Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ITU Cross World Championships

Last Saturday was the first ever ITU Cross World Championships in Extremadura Spain and in hindsight it was pretty special to be apart of. While there were certainly some wrinkles I think everyone who participated came away feeling that it was a great experience. Hopefully this is just the start of the International Triathlon Union's foray into the Off-Road Triathlon world and there will be many more great events to come. One of the most overheard comments was about the lap style format and how exciting the racing was for both the spectators and the racers out on the course. Having raced ITU World Cups for many years it was certainly exciting for me to once again enjoy the added energy boost of cheers from all the great spectators and age group athletes that stood along the bike and run course in the pouring rain to cheer the elite fields on. The day started with a leisurely sleep-in as the elite women had a 4:15pm start time. Jo and Katie were up early for their race and both rocked it with Jo taking the win in her age group and 2nd overall amateur and Katie 4th. Look out for both of these fast chicks in the years to come. Sara, Emma and I headed out to the race site with plenty of time to spare as Sara's bike still hadn't arrived and she needed to hook up with Jo to get her bike cleaned up and ready to go again. Warm-up even with the extra ITU details went smoothly and soon enough we were all lined up ready to start. Without an official world ranking yet the race numbers were randomly drawned and I luckily got number 9 and an early pick on the start pontoon. I truly tried not to chuckle watching the eight girls in front of me, who had obviously not had much or any experience with an ITU pontoon start, try to pick out their spot and was really happy when my favourite one was still open. (far outside on the inside line to the first buoy) I was even more excited when no one else jumped all over the spots next to me and Mel got the spot two down from me with Carina sandwiched between us. Mel's smart enough to know that we both swim faster if she jumps on my feet rather than trying to swim all over me the first couple of meters. The start was clean and I was off the front easily with nothing but clear water for the whole swim, NICE!!! I pushed the pace hard and felt great putting over 30secs on the field and a couple of minutes to the main contenders. I didn't have the fastest transition onto the bike, in fact I was slow enough that I actually had time to think "wow, I'm still in transition" not good. The bike was four 5km laps and even with the rain and mud was running really fast. The thing about non-technical courses is that there are no breaks, if you weren't pedalling hard and continuously you were loosing ground to everyone behind you. I was riding well and held the lead until the 2nd lap when Mel caught me. We had a good gap on everyone and was looking good for a 1-2 Canuck finish. Unfortunately the American duo of Shonny and Emma had a different idea and caught me on the last lap of the bike and put enough time on me to be about a minute up going out onto the run. I ran strong but couldn't pull back any time on the leaders and had a good gap back to Marion in 5th place. No one ever likes to have the first spot off the podium but I didn't leave anything out on the course. Huge congrats to Mel for overcoming less than ideal pre-race conditions and taking the win and Emma for stepping it up and getting herself on the podium. Sara toughed it out and got through it and will undoubtedly come back even stronger for the experience. In all, as Mel put it, "the villa of fast chicks" totally rocked!!! The weekend wrapped up with some fun times at the post post-race party (photos will not ever be available) and a bit of sightseeing in Avila and Madrid before hopping back across the pond. Just one weekend off racing before back to back Xterra races in Santa Cruz and the one of my favourites ALABAMA!!!!

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