:30.  Thanks to the great team spirit, most of the guys made it down for 12 to cheer the girls round, and most of the girls stayed to cheer the guys round later on.

So the girls (all outdoor triathlon virgins) stepped into the zone to do their first set-up, they were well briefed and had everything they needed, and although it took them 45mins to do what is essentially a 5 minute task, the 5 somewhat nervous looking pink-headed penguins slowly made their way down to the waters edge.

Just before they jumped into the water they were given a race briefing, most listen to this, Suzie didn’t. Then they were into the water and the gun went off. It was about this point where most of them entirely forgot their training, survival became the goal and breast stroke the method of choice, with Blythe even slipping into double armed back stroke.

This is pretty normal for a first triathlon though, and as the heart rates settled down, most of them managed at least a few strokes of crawl, and made it round the 750m in under 20mins. For the unlicenced guys who started 5 mins later, they had the added complication of the buoy breaking loose and blowing across the lake – Rays watch showed he swam over 900m, I guess it was the organisers way of evening out the field !

Onto the transition to the ride, Clea out first – no surprises there, but then next up was Kathryn who has worked very hard on her swimming and clearly showing huge improvement. But Cat was hot on her heels and overtook her in transition, then came Suzie, and finally Blythe with her unrelenting (although slightly quivering) smile.

The ride was full of surprises; Kathryn is the stronger rider, but knee issues would see her slow down, Clea managed to fall off twice, but hold her position in front of the others, Suzie was the surprise package of the day going faster than all of them and getting into 2nd place.

If it comes down to a run there is only 1 winner, Clea, she notched up marathon last weekend in 3:24 and so 5km was a breeze for her, although we were all slightly surprised to see Suzie finish before her. It was then Suzie realised that she should have listened to the race briefing, as she has only done 1 lap of the lake, and hence finished about 9 minutes early (which put her 6 mins ahead of Clea).

Adjusting for errors Clea was first girl round, followed by Suzie, Cat overtook Kathryn in the transition to run, and injuries meant that she couldn’t catch up, so Cat was 3rd, Kathryn 4th and although it never looks like she is really trying, Blythe assures me the she put in as much effort as she could to come in 5th.

After everyone re-grouped around some roast chickens and champagne alongside the lake, it was then time for the boys to show them how it was done – all seasoned professionals (!) except for Adrian, who despite his calm exterieur, assured me that he was terrified. The wait for the transition to open was long (after all 400 women had to clear up after themselves !!) but we eventually got in, a glorious 100m long uphill transition – this was gonna be fun !

The 11 men (4 senior, 7 veterans) having learned from earlier errors listened to the race briefing, then slipped into the water. It was cold. When starting in a river, competitors have an excuse for inching forwards as the current pushes them, but in a lake this isn’t true, so the start was delayed while the organisers battled with the idiots at the front that though a 1m head start was going to make a difference.

Finally off, the swim was good, water although a little chilly soon warmed up and after the usual ‘churn’ at the start wasn’t too muddy, it was competitive though with lots of ‘close quarters’ swimming at all times. Nick first out in a fairly decent 12mins, Seb hot on his heels as always and Rich who has obviously been taking lessons from someone only 9 secs behind him. A couple minutes later the Vets started appearing – Shoe, Sean, Rabi, Jamie then came the other senior Dave, followed by the rest of them.

If you look at the T1 transition times there are some pretty good ones, and some pretty bad ones. Happily we had Roger filming many of the transitions and the bad ones were caught on camera as they spent time sitting down drying their leg hair, putting their woolly socks on or even forgetting to put shoes on !!

As with all draft-legal races, the bike is all about finding a good group and sticking with it, and thats what everyone did with the exception of Dave who decided it would be more fun to get halfway up the big hill and fall off into the bushes, not injured at all – one could almost think he did it on purpose.

Meanwhile the Vets where all pairing off like young lovebirds,  Sean and Shoe never more than a minute apart, and Betts and Adrian also showing remarkably similar times, Rich had slowed on the bike and Jamie was closing in, so with Nick and Seb at the front, it was any of the next 6 for 3rd place.

But when it comes to the run, there is no more experienced Veteran than Paul Betts, his swim is slow and his bike expensive, but his run is formidable and from T2 he didn’t look back and overtook all of them to beat Richard into 3rd place by a minute. Nick had already finished a good 10minutes earlier however, having overtaken all of the others on his second lap of the lake (even giving Jamie a complementary spanking as he passed), and Seb took a comfortable second place slowing on the run, but having done enough.

The love story of the day was between Sean and Shoe, who having done the rest of the competition together, tried to split up on the run, as Sean started quickly but Shoe caught him up and they ran the second lap side by side,  according to race officials they were almost disqualified for holding hands, but as they made such a pretty couple they were let off.

So Rich in 4th, not needing a drip this time, Jamie 5th having given it all his effort on the run, Adrian just behind him though. Despite all the abuse we could hurl, Sean and Shoe refused to stop holding hands until the the last 10metres where both gave a sprint then instantly regretted it – and although video evidence suggests Shoe made it over the line a split second before, the official time chip gives 7th place to Sean by 0.12 of a second !

A quiet day  from Rabi, who came next, who although he didn’t feel great, still had a great big smile on his face as he crossed the line after a race with no errors and no bike problems. Dave was in last place after a slow bike, but his huge strength is in the run and he charged round the 5km in the 3rd best time of the day, and in doing so overtook Paul G who had put in a solid performance, (actually ran quicker than the Sean and Shoe partnership) but was just a little slower on the swim and bike.

So all 11 round and a good performance by all, it was then over to the picnic for celebratory champagne and war stories.