Hamburg is one of my favorite places to race on the WTS circuit. Many of the other athletes share the same opinion because the crowds are insane. The course itself is pretty cool and unique for the city. We get to swim in the Alster, which is not allowed at any other time, and bike/run through what are usually busy city streets. The best part about this is that the city completely supports it, and people get so excited to not only race themselves, but to watch the pro race. I was participating in both the WTS race (sprint distance), and the Mixed Team Relay World Championships.
Saturday was the WTS race, and despite feeling fantastic, ended up being pretty mediocre for me. My lead up was good, I felt like I timed everything right despite an unusually late start time (7pm by the time the horn sounded), and I was confident in my preparation.
I luckily started next to Ron Darmon and Kevin McDowell who I know pretty well, and we all agreed not to beat up on each other the start. This meant I had clear water to the first buoy. I was able to hop on Tommy Zaferes’s feet and from there I just held on. The swim felt pretty quick, but I knew I was in good position. I could tell we were all one big line, and there were quite a few guys who were having abnormally good swims. I did not think too much of it because the right side where most of the top guys go is traditionally the fastest.
I exited in the front group, and made it onto the bike no problem. Raphael was hammering on the front, so I just focused on holding the wheel in front of me and seeing who was in our pack. Basically all of the main players were. This didn’t change my plan at all as I just wanted to race aggressively. This quickly changed to just trying to stay upright as my rear wheel began to slide out most corners as it started to mist/drizzle. I thought I had made a poor tire choice (although I have raced in similar conditions with good results on similar tires), but it ended up being a slow leaking flat (most likely a pinch on the cobbles). I tried a few strategies to make it safely to T2 like going off the front so Icould corner slow, corning slow in the group, basically any way I could keep the rubber side down and stay safe. Eventually, I was riding rim, and for the last half of the last lap it caused me to lose the front group. My main focus was to stay healthy for Rio, and it cost me a decent result.
I tore out of T2 as fast as I could about 20 seconds back and picked up a few stragglers. I think I had a respectable run, but between the flat, and charging out of T2 the time was pretty mediocre. This was frustrating to me because all day I felt so great and really wanted a decent race before Rio. I expected a lot of myself and felt I came up short. Thankfully, I got a chance to redeem myself the next day. I was told by USAT I would be racing the Mixed Team Relay, so I set my focus on that.
I woke up pretty sore, but psyched for my favorite format of racing. It is set up like this: the four team members (two guys and two girls) all do a super sprint tri. The order goes girl, guy, girl, guy. The USA team was Gwen, Me, Kirsten, and Joe. The order was pretty different from the past with Gwen going first, but after a bit of discussion we decided it was the best strategy. It was a bold one though because it basically meant we would need to try to race off the front the whole time with the lead Gwen we assumed would provide.
The race started a bit earlier than the individual, and although I was a little thrown off from the day before, I was fairly certain I could put in a good effort. The whole lead up to the race was pretty cool, and they really treated it like a World Championship race (as they should because it was one…). However, the IOC was there seeing if this was a viable event for the 2020 Olympics, so it had a little more pizazz to it.
Gwen led us off beautifully. She made the lead pack in the swim, and stayed in it comfortably throughout the bike. More importantly, she stayed safe and away from the crashes. She then went to work on the run and created a gap of 11 seconds. I was a little nervous because I did not want to blow the lead she just worked so hard for (she out-split a lot of guys in the run).
The first third of my race was pretty rough. I almost missed the swim entrance because I followed the cones and they went a bit wide. I even checked it out pre race. Make sure to double check and know the course! The swim was solid, but before the end I felt a tap on my feet and thought I blew the whole race. It ended up being the French athlete Aurelien Raphael. It was just him, so that was the one positive. He got out of T1 faster than me because for whatever reason I could not buckle my helmet…like I said, the first third of this race was pretty rough. I had to push pretty hard, but caught up with Raphael pretty quick, got my feet in my shoes, and tried to push hard early and distance ourselves from the guys behind us. We traded turns alright for about half a lap, but I wanted stronger pulls from him, and Raphael was not giving them to me. He told me he couldn’t pull through, so I took the technical section of the course at a strong pace. I saw I had a gap through the transition area, and with just a lap to go I decided to solo it. For the next 5 min I just tried to put out as much power as possible, and I found myself getting a good amount of time on the groups behind me. Coming into T2 I was pretty psyched and just went as hard as I could on the run. I held my gap for the most part and had a respectable run that I was much more proud of than the day before. I then regrouped and spent the next half hour more nervous than ever watching Kirsten and Joe race. They did spectacular, and we took home the win for the first US team World Champs and my first World Championship medal!
I cannot describe how amazing this feels (although the picture above does a decent job). This event is my absolute favorite. I love the team aspect, the fast racing, and how cruel it can be. I have raced a lot of these, but this is my first relay win (besides the Temple Toros MLT win). I have been after a gold medal here ever since we placed third back in 2013, and to finally get it is an honor.
I also want to take this time to thank all of my sponsors. I have the best in the business, and you need to go check out my sponsor page right now! The blackout period is basically here for Rio, and I wish I could say more about them during this time (July 27th to Aug 24th), but it will have to wait until post August 24th. Just know that without these people, the Olympics, World Championships, and all this other racing would not be possible.