Karlovy Vary World Cup

A race a long time in the making.

For several years now I’ve been wanting to capitalise on my swim-bike strength. To work with a small group of girls and take the race up the road and out of the hands of the runners.

I’d done it a couple of times before; it landed me a “breakthrough” performance at the conti-cup level in Geelong 2013, won me my first conti cup in China, and my Duathlon World Championship title in 2014.

Then I started to learn to run. And race as if I had something to lose.

I also stepped up to the big dance of WTS racing and it’s a lot easier said than done to just get away from 60 of the best girls in the world, and I relied on other stronger and more experienced athletes to make the race happen for me.

In almost every race it’s been in my plan to be aggressive on the bike. Not necessarily to get away, but to keep the pace on, make it hard. Some races I’ve done OK at this, others not so well, but I don’t think I’ve ever fully capitalised on my bike strength.

My frustrations this year with missing the boat each race, in a year where the races have panned out exactly how I would have dreamed, have finally led me to want to really have a crack myself.

Two weeks ago I did a German Bundesliga race in Grimma and wanted to get away on the bike there in an attempt to win. I got away in the opening KM of the bike, and opened up a larger gap than I thought, but didn’t quite have the commitment, belief, or intent on the day to make it stick.

It rocked my confidence a little, and it took a stern talking to from Mossy to snap me out of it.

With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I knew that in Karlovy Vary I just had to go for it. All in.

Mossy: So, what’s the plan?

Me: Swim hard, bike hard, run with everything I’ve got left.

Mossy: Good, and when do you look back?

Me: When I’m holding the finish tape.

Pretty much straight from the gun Summer Cook and I had a gap on the rest of the field in the swim. I sat on her feet, letting her dictate the pace, and by the end of the 1500m we had a 45 second gap on the rest of the field. A quick T1 saw me onto the bike in the lead while Summer struggled with her wetsuit.

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Coming out for lap 2 of the swim

I knew there was a gap but had no idea how big. As tempting as it was, I knew I couldn’t look back. I just had to ride as hard as I could into town, knowing that this was the make or break point – where the pack would have the greatest advantage over me.

It was a 5km undulating ride from where the swim took place, to the centre of Karlovy Vary where we completed 7 hilly and technical laps on the bike before jumping off to run.

On the first lap around town I finally got a measure of what my gap on the rest of the field was. There was one incline we rode out and back along, and I saw the chase pack going up as I was coming down. I hadn’t looked at the time so still didn’t know what the time gap was, or whether I’d lost or gained any time, but I knew the gap was established. Then someone yelled 1:15. Good, but I wanted at least 2:00 to give myself a safe margin off the bike.

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Up the 20% hill on the bike

I’d had to push myself pretty hard in the first part of the bike but by the second lap through town I was starting to settle. I felt more and more comfortable as the race wore on. The gap was growing, and with it my confidence. By three laps to go I lost site of the chase pack, and knew I had over 2 minutes lead. By T2, the official gap was 2:34.

Despite having such a big gap, I didn’t allow myself to think of winning – it was extremely tempting, but I knew no matter how good I felt, 10km is a long way and I still had to execute the run.

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Enjoying a sizeable lead on the run

I fumbled my way through T2 (just as well I had that lead!) but headed out onto the run feeling comfortable and in control. I concentrated on the things we’d been working on in training – staying relaxed and maintaining a good cadence. With a lap to go I finally allowed myself to think of the finish line, and really enjoyed knowing I’d pulled off the plan we had set out and was going to cross the line in first. It was extremely satisfying to have finally executed the race I knew (but didn’t fully believe) I was capable of.

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Increasingly as my career has worn on, I have come to appreciate how much more there is to executing on the day than just being in form. Without the encouragement and timely not so subtle words of advice from my coach Mossy, I certainly wouldn’t have pulled this one off. So cheers Mossy, we did it!

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Spraying Champers

Gillian


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