After many successful years in the south of France the race organisers of the ChTriman triathlon festival decided to relocate the race to Gravelines in Northern France and so a group of triathletes from Evesham and the surrounding area presenting Worcester Triathlon made the short journey across the Channel to take part in the two day triathlon festival last Bank Holiday weekend.
Saturday was the junior and short distanced events and the team got off to a flying start when 9 year old Callum Jennings set off in the first race of the festival ‘Avenir 1’. Callum plunged into a fairly chilly rowing lake on the outskirts of Gravelines swimming 75 metres in open water (no wetsuits) before emerging from the lake and sprinting to transition. He leapt onto his bike in 4th position but was soon challenging the leaders on the 2km ride alongside the lake before again entering the transition area to dispense with his bike and start the 1km around the nearby grassed area. Up into 2nd place by the end of the bike, Jennings then swiftly moved alongside the race leader before taking the lead with 250m remaining. To deafening cheers Callum entered the finishing shute and raced home for his maiden international victory.
His older team mates started the next day’s racing knowing it was a tough act to follow but at 7am on a cold and overcast morning in Northern France their thoughts were more likely to be on the 3.8km swim they now faced as the first leg of the Iron distanced triathlon they were about to commence. Danny Harris making his debut at the iron distanced event was in good company though with Michelle Parsons, representing Team Tri UK and being a multiple Iron distance finisher and for once one of the favourites to take the win on the female side of the race, and Andy day recent 3rd place finisher in the Enduroman Double Ironman event in Lanzarote.
Harris has been working hard on his swim endurance and he emerged from the lake in good spirits in just over 1 hour and 16 minutes. After removing his wetsuit he was soon on his way on one of the toughest bike courses in Iron distanced racing. Not tough because of the amount of climbing but rather because of the flat nature of the course and the notoriously strong winds which blew across the open roads. Sunday was a particularly windy day so it was going to be tough day out on the bike course.
Michelle was having a typically hard time in the water and the strong winds whipped quite a chop across the lake but she battled through and although some 8 minutes slower than Danny she knew that the 18 minute deficit from the lead female competitor was not insurmountable on this course.
Andy Day trailed both his team mates out of the swim and visibly relieved to be back on dry land and to start the chase down on the bike.
The strong winds and decision of the organisers to lengthen the bike course slightly to 115 miles from 112 meant that Harris was some 5 hours and 56 minutes and nineteen seconds in the saddle. The debutant was still in good shape though and quickly donned his running shoes for the marathon run ahead of him.
Slowly but surely Michelle had worked her way through the field and was now in the lead of the female race completing the bike in exactly 5 hours and 53 minutes. This was almost 20 minutes quicker than the next fastest female, and ranked her in the top 20 bike times of the day. Andy also had a good strong ride recording a 5.57.05 pushing him well up the field before the start of the run.
On the run Michelle showed the race experience of a multiple winner by immediately stretching the lead over her nearest competitor on the two lap course. Harris was also tapping out an excellent rhythm and it took Michelle a long time to catch and past her team mate.
Parsons was exceptionally tough in the second half of the race with only a very slight drop in pace as she ran a phenomenal marathon leg of 3 hours 20 minutes and 34 seconds to claim her first ever Iron distanced Triathlon victory which matched well with her many middle distance victories overseas. Her overall time of 10.45.26 was not her quickest but given the conditions and the longer course it represent and excellent result some 13 minutes ahead of second place.
Harris was not too far behind recording and equally impressive 3.37 marathon time to finish in 10.58.26 in 20th place overall. The final member of the long distance trio from the club, Andy Day was not too far behind in a total time of 11.21.08 in 29th place overall.
Three further members of the club took part in the half iron distanced race held on the same course but starting some 6 hours later. First home was Phil Parsons in 4.38.11 in 16th place overall followed closely by Iain Jennings in 4.52.46 in 43rd place but most impressive of all was Lee Oliver who only decided that weekend to upgrade himself from the sprint distance race to the half iron distanced event. Oliver produced a great performance in his debut at this distance to finish in 6.01.26 to claim 249thth place overall.