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Holten ITU World Cup 2010Holten ITU World Cup 2010Holten ITU World Cup 2010Holten ITU World Cup 2010

I was a little nervous going into the race in Holten as I had been in
a big training block and it had been a few weeks since my last race. I
went into the race ranked number one, but I knew it wasn't going to be
an easy day at the office. I had also placed some high expectations
upon myself.

Holten is a small town in the Netherlands and there was a lot of
orange about, mixed with an obvious a buzz given events in South
Africa. The race took place on Saturday and the town of Holten was
certainly out in force to support the event - 3000 inhabitants and
1000 volunteers, it was an impressive turn out.  On the day, the wind
was minimal but the mercury was hitting 38 degrees. It was a hot day
even for a Queensland boy!  The start was also delayed by about 20
minutes so standing on the beach in the hot sun with no shade was not
so much fun.

I had first pick of starting position on the pontoon and the dive was
shallow so the middle 10 spots were blocked off. I started on the
right hand side of the blocked spots and thought it was the shortest
way to the first buoy. I had the second ranked athlete Danil Sapunov
on my left and uber swim-biker Ivan Vasilev on the other side. I had a
good start, was out fast and got around the first buoy on the inside
and not far from the front. I saw my good mate and training partner
Josh Amberger just in front of me so I decided to follow his feet and
settle into my rhythm. I was well positioned rounding the next buoy to
head back to shore at the end of the first of two laps, but I didn't
notice until we had exited the water that a small gap had formed. I
knew I had to latch onto that lead group so I pushed hard and had
almost closed the gap by the end of the swim.

I exited the water well and ran hard to my bike. Given the temperature
navigating the carpet felt like running on hot coals but I just pushed
hard and I was out on the bike. There was a gap of about 80 meters to
the front group and I was in a chasing group of about 10 athletes.
Only four of us appeared to have any interest in working, but
thankfully we caught the front group of six within the first 2 km.  As
soon as we caught the group no one wanted to work and the pace
initially dropped. I was sitting near the front and then ivan Vasilev
attacked with one other athlete. I let them go as I felt that it would
be a big ask for two athletes to stay away on the course. A small
group then attacked and I went with them. I think that wearing number
one on your arm is a different experience to wearing a higher number -
some athletes tend to follow you and watch what you do.  It was an
interesting position to be in.

The bike leg followed the road from the swim site to the town of
Holten and we then circumnavigated the town five times to make up 40k.
The town had one hill. It was 76 meters high and sharp so it made
sense that we should have to pop over it a few times. The flat streets
that followed the hill were very welcomed. I pushed the pace up the
hill and hoped that we might get away but I had no luck and the pack
eventually swelled to over 70 athletes. The pace was pushed over the
hill each time and this made it difficult for those at the back of the
pack. It was good to keep the pace on and I'm sure that it would of
taken a bit of spark out of the pure runners. Staying near the front
was crucial and I started to think about the run.

On the last lap I was near the front and ready to be off the bike fast
and out of transition.  I was second off the bike and third out of
transition.  I had four Germans around me and I ran out hard - perhaps
a little too hard but I wanted to make it hurt and fast from the start
and to hopefully hold on. Four of us got away over the first 1.5k.
There followed a left turn and then we hit the hill. I started to drop
off the lead group and then got passed by other athletes. At the top
of the hill, I started to feel a little better and set about getting
back into the race. I was sitting in about 12th position at the top of
the hill but had clawed my way back to about 9th by the time we hit
the town. I started to pick more athletes off and pushed my limits. By
the end of the second lap, I had worked my way up to 5th, about 10
seconds off the front group of four. I kept pushing harder and harder,
hoping either that I would close the gap or that the leaders would
fade later in the run.

It was pot luck at the aid stations - a mix of ice cold water, or
boiling water that had sat in the sun for a little too long. I kept
pushing and the crowd was unbelievable. One lap to go and I worked the
slight downhill hard, tried to stride out and lift my leg speed and
carry it onto the flat section. I felt like I was closing and one of
the lead athletes appeared to be dropping off.  Big target! My legs
felt like they wanted to go faster but my pace didn't increase and I
couldn't close the gap. I gave it everything I could but it was a
little frustrating. In the last 400m I was passed by Danil Sapanov
(who was ranked number two) and I never saw him coming. I crossed the
finish line in 6th and straight into a kiddies paddling pool filled
with ice.  I'm told that the Internet broadcast was entertaining - 7
athletes squashed into a tiny kiddies pool! I was absolutely spent.

So I'm semi-happy with the result. I wanted to podium, that was my
goal. However, it was good to earn Olympic qualifying points for
Australia and that is always on my mind. We need the full quota of
athletes in London. 6th place in an ITU World Cup race is a good
effort but I expect and want more. I  will now recover and freshen up
for the London ITU World Series race in just under two weeks time. It
will be a stacked field and I look forward to another tough day at the
office and to learning some more.  As tennis great Billie Jean King
once said "Champions keep playing until they get it right".

IMA 2010 Winner - Best in Class
Web Awards 2010 Winner