Race report: Team Triathlon Arnhem

The ATAC men's team pre-swim in Arnehm

A little late with this one as it was almost 2 weeks ago now, but I wanted to put up a brief race report anyway.

The past few years, I’ve focused on longer racing and that’s generally meant not racing very much through the season; I’ll write a longer post about this soon, but this season I’m taking the opposite approach and part of that means racing for my tri club – ATAC – much more this year.

Team racing is a big deal here in the Netherlands – for many athletes it’s the focus of their season – it’s competitive and there’s a lot of teams. ATAC competes in the 3rd Division North.

The first race of the season took place on 30 April and was a team time trial format. A 475m pool swim; 20km bike; 5km run. Teams consisted of 4 athletes with the time of the 3rd athlete to cross the finish line counting as the final time – with drafting allowed within teams on the bike.

I would say that this spring in the Netherlands has been terrible but that would be to acknowledge that it arrived at all. Essentially, until mid-April, it was winter. The week before this race, it was generally 8°C and raining. One morning, the route to work was icy. Fortunately, that changed just in time and the Sunday of the race was the nicest day of the year so far.

That played into a real tri festival atmosphere at the venue in Arnhem where the race took place. This was billed as Super Sunday – every team from every division, men and women, raced in Arnhem on this day and in this format. That won’t happen again this year.

So, good day: check. Great atmosphere: check. Quality team mates: check.

The team was me, Anthony, Vernon and Giorgio. We got the train to Arnhem and discussed race tactics en route.

The ATAC men's team pre-swim in Arnehm
The ATAC men’s team pre-swim in Arnhem

Despite being an excellent bike-runner, Giorgio is new to swimming and we decided that staying together in the swim would cost us more time than it would make up on the bike. So, the team of 4 would essentially be a 3, with Giorgio racing hard behind in case we had an injury or mechanical.

With Vernon and I the strongest swimmers, we adopted an easy pace that we knew Anthony could hang on to, with him tapping my feet if he thought we could speed up. We lapped Giorgio a few times, meaning we probably made the right decision, and exited the water in just over 7 minutes which was very competitive on the day.

I breezed through transition – usually a sticking point for me early in the season but I seem to have improved – and waited for Vernon and Anthony out on the bike course.

The course was essentially a 5km out and 5km back course, done twice. It’ll surprise non-Dutchies to discover that it was actually pretty rolling (there be hills in Arnhem!), with a few hundred meters of elevation change over the course.

With Vernon not quite as strong on the bike and not yet in full cycling form, Anthony and I essentially alternated doing turns of a minute or two on the front, keeping the pace honest but keeping us together as a three, and Vernon holding on as best he could at the back. The way out had a tail wind and was fast; the way back was into a headwind which picked up on the second lap in particular which resulted in a long downhill being done at only 36kph while pushing almost 300 watts! It was hard to judge how we were doing and, while we weren’t catching the teams in front, the teams further down the road didn’t seem to be catching us quickly either. The bike was a lot of fun – racing on the road bike instead of the tri bike and taking it in turns to lead and then draft.

If the swim was easy for me, this was a more solid effort if not all-out race pace and I felt good going into T2 where I again went through pretty quickly and had the chance to walk steadily out of the transition for a few seconds before my team mates caught up.

The run was a beauty – part trail run and quite hilly. We went out quite fast and I felt good, then the pace started to tell a bit on the team so we dropped it back a bit for the second lap – I still felt strong enough to give team mates a helpful shove up the hilly sections which was a good sign this early in the season, I guess.

Quickly, we made the final uphill towards the finish and crossed the line for a time of 1:04:25. Giorgio did a great job, racing solo, to cross just 3:20 later most of which was down to the swim.

Our time was good for 9th out of 23 teams – very respectable indeed! Looking at the results, it’s clear that this format suits a well-matched team. For example, many teams swam a minute or so slower but then had 4 good cyclists out on the course – being able to ride hard in a team TT style could have earned us at time at least 2 minutes faster… and potentially fresher legs for the run, with the ability to drop the weakest runner at that point. But, given the team we had, I think we raced to our maximum potential which is great to know.

Personally, this was as good a training day as I could have asked for with a solid bike and steady run, transition practices and race conditions all thrown in. I felt fresh as a daisy at the end and could have gone again, so that bodes well in terms of fitness for the rest of the season too.

So, on to the next one…

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