John Morgan – ETU European Championships 2017

An email at the beginning of April put my triathlon plans for the year in turmoil. Having planned for my first A race to be late July , Castle Howard the first qualifier for the 2018 European championships, I found that I had a late roll down slot for the 2017 Europeans in Kitzbuhel in June!

Having paid my entry and booked travel through the official travel agents, Nirvana, I then just had to wait for the new GB kit to be made available, which duly happened at the end of May….just a couple of weeks before the race.

The Thursday saw us in Stanstead flying to Munich and then a transfer coach to Kitzbuhel, a couple of hours drive. Bavaria around Munich is flat, and stays flat until you get close to the Austrian border at which point foothills give way to mountains in short order so the last part of the drive was in breath taking scenery.

Late meal Thursday, we arrived at 9pm, then early up on Friday to get my bike checked by the team mechanic and to attend the team briefing. Here we were told lots of information, 1 swim lap, 3 bike laps and 2 run laps. No drafting, put everything in the box you will be given at check in and be prepared for the two minute penalty if caught infringing the rules with penalty boxes here, here and here! We were also told that if we wanted to appeal we would have 5 minutes to lodge an appeal and it would cost €50. Oh and the water temperature was 23.1 so unless it dropped it would be a no wetsuit swim. With that we were ushered out into the rain for the team photo.

Snatching a chance between showers I rode the bike course, luckily meeting an AustrIan athlete who showed me the correct turning for the climb. I repeated the climb and ‘technical’ descent twice. Later it was into the lake after the Elite women’s race to have a non wetsuit swim and check sightings at the buoys, all good.

Then it was back into town for registration and to find something to eat.

Saturday got up late, managed to do quite a lot of walking with four trips to the race site, which was about a mile from the hotel. Tessa did some of her programme, long run and 1900m swim. We saw more racing and I walked the first climb of the run…nothing compared to Sheringham park run. I also picked up the special free gift…a woolly hat!

The evening was back to transition to rack the bike, right under the German flag, then a slightly later meal as the restaurants were all busy.

5am alarm call, breakfast, not hungry, but drank the coffee and forced some food down. A few trips to the toilet and then we picked up the shuttle to the start. Set up transition, walked through and found that miraculously the water temperature had dropped so it was wetsuit optional.

More trips to the toilet, bit of banter with other members of team GB and then it started to get warm as the clouds cleared and the sun rose.

First wave off then we were in the water with all of 30 seconds before the hooter. As luck would have it I found some purchase on the pontoon so got a bit of a push off. After a couple of strokes, as I was breathing bilaterally I could see that either side of me the swimmers were behind…and few more strokes and I knew I had gone out too fast so had to calm down a bit. Half way to the first buoy I was settling into a rhythm. There was a bit of barging but nothing too traumatic. As I approached the last turn, I was passed by some from the wave after me….they were doing sub twenty minute pace!

Up the ramp and into transition, by the German flag, which was close to the swim and bike in, and then I ran the length to get to bike out, hairpin turn on to the road and then a rather cautious mount after the line.

The bike course started with a long slight downhill on a main road. Lots of people went full throttle here, I was possibly being a bit differential here, slightly concerned about the drafting rule. After an s bend we took a left and the climb started almost at once and straight away it was granny gear time. On the second and third laps there was the sight of all these TT bikes, with solid rear wheels and guys with big pointy helmets crawling up the hill. The referees must have considered penalties for drafting but at that speed there really was no advantage. There was the technical descent on a narrow road with a couple of tight corners, one of 90 degrees where there was a hint of hot brakes in the air. Back on the main road and a slight upward drag to the turn, this was the part which I felt strongest on and was when I passed more than passed me. Trying to remember how many laps got a little challenging, I just had to think climbs and dead turns.

Transition was surprisingly empty, I found out after that they take the bikes away after the athletes start their run.

Managing to forget my run vizer I set off, trying not to go out too fast. As luck would have it this was not a problem. I felt ok, but I could not up my pace so I got used to being passed, but I comforted my self with the thought that they were Europe’s finest. The run was beautiful. Yes there were hills, and yes it was rolling, but it was on roads and paths around the Schwarzsee. Part was on a boardwalk, and like I said it was nothing compared to the second half of Sheringham park run. Looking at the results afterwards there were only a couple sub 40 minutes runs, and my 50 minutes was by no means the slowest. It was hot and I did use the sponges and drinks to good effect.

For the final part entering the blue finish Shute I managed to pass an Austrian who I had just passed me and pick up a Union Jack to carry over the finish line. Job done!

Drinks and food and finishers medal in the athletes tent. Some were being treated for dehydration, but I was fine. What a race.

My aims had been to get the start line, get to the finish line and then if I could avoid coming last all the better. I was 50th out of 69 who started, there were several DNS’s. I did beat three of the GB athletes, I know I was the last selected on roll down so I was up on my seeding as it were.

The winner finished in 2 hours 12, apparently a legend in Austrian triathlon and former Olympian. He was 3 minutes ahead of second place. I did 2 hours 37, not my fastest, but it was a tough course, I have never used granny gear on the bike in competition before and the bike course was long, not far off 27 miles. I wish I could say the run course was long as well, but I don’t think it was…but in the heat and possibly the altitude it was very hard, at least that is what all the post race banter said.

I am very proud to have raced as part of Team GB. I am very proud to have earned a finishers medal..it will take pride of place in my collection. It was by far the hardest race I have ever done with the highest standard of racing.

Thank you to everyone who supported me, who helped me and encouraged me with my training, all those associated with the TriHarman club who are all so inclusive, and especially Mark for everything but in particular controlling what I did and making certain that I did not break in the weeks leading up to the great event. Thank you