Clumber Park Duathlon

Against the odds, I had a terrific time on Saturday at the Clumber Park Duathlon. I say against the odds, because this was supposed to be my first race of the season, but my ongoing hip problem means I still can’t run. All the pieces were in place for me to be a right miserable sod.

However, rather than be grumpy, I turned the day into a good training opportunity and woke up at the crack of dawn to cycle down to Clumber. I had plotted a route on Strava that was the straightest line I could manage. I was fine until Hooton Pagnell, but as soon as I passed through it, I was completely lost, and relying on following the orange line on my phone.

This worked fine until I reached the park itself, and the route would have taken me down a rough looking dirt track. The sun was out, and I was on my summer bike, so no cyclocross today. I had to find a longer way around.

Nevertheless I made it to the race start with about twenty minutes to spare before the first sprint racers kicked off. I had wanted to go down to support four of our athletes who were competing, as well as over fifty clubmates from Wakefield Triathlon Club.

The Clumber Duathlon is a national trial this year so, with World Championship age group slots up for grabs, there were some great athletes racing. I found a couple of friends and we positioned ourselves near the start as the racers rumbled past us in waves.

After the standard competitors had come past, I wandered up to the dismount line to watch the sprint cyclists coming in. Here’s a thing – I have never observed a race from this position before. Absolutely tremendous spot. It was great watching the elite athletes flying into transition barely breaking stride as they dismounted. There were plenty of tired looking people heaving a weary leg over their cross bar too. Unless you are trying to make that GB team, it’s really not worth getting too worked up about saving a few seconds here and there. As I saw, it’s so easy to get it wrong.

I saw five “handlebar dismounts” in the forty five minutes I was standing there. The fatal combination is decelerating hard with your weight too far forward. A cyclist would approach the line with too much speed, swing their leg over in preparation, then realise they were going way too fast to start running. They’d slam on the breaks but, unable to lean back in the saddle, the back wheel would fly up and throw the unfortunate triathlete over the bars, landing in an embarrassed sprawl across the dismount line.

There was nothing more serious than bruised pride on show, but it does show how easy it is to get the speed wrong when the adrenaline’s flowing. Starting your deceleration a few metres earlier is not going to cost you a lot of time.

A quick word on how our athletes did.

  • Debb continued her preparation for Outlaw Half with a really strong run in the standard distance.
  • Katie showed great patience and good sense by pulling out after the bike leg in her first race after recovering from a broken foot. She’ll live to race another day.
  • Helen had a really strong ride in the sprint distance, and even smiled during the run.
  • Julie completed her first duathlon, finishing strong with more in the tank.

(Thanks to Ben Storey for the excellent photography.)