Soon after I found out about coming to races overseas I was in contact with a French triathlon team Issy Les Moulineaux. After a few emails I joined their team and will race for them while I am in Europe.
Last Friday I took my first flight into Paris to meet up with the team, that night was the annual Paris Music Festival so I took a short trip into Paris with a few of the athletes to see the sights and have an excellent dinner. I stayed with two other athletes at their house that night as we had to drive to La Rochelle the next morning which was just over 4 hours away.
We arrived in La Rochelle to cold and wet weather but we still managed to fit a ride in before dinner. After a good feed at a local restaurant we headed back to the hotel so the coach could give the team a race brief and have an early night.
Up at 7am for a buffet breakfast with the team and then off to race site which was just across the road to put our gear in transition. Our race was not until 10:30am so we headed back to the room to relax before heading back to race at 9:30 for a warm up.
It was now 10:20am, warm up done and waiting with the team up on the boardwalk ready to be called down to the pontoon. Issy had 10th pick on the start and with at least 5 athletes per team the pontoon was very congested. We picked right in the middle to ensure shortest line to first buoy which was under 200m away that narrowed underneath a bridge. The buzzer was off, no warning but luck I was ready and had a very clean dive. I put everything into that first 200m and found myself in clear water placed about 5th. After reaching the U-Turn buoy my arms felt like they were dead and I started losing some places. Came out of the water in the front half of the second pack, the lead group consisted of 6 or 7 athletes including world class French triathlete Laurent Vidal. We only had a gap of around 30sec after lap 1 but the gap increased each lap as the pack was not working strong enough to catch them. I sat in most of the ride and tried to avoid any crashes as it was a group if 20 or so athletes on a slightly technical course. I came off the bike placed about 10th in the group and about 1min behind the leaders. Quick transition and I was off onto the run feeling good. The first km was crazy but it wasn't long until I started passing other athletes. The run course had a lot at turns and one stretch was extremely windy but still managed to run myself into 12th position and 1st Junior.
Happy with my first French Grand Prix race, was a very good experience and can't wait for the next one. Issy Triathlon is an excellent team, the athletes and Coach are great, very helpful (a few also know a fair bit on English too). They made my weekend very enjoyable and I look forward to racing for them again. Now back in Vitoria-Gastiez for a week's training then I'm off to San Sebastian for a local race