What a day, what a race: the aggregators exceeded all expectations, we finished fifth in yesterday’s trio triathlon competition in Veenendaal. Although we were flying for the entire race under the radar, our chip did not work and obviously they only recorded us crossing the finish line, not before. Thanks to the organisers to keep us in the ranking as this performance needs to be recognised. But lets tell the story from the beginning.

After my runners knee experience from last fall I focussed this year almost completely on cycling, which was a perfect decision, but I still miss the triathlon. Luckily, Europeana and The European Library have not only great experts to transform the world with culture. They also have great and talented endurance sport athletes. Being part of a joint venture of Europeana and The European Library I managed to get into a triathlon this year, as a trio or estafette. Together with Joris and Simon, I participated in the Twinfield Triathlon in Veendendaal yesterday (23 August 2014) and finished the ¼ as a trio. Simon was swimming 1,000 m, I was riding my bike for 40 km and Joris ran the final 10 km.

aggregators

Aggregators welcome: please put your bike here and only take it down before you leave for cycling.

It was quite a long day, Simon and I left The Hague at 8 in the morning (we were back at around 4pm), while a big thunderstorm hit the city. Fortunately, the weather was getting better the closer we got to Veendendaal, which is a city between Utrecht and Arnhem right at the A12. We met Joris at a gas station just before Veenendaal to avoid looking for each other at registration. We went into the transition area, checked in the bike and helmet and made sure to understand the modalities getting in and out the area. The triathlon staff was really strict to make sure only authorised participants enter the area. Once we were in the transition area and found our slot with the bib number 667 (and 666 really existed as well, but nobody showed up to fill that slot…), we were all starting to prepare ourselves for the event. Simon went off to explore the lake, I started to prepare my bike and Joris checked the transition areas for the trio starters, between each discipline.

start

Everybody ready to start. Orange caps for all the trios. Water was just under 20°C, cold, but still warmer than air temperature. Clearly no conditions you would go swimming…

Excitement was increasing the closer we got to the starting time. Joris stayed with Simon to see him swimming, while I was getting myself ready for the ride. It is pretty hard to follow a swimmer in the water as they all look the same. But Simon did really well. I knew he is a very good swimmer, but he trained in pools and not in these kind of open waters. And it was his first triathlon appearance so you never know what happens. He was trying hard to keep in touch with the best swimmers and he managed this really excellent. I’m very much impressed: he left the water in third position, after 0:14:28, and handed me over the chip. The two others in front of him needed more time to get on their bikes, so I found myself being the first cyclist leaving the transition area. But at this point we already had the impression something was wrong…

I had to digest this ‘wow’ experience while running to the bike exit. I was really excited, never had this before, being first in a race. Thanks Simon! As I’m not a time trial expert (I prefer slow and steady over long distance, not fast and furious but short), I was sure it would not take long to see the first people passing by, which was true. But over the entire distance, I have not counted more than 4-5 people doing so, and Joris confirmed this when I handed over to him. But I come to this later. The bike track was a 3 km stretch of a big national road, and in between was the triathlon stadium, which normally is a big parking place. Six rounds were on our agenda, every round we had to pass the stadium. Weather was quite ok, only very few and short showers and a perfect wind that was blowing as a tailwind for the long 3 km stretch, while the 3 km headwind piece was divided into two pieces by the triathlon stadium passage. This passage was quite useful to properly count rounds and also do the regular fueling after each round. Before getting into the stadium the time was recorded every round, but I did not hear the same ‘beep’ I heard from others crossing the mat, same experience that Simon made, but I had it six times, something is going wrong here…

It was very busy the first two rounds. Imagine 300 cyclists on a 6 km track, i.e. every 20 m one cyclist (average). Drafting was not allowed, so keeping the 10 m distance to the next cyclist was quite a challenge. Half of the second round the sheriffs were riding next to me to pay attention we keep distance from each other. This means I had to slow down sometimes if others were cycling at about the same speed, quite annoying. Slowly the track was getting more empty (they started the 300 ¼ starters in three waves, with 20 min difference, the trios were in the last wave, so the starters from the first two waves disappeared over time). Now I was getting into a good rhythm. I knew how fast to go at the railroad underpass, how fast to pass the roundabouts, how to approach and pass the stadium. Although my bike computer stopped working before I even started cycling, with my watch and six little pieces of duck tape I managed to count the six rounds properly. After 1:08:08 since I left the transition area I handed over the number and the chip to Joris. Subtracting the 2 minutes all other people spend transitioning from bike to run (was quite a long walk in the transition area), my bike split for the 40 km was 1:06:40, which makes an average speed of exactly 36 km/h. This is by far my best time trial ever! Just to compare: the 40 km in a trio during the Berlin Triathlon in 2010 I finished in 1:05:11, but drafting was allowed back then and I was the full time together with a really great bunch of excellent cyclicts, which is a lot easier than doing it all alone.

I changed clothes while Joris were running four times around the lake, and he did that really fast. At the end I had to hurry up to get with Simon to the area where the trios were joined to finish together. We then followed Joris to the finish line and celebrated his personal best on 10 km: 0:40:40. So every one of us got to the limit, did his personal best in this team competition. But we still had the impression that something was wrong, as we never heard a ‘beep’ confirming we crossed the mat…

finisheda

Finished, happy, but…do we have a time?

A few hours later the confirmation was online: we finished fifth in 2:04:49, FIFTH (!!!), but no intermediates were recorded. Clearly the chip didn’t work, but I really appreciate the organisers put us in the ranking. This great result needs to be recorded. My sports year was really amazing to date, with two cycling classics in spring, the ‘Styrkeproven’ between Trondheim and Oslo in June, cycling the Alps in July and now my best result ever in a competition. All thumbs up and thanks to Simon and Joris for this cool adventure and the great performance!