Like many others, Mont Tremblant was my goal race for the year and I couldn't have imagined being fitter on the start line. Training was going great, my July races showed good signs of form and I was confident that I was going to have a really good race. Considering it was the highest caliber field to ever toe the line in a 70.3, I would have been happy with a top 10. I finished 28th. The only happiness I can take away from the race is the fact that I gave it a go. At the end of the day, I wasn't racing for a top 10, I was racing for something more like a top 5 or 3. Lofty yes, but it doesn't motivate me to imagine racing for something like 8th, 9th or 10th. It's this kind of attitude that had me ride off the front in Vegas last year, and similarly had me blow up and finish 28th this year, but that's the risk that it takes for me to get a top result at a World Championship when I don't yet have crazy run ability. The reality is the level is phenominal at the moment. I gave everything I had on the bike to try and get away from the main players. I only decided to back it off at 20km to go when I knew it just wasn't going to happen. With the remaining 20km being the hardest part of the bike course, I really never gave myself a chance to be competitive on a long grueling run. But before I go on, let's start at the beginning...
The swim felt good. After the start I swam stroke for stroke with Frodo for several hundred meters. The pace was solid so I was happy to sit behind and let him continue setting the pace. Once or twice I went up again to take the lead but again was content with the pace. By the end Javier had come up and was jostling with Frodo. I again sat back conserving as much as I could. After the exit and long run to T1, I had some sort of idea about who was around us, but no idea about who was just behind. I set out on the bike and took a good turn to try and string it out in the case there was a long line of athletes behind. Pretty quickly Frodo and Ben Collins came around me, which was exactly how I imagined and hoped it would be at this point.
By the pace we were going, I had no doubt in my mind that if there was a group that was behind it would split. I was never further back than 4th wheel the entire race, so at no point did I ever have a comprehensive understanding of how many/what athletes were behind me, I just knew we were riding fast. All I was concerned about was doing my bit at the front to keep the tempo high, and going with the attacks when they went. By the time we hit the turnaround, I believe about 30km in, I couldn't believe how many athletes were still hanging on, and how many were close to catching up. The highway that we were riding on was flat and unchallenging, but the terrain was about to get harder. I kept my cool as I knew there was another chance to push the pace on a steep climb ahead.
Ben Collins was ahead at the time we reached the climb, and whether he attacked or just kept and even tempo is unclear, what was clear however was that there was a small gap. At the top of the hill I knew it was a chance to go. I committed and went around Ben, and spent the next 15 minutes on the rivet trying to consolidate our gap. Ben failed to come around me again so we lost a lot of momentum and some athletes found their way back to us. These were the best of the best however, so I would expect these guys to always chase a gap. We hit another u-turn and I could see almost all of the weaker cyclists had dropped off at this point. I pushed on somewhat appeased with this outcome.
I continued to push at the front with Frodo the only one also doing his bit until Joe Gambles came around with 20km to go. The only ones to see the front the entire race were Joe, Frodo, Ben and myself. I'm kind of proud of this even though it really means f**k all. But if anything, I felt as if I rode well and hard; a strategy that thankfully rewards me from time to time. Maybe if there was some better officiating it would have been a different outcome at the end of the bike, but like I said before, I was never farther back than 4th wheel so it's impossible for me to say if there was cheating in the front pack. As for the cheating going on behind us, I don't have to say much that hasn't already been said & seen. But for what it's worth, I will repost some soundbites.
Sebastian Kienle is among the most genuine & authentic athletes in the sport. A hard working, no BS champion. When he says something like this, you know there's a problem...
Of further interest, here's a shot just after Gambles took the lead from me at 70km. Frodo is behind and we're all keeping a legal distance (maybe except for 4th, but I don't know who that is). Contrast that with an image from the same photographer at the same angle and space on the course, and you have a clear example of a typical race day injustice that sadly affects us all. If you can spot yourself in the seconds pic, punch yourself in the face (It brings me shame that there's a lot of Aussies in this pack).
Here's my Quarq file from the ride. It's one of my best rides ever as far an NP goes, but with probably just too many matches burned, not unlike my ride from Vegas last year.
My run has been going really well in training, so even as I got off the bike a bit tired, I still felt as if I would be able to pull through. I never bothered trying to keep up with any of the better runners that went past (Frodeno, Gomez, Don, Gambles, Reed, Terenzo, Frommhold etc.), I just wanted to go my own pace confident I would be able to build into it knowing how hard the course was. I made it to the turnaround pretty much last out of the guys I got off the bike with, but still about 8th place I think. Only another 10 minuntes down the road I would already be out of the top 10, and slipping into a state of inescapable fatigue after a hard bike ride. I gobbled down all my three gels I'd packed by the end of the first lap hoping for a second wind, but it never came. It didn't hurt, I was just out of gas. In fact I couldn't hurt myself at all I was that far gone. As the age groupers fresh out onto the course were passing me, I turned the emotions off and immediately started thinking about Beijing the following week. There ain't no difference between finishing 18th and 28th to me, so it was never in my interest to fight for such positions.
It's no excuse, but at 25 I'm still young. I anticipate with each passing year I can be stronger than the previous. I still have ambition, but each race like this it's checked into more of a long term focus. I believe I have the right team around me to go the distance, and I'm looking forward to continuing my journey as an athlete. Sorry if at times this blog read like an excuse, but I only ever want a fair race. I train for a fair race, and expect nothing less than an unconditional respect for the rule by my competitors on race day and for officials to do what is required of them. Please don't punish me for that. Thanks goes to those who've supported me along the way, and congratulations goes to the athletes that were better than me on the day. I look forward to rounding out the season with some racing Australia. Cheers