By Brad Culp on 14/05/10 at 6:04 pm
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Frodeno and Atkinson battle to the end in Seoul
Normally, coming off a World Championship Series win, I would be pumped and keen to keep the momentum going. However, a 13‐hour flight back to the U.S. from Sydney last month was more than enough to hand me a sore throat and a setback in training for a week. Then, to add insult to injury, I was handed another head cold a week before Seoul. This is a great example of elite racing at its best: a catch 22 between getting really fit to win races, and compromising your immune system and running the risk of getting sick. Well, its either that or I was just bloody unlucky!
So going into the second round of the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series, it was a case of crossing my fingers and hoping the head cold wasn’t going to affect me too much. I was certainly very fit, but in this sport if you are off your game by one percent that can mean the difference between a podium position or placing 20th. I’d booked the tickets and had committed to racing, so it was worth the effort. Once again, I’d planned to arrive two days before the race, just in time for the 5pm compulsory race briefing.
I knew it was going to be tight, and when my flight landed at 3:40pm, I quickly realized that the only way I was going to make the briefing was if I left my bags at the airport and bolted to the briefing. (I had anticipated this and fully labeled my bag.) So in true Bevan Docherty timing, I arrived with 15 minutes to spare, and even enough time to check into my room. The reason it’s so important to make this briefing is because if you don’t, you get penalized by having to choose your starting position last. As I was ranked first I had the luxury of choosing first, which can offer a small advantage. I decided to choose the far right. This would give me clear water, the inside line, and because I breathe to my left, it would allow me to see everyone.
This tactic worked really well and I was untouched to the first buoy, although I didn’t feel that great out there and I felt like I was going backwards. However, to my surprise, as we exited the water I was very close to the lead. Some of these swims can be a lottery at times. The advantage you gain by drafting can be surprisingly significant and a lot of it depends on your positioning in the pack. You can get a small advantage by swimming on one person’s feet, but when your surrounded by a group, you gain even more of an advantage. The only downside to this is that you do get knocked around and that can cause you to use more energy.
The technical bike course they had put together on paper looked silly and dangerous, but it was far from that. Many of these world championship races are held in large cities that offer very little demanding terrain, and Seoul was no exception. So to spice things up a little, they added a technical section that had a lot of tight corners and dead turns. This was not enough to split the pack up, but it did spread the group out and force them to ride single file at times. This constant surging and accelerating does take its toll after awhile, and it slowly wears down the weaker cyclists.
On a course like this, positioning yourself near the front is key. There is less of a change in pace and less of a chance of getting involved in an incident. Throughout the bike, I tried to position myself at the sharp end of the pack, without doing too much work. A few guys did try to break away, but they didn’t last off the front too long. I didn’t have the cycling legs I was used to, so didn’t try a break myself and just hoped that my running legs were there.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case. Generally, you can tell straight away if “the feeling” is there. I watched Courtney Atkinson and Jan Frodeno seal the race up in the first kilometre. It’s a frustrating feeling watching guys run away at a pace you know you are capable of doing. Still with the way the new Series is, it’s important to keep pushing, no matter how crap you feel. Later on in the Series just a few points could count for a lot. No time to feel sorry for myself. Besides there was more at stake than the race win—the Series is what I am after. At about the 5K mark I was still running with the Russian, Brukhankov, but he was obviously having a better day than me and I drifted off the back. I was going to have to let my fitness get me through the race. I finally crossed the line in seventh, and dropped to second in the World Championship Series rankings. It was a strange feeling.
I was hurting but not tired. Post race I felt frustrated, as I know that it’s far from my best, but I’m happy considering the events leading into this race. So where to from now? Being such a long series, my coach and I have planned to step out the third round in Madrid. There are a number of reasons for this. First, a mid‐season break can pay huge dividends later on in the Series. Secondly, traveling to Europe four times in the year is just a little too much for me. Unfortunately, after Madrid I will drop even further down the rankings. However, once we get to the “money” end of the Series, it will become obvious who the main contenders are.
As always, thanks for all you continued support! It’s great that Sky T.V. is covering the Series so well, and you are able to follow my progress live. I can assure you all, there will be more passionate finishes from my end, which will have you at the edges of your seats…