So, lets start from the end. A day after what I considered a good race I was half-way home at Munchen airport and decided to have a more detailed look at the results. I saw them before on ITU website, but now, I downloaded them from the race website. It was a bit hard to find my name and eventually, I found it at the bottom with “DSQ” next to it. There was also a note in Spanish that DSQ is for not reporting in a penalty box. Good reason to disqualify someone who received a card, but I was not one of those. I asked for explanation but still haven’t got one. Until today (Friday) I was still in 12th spot in ITU results and I wasn’t even sure which version of the results is official. Now there’s DSQ in those results as well. Even if I made an error during the race which would result in disqualification I think someone should have informed me so I can appeal. I guess it’s too late now… But let’s switch to brighter subjects.
The race morning turned out to be quieter than the day before. I’m not sure if they would allow us to swim if it stayed like this (waves look smaller in the video):
I lined up next to Macca so that I can say we were shoulder to shoulder, even if that is in this stage of the race. The start went uncommonly well for me. I got into a rhythm quickly and there was not much fighting going on. After we rounded the first buoy I noticed one swimmer in front of our group so I went in front and closed the gap. Shortly after I realized we went too close to the shore so I had to go back on the course. From there on I was on my own. It was hard to see any buoys as we swam into the rising sun and besides that the waves were quite big. Few times I stopped and looked around to see either a buoy or some swimmers. I lost some more time when I went straight past the last buoy, but soon some boats appeared and made me turn to the coast. That’s when the group from behind caught me.
Once in transition I realised not everything is lost as I saw some familiar faces in that group. Turns out that was the group I usually swim with. Good sign for the future races.
Once on the bike I went hard from the start. Me and Mugica got away from the rest of the group and on the first climb we started passing people who I usually don’t see until the run. A confirmation that I haven’t lost too much in the swim and also that I’m going very well on the bike.
In between two hills a small group of four riders formed and just before second (longest) climb Cigana joined the party. Based on his pace at the start of the hill he was not too keen on socializing. I managed to hold his pace and gave myself a goal to stay with him till the end of the climb unless my legs fall off. He’s a smart racer and I knew he’ll use any chance to get away. So, I matched his every move. He shifts, I shift. He goes out of the saddle, I go out of the saddle. He spits, I spit…
Once it was clear I’ll accomplish my mid race goal I gave myself another one. Try to stay with a former pro cyclist on the technical downhill. It seemed harder than the first goal but I managed to tick that box as well. After that I thought he wont get rid of me until the transition. Unfortunately, I was wrong. At one point 15m gap grew to 25-30m and for the next 10km it stayed like that. He couldn’t increase it, I couldn’t get back to 15m. Eventually I had to raise a white flag and watch at his shrinking silhouette.
In the meantime another group of 3 cyclists came into sight. I caught them on the last climb and could hardly believe when I saw Macca in that group. Other two were Lopez Diaz and Nicholls. In the last 10km I went to the front and pushed the pace a bit. Lopez Diaz and Nicholls lost a few seconds there so I got thumbs up from Macca when he passed me in the last few kilometers.
I felt great on the start of the run. Around 1km mark Macca caught me and for the next 1km we had our (half)ironwar. First thing that came to mind was: “I hope someone takes some photos”. There were some photographers there so I still hope I’ll find those photos (from the front).
The pace felt comfortable and my ambitions started to grow. Just when I started to think I could keep up untill the end he increased the pace significantly and got away. Few moments later Nicholls flew by at, what seemed like, sub 3 min/km pace.
I settled in my own pace and started the stopwatch 3-4km into the run just to see if I’m going too slow. Next 3 kilometer splits were 3:29, 3:28, 3:29 min, and the pace felt conservative. After the turnaround I figured out why sub 3:30 pace felt so easy. It was windy and we had headwind on the way back. Despite the wind the pace was still quite good, around 3:35-3:40 min/km, except for the parts with many tight turns.
Going into second lap I was almost certain that I will be able to at least hold the same pace. But, as it sometimes happens in long distance racing, things can change quickly. One moment you’re thinking about picking up the pace and in the next moment you’re not sure if you’ll be able to get to the finish line. I don’t know how much I slowed down in the last quarter of the race because the wind blew away km marks. However, the splits didn’t matter any more. I was in a survival mode. After loosing two positions in the final part of the race I stumbled across the finish line in 12th spot.
I had better placings in European Championships before and 12th place won’t give me much recognition, but still, I think this was one of my best races so far. I was able to mix it up with some big names of the sport and the time gaps were rather small (except for the gap to Gomez) which gives me hope I’ll be able to close those gaps entirely in the future.