ETU European Championships Aquabike – 7th July by Mark

Race report:
ETU European Championships Aquabike
2k swim + 50 mile bike

The venue for this race was 30 miles from Tirgu Mures, the town of the multi sport championships. At the race briefing the night before, we were told that parking would be a problem, with the second car park closed till the race was over and the third a mere 80km detour if you wanted to leave before the race ended. Well I was doing Aquabike so would be  finishing a half marathon before most of the athletes and keen to get away and pack. I brought our departure time forward by ½ an hour to 06:00 and messaged Robert.

When we arrived parking was not an issue so we sat around waiting…. but at least we were there.

The lake was about 3km up the road from the cars/T2/finish, so I cycled up there having checked out the finish area. Margot and Robert had to walk, but there was plenty of time.

26* water temperature so no wetsuits though some wore swim skins. Beach start in AG waves at 3 minute intervals. I knew I was going to be slow and I was. 7th fastest in the swim (13 in AG) but I didn’t know it at the time.

T1 was a 100m run along the flat concrete at the waters edge of the dam then turn left and run 30m up the 35* grass slope with a strip of carpet and timber battens to hold it down, left again and into the bike racks.

I’d told Robert what the number range was for my age group and asked him to feedback info about the other so I could gauge my race to theirs. This was 4 x 12.5 mile out and back laps. Quite hilly and getting hot. End of lap 2, Robert said 3 in front. Hmmm, ok I was in 4th place but didn’t think much more of it. I’d gone out harder than intended (as usual) so laps 2 & 3 were about easing back to make sure I would survive till the end. I was tiring on lap 3 and a bit worried about lap 4 and, the A race in a weeks time.

End of lap 3 Robert said ‘2 minutes, you need to get a move on’ meaning the next rider was 2 mins behind at the end of lap 2. I thought he meant that 3rd place was 2 mins ahead, which was probably correct. Anyway, the thought of a medal spurred me in and I went into overdrive, treating it like a 12.5mile TT and giving it all the beans, burning all the gas and not saving any matches in the box (to mix a few metaphors).

Now passing people regularly and desperately trying to spot my AG. Just before the turn, there he was standing on his pedals and working hard. I hung back to take him at the turn in the hopes he’d be distracted and not notice my number. As I passed he commented on my bike so a short conversation ensued but I don’t know if he’d realised that he’d just dropped off the medals. I pressed on not knowing if he was chasing and about half way back had a ‘conversation’ with another rider only to realise he was also in my AG. Only 4 miles to go so this really was everything I could find to drive me on, tucked into a tight aero position down the hills.

Just before T2/Aquabike finish there was a very rough level crossing which we were told would be boarded and carpeted. It wasn’t, so at 30mph I did the biggest bunny hop and cleared the whole thing, praying the carbon wheels wouldn’t disintegrate on landing.

A perfect dismount and run over the timing mat to finish.

It wasn’t till 20mins later, standing in the queue for a massage that someone found the results: 2nd place and my first time on the podium. 12 minutes behind 1st and just 15secs in front of 3rd. Phew. I had a huge sense of being rewarded for all the hard work I have put in over the last months. It’s been quite a journey.

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