European Standard Distance Duathlon Championships Bilbao 18 September 2022

Race Reports

Report by Neil Taylor

After training more for endurance than speed, my race strategy for this run/bike/run duathlon (10k/38k/5k) was to start steady and finish strong. We began with a fast, flat 10k run of two 5k laps, passing by the world-famous Guggenheim museum.

The three best athletes in my age group were away and gone but I paced my run to stay within 1 minute of the others, keeping my eyes locked on my two GBR rivals, Bruce and Ian. They were vying with each other and I felt they were overcooking it. I was right. After an efficient transition, the bike course took us twice up a 240m hill climb, where most of the hard work was done in the first kilometer, on a gradient of 8-10%, with a steady drag of 2-4% thereafter. I had time to enjoy fabulous views over Bilbao.

Overtaking my GBR rivals on the first climb, I spent the rest of the ride tracking a younger female athlete (grinding a really heavy gear) and an age group rival from Italy.  Poised to overtake them near the top of climb two, I was struck by a ‘mechanical’, dropping my bike chain as I switched up to the big chain ring. I fixed it pretty quickly but still saw them swooping back down the hill from the turn round point and I had to work hard to get back on terms before transition 2. Then another little incident as I bounced a shoe off my pedals and had to go back and pick it up.

Exiting T2 my Italian rival had about a 50m lead, with a Spanish rival just ahead. But I felt good and set about the chase with confidence, repeating my usual mantra “who’s the Croft Ambrey runner, you’re the Croft Ambrey runner.” Nobody beats a Croft Ambrey runner for effort. Positioned half way along the run course, top supporter Ruth was shouting regular updates on my progress. Approaching the second turnaround point the Italian was wilting. “Do this once Neil and make it count”. I surged past him at nearly 7 minute mile pace and accelerated away from the turnaround point. Passing the Spanish athlete soon after there was less than 1k to go and I wasn’t letting anyone back on. Up the ramp and over the bridge for the last time and there was the blue carpet. No relaxing, just go for it. I felt great and enjoyed the moment.

I was delighted to finish 4th in M65 age group and first Brit, which means that I am pre-qualified for next year’s event.

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