This was my first race in South America. I have been fortunate to race all over the world and it was very nice to go to a completely different place this time. I was blown away by the natural beauty of Pucon, Chile and hope to go back there again.
The leading up to the race was like no other race I have been at. The Chilean people take their triathlon racing seriously! The pre-race pasta party and press conference were over the top with the professionals having a place of honour at both events. The event revolved around live TV coverage across all of Chile, so the race was delayed by 5 min to make sure it fit properly in the TV schedule.
On race morning the number of TV crews and spectators was crazy. We ended up having a perfect day. The air temperature was right at 14C to start and went up to about 24C as the day went on.
After a good warm-up in the cool and clear lake, they called us to line up at the start. I was the last to be called and had to go in the second row. The sun rose behind us as the start horn was sounded. We had a mad dash to the water’s edge and every one dove in. It was a crazy mash of whirling arms for the first 100m. I got knocked in the head a few times but I dished out just as much as I received. Once everything had settled down I was able to assess where I was. I made my way over to Andy Potts’ feet. By about 400m the race had settled down. Felipe Barraza was up in front solo and I was with the lead group of 4 other athletes. I defended my position for the rest for the swim staying glued to Andy Potts’ feet. The sun was in our eyes as we came into shore and a few guys tried to surge off the front. I exited the water in about 5th place with the main pack. It was a good 400m run up to transition. I was able to move up into 2nd place by the time I jumped on my bike.
I settled into my own pace for the first 30km as I dragged the chase group behind me. The wind, hills and rougher roads made for slower going as I slowly chewed into Felipe Barraza’s minute lead. At 30km Santiago Ascenco made a big surge bringing the field together and the attacks started. The lead group of now 6 men held a high tempo till we hit the 45km turn-around point. Then with the wind at our backs the pace settled and the game of cat and mouse started. The camera crews were all over us with the helicopters flying over top to get the right shots. It definitely was a different feeling to any other race I have done. The group rode consistently until 70km, when Felipe Van De Wyngard made his move. No one countered it so he moved up the road. Then at 80km, right at the top of a climb, Felipe Barraza dropped his chain. This prompted an attack from Santiago Ascenco and Andy Potts, which I was not able to counter. I rode into T2 in 5th place with about a minute down from the lead.
The run in Pucon is definitely one of the hardest on the pro circuit. It is a 3-loop course with 4km of very steep hills. In the end it is the downhill that gets you, not the climbs. I was able to hold a very good pace for the first two laps, bringing back time on 4th place. On the last lap the hills got me and I felt like I was bonking. I new it was now not a case of catching 4th but holding onto 5th place. As I hit the last 3km on the run I had enough left to put in a final surge to make sure I held onto 5th place.
I know that I have what it takes to be on the podium and win races. I can feel it and I am starting to consistently be up in the mix. I will be working to build my strength and to get my final run legs back to speed. Now that I am consistently exiting the water with the lead group, it is also time to re-evaluate my race strategy.