Following a solid return to competition in 2012, CRC Triathlete Bryan Keane reports back from last weeks race in Alp D'Heuz. Having always wanted to do this race, Bryan was faced with a high calibre field, painful climbs and a backdrop of 37 degrees of scorching heat. Would he have the luck of the Irish?
A week in the Alps and finally some summer. I had moved on from Geneva to the famous 21 hairpins of Alpe D'Huez and all 14km of that climb. It has been on my list of races to do for the past few years and now I was getting my opportunity. Strangely enough, it's a mid week race with a long course race on a Wednesday and the short race is on a Thursday, both with a 2pm start time. Only in France can you put on races at this time and still get almost 1500 competitors. There was a huge amount of foreign entrants, with most people catching the end of the Tour de France and then picking up some races.
The short race is a 1200m swim, 30km bike (15km to the bottom of the climb and 15km up) followed by a 7km run at 1900m. I didn't change my training coming into the race just treating it as another heard training day. It's always fantastic to train in the mountains and when it's 35 degrees it is even nicer! The start list of the short race was really solid, about 15 ITU guys and some other long course athletes including Fredrick Van Leirde a former IronMan winner. I had come out of the altitude house the week before and wasn't sure if I would be a little flat as the case can be – coming out and racing like this. Previously after coming out of altitude I'd do either a 3 day drop in or a 3 week drop into a race. Racing in between this time you can feel very flat and not race so well. It has happened me in the past, thankfully this time I was fine,
The swim takes place in a lake owned by french energy company EDF all of which means you cant swim in there at any time only in the race. Suiting up for the race I was very happy to get into the water as the drop to 16 degrees was a welcome break to the scorching 37in the shade!.
I had kept an eye on Kane Simpson and Tom Davidson as I know there where good feet to try and swim on. The gun went and we we're off, I was in the middle of the line following feet. I exited the water in a group of 10 with a small bunch about 30sec in front of us. By the bottom of the climb there were 20 of us bunched in a group. My water bottles at this stage were like drinking hot tea, not the nicest.
The bottom of the climb and first 3-4 sections are the hardest and most steep. I took it on from the start with only Van Lierde and Davidson coming with me, I was conscious of keeping a good balence of going hard at the bottom and not blowing up. After 2 hairpins the 3 of us where clear and then Davidson pushed on. I went with him for the rest of the climb, Davidson setting the pace and my just trying to hang onto his wheel. The heat was oppressive and as we climbed in altitude the air just got drier. There were two aid stations on the climb, I tried to grab 2 water bottles each time to dump over me. With 4km left on the climb Davidson dropped me, at that point we were been given time checks of 5mins behind the leader, We both though it was a relay team member but it wasnt until the 2nd transition that I found out it was eventual winner Australian Dan Wilson. Davidson had taken a minute out of me by the top of the climb but I was in 3rd starting the run and knew I could catch him for 2nd.
The Run was painful, running at 1900m was so tough, I was never able to get into my running but just kept on pushing. I passed Davidson at around 1.5km in and from there just tried to push on a hard as I could. It was not pretty but I kept pushing and was well clear to take 2nd place. This was the hardest race I have ever done, throw in 37degrees and 1900m altitude and it just makes it the toughest race I have ever done. I have such respect for the guys who race the long course race the day before, a 2.4km swim, 115km bike with 3 climbs and a 21km run, Perhaps next year I'll man up and do the long course race!