Monday, 5 February 2018

Hell Of The West 2018

Couldn't have asked for a better start to 2018, finally securing myself a coach for my long course career. This guy is one of the top professionals in the world, recently been crowned 2016 70.3 World Champion, you'll find him at the pointy end of the field in every race. He is also a husband and father to 2 kids and I'm incredibly lucky to be one of 3 athletes he looks after. Stoked to say my coach is Tim Reed for 2018 and beyond.
There were some big changes over the Christmas and New Year period, it was tough at times but I was keen to push through and see the results on the other side. After a good block of training through January I headed inland to Goondiwindi for Hell Of The West to kick off my racing for the year. I had heard some great things about this event but also it can be one of the toughest races of the year due to the tough course and extreme heat. This year was a little too kind.

I headed West on Friday morning in the car with Dad, from start to finish it was non stop rain and cool even out at Goondi. Had a brief run to shake out the legs and was glad I packed a rain jacket which I thought there was no chance I would need, the temperature didn't go past 20°C all day. I'm super thankful to Liesl from the race committee who organised me a homestay with Sandie and Angus out on their massive property, really appreciate them letting Dad and I stay at their place.
Woke Saturday morning to more rain, I was checking the radar all morning to avoid getting the bike dirty and post lunch was looking good so rolled out for some course recon then. Dead flat roads, rough surface and plenty of edgy Kangaroos running alongside the road made for a fun spin. Packed and in bed before 8pm for a very early start Sunday morning, 0230am alarm.

A 5am race start is by far the earliest I've ever toed the line, kudos to the organisers for being able to do this and avoid the heat of the day. The 2km swim was up to the bridge and back in the river, 27°C water temp was nice but the pitch black race start was a little sketchy with our only sighting being the lead paddler with a flashing light on his head. We started with a run down the boat ramp and first turn buoy 30m away which made things a little congested and I lost touch with the lead swimmers. My swim only got worse, a group of 2 passed me and I couldn't even sit on feet, I found myself zig zagging my way up the river against the current, constantly correcting myself and losing time. I had a better swim on the way back down but had lost a huge amount of time and exited 5th 1:30min down on the leaders.

Out onto the bike I was eager to catch the guys up front but didn't want to blow up with the heat expected later in the day. Kept my cool and settled into my pace, I passed 4th place about 10km in and was moving along quite well. With the long flat roads there was a couple of times I could see the lead car up ahead, I remained patient, utilised the tail wind on the way out and was aiming to catch them just before the turn around. I couldn't have timed that any better... 500m before the turn around I was at the tail end of the lead group of 3, hit the U-Turn and got the first feel of the head wind. I rolled with the guys for the next 20km but wasn't keen on heading out onto the run with them so at 60km I attacked, the P5X was in its element. I got clear immediately and after a few minutes of hard work there was plenty of daylight between me and the chasers. I settled a bit but still kept pushing enough to put time into them, the strong headwind played in my favour and I got off the bike with a 3min lead.

No stuffing around onto the run, those guys are quick and I was chasing that win. I started good, feeling pretty fresh considering pushing into that headwind on the way home, I was confident until I saw Neumann after the first turn, he was hooking. I wasn't giving up yet, I haven't felt this good coming off the bike and continued to push to see where it took me. With 3 laps and 3 U-Turns per lap it gave me a good chance to see where the chasers were but also how quick Neumann was catching me. Heading out onto the last lap he caught me, he made one little attack which didn't phase me and then settled but went again shortly after and I let him go, I wasn't confident with how my body would handle the short spurts. He got 100m up the road quickly but then sat there and I thought to myself, the win isn't out of reach yet. Then my stomach had other ideas, it wanted a pit stop but 4km out from the finish I didn't have time for that so had to go survival mode, slow it down and keep it smooth. Neumann went outta sight and it was just a matter of getting to the finish without having to stop. Luckily I did and was pretty happy to cross the line 2nd.

Stoked to kick off racing for 2018 with a 2nd at Hell Of The West, both Neumann and I went under the previous course record and I managed to post a new bike course record by 2mins.
Big thanks to the event team and volunteers for putting on such a great and well run event, I will be back next year for sure.
Time for recovery before heading down for Geelong 70.3 on the 18th Feb

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