World Triathlon Championships 2001
Rye’s Own Councillor Bantick at the World Championships in Edmonton
His own story
The GB Age Group Triathlon Team this year comprised of 107 male and 81 female tri athletes. Of these there were only four competitions in the male class category of 65-69 years. There were no females competing in age groups above 65. Also, there were representatives above 69 from Great Britain. I was pleased to have qualified for the Worlds at Brighton last September, and to join the GB Team. I knew I would have to train that much harder if I was to survive the test on the world stage, but this was somewhat thwarted by the dreadful wet weather which meant finding time to get out on the bike when it was not pouring with rain was not easy. Then I became involved in the Election campaign this year which also dented my training. I have to admit it was some trepidation that I flew out to Edmonton on Monday, 16th July (on my 67th Birthday!) where the Championships were being held.
Gatwick Airport got the fright of their lives when all the triathletes descended on them with huge bike boxes containing their bikes and other gear at the check-in. To make matters worse they wanted our wheels removed for passing over a disinfectant carpet to adhere to the rules laid down by the Canadian authorities on the matter of foot and mouth. Chaos ensued! Eventually our bikes were loaded up separately, and we took off at 9.30pm for Calgary, our stopover for Edmonton. Nine hours later we landed in pouring rain, but the Albertans have a saying that if you wait five minutes the weather will change. Well at least it stopped raining! We had five days of preparation before the big event which was to be on the Saturday with the Age Groupers. The Elite raced on the Sunday. The bikes had to reassembled and checked out (we had our own team mechanics). It was amusing to see the faces of other hotel guests in the Team Hotel where we stayed when state of the art bikes were being wheeled in and out of the lifts to and fro from our rooms! Race briefings followed, and arrangements were made for those wanting to familiarise themselves down on the swim and bike courses at Hawrelak Park over the next few days. The bike training were given allocated times to allow the police to close the roads. We even had police escort! I could not imagine it happening here. We can’t even get the roads closed for races. The organisation was impeccable.
On the Friday we had to take our bikes down to the Arena for racking, get ourselves “marked” (with our race number) and have our micro-chip strapped to our ankle (to record times). We spent time to familiarise the transition area where we would come in from the swim and go out on the bike and return for the run. Every second would count in that area, and with over 1,500 bikes racked you want to know where your bike space is! There were 50 countries represented. On the previous day we had the Parade of the Nations through the town of Edmonton which followed the annual Klondike Carnival. The GB team were dressed in identical red white and blue tracksuits waving Union flags. The assembled nations listed patiently to speeches from various dignitaries whilst three jet planes flew in formation over head. The stage was set.
The weather looked good on race day. We rose early as our age group start was at 9.30am. We had checked and rechecked we had all our gear. I shared a room with a three times World triathlete who knew the ropes. We arrived at the Park at 7am and made our way down to our bikes bedside which we laid out our kit in the order we would need it for the bike and run. Finally we clambered into our wet suits and assembled in our age groups in the Athletes Village. Each group had different coloured swim hats to distinguish the various groups. We were led down to the start platform bedside the lake by a piper in full Scottish regalia! Now the moment of truth!
The Olympic distance triathlon begins with a 1,500 metre swim. It is a mass start and the first challenge of the day is to avoid getting kicked or dunked underwater during the start. I went for personal survival and let the faster ones go off first! It was a two lap circular course buoyed all the way round. My swimming technique is something to behold and will need sorting out if next time I don’t want to get run down in the second lap by the succeeding wave (the various groups go off at 30min intervals!) I dragged myself out of the lake and sped off towards the transition where my bike awaited me. To save time triathletes remove the upper part of their wet-suits before they reach their bikes. With wet suit removed and now in ones GB strip (worn under the wet-suit), it only took a minute or two to strap on my helmet, slip my feet into my cycle shoes and put on my sun visor. You are allowed to mount your bike until you reach the marked out mounting area. The bike course was a loop course which made it more interesting for the spectators who could watch the race develop and progress. The distance is 40km and at this event it was comprised of three laps. The course was “technical” in that there were some pretty tight bends often at the end of a hill climb or downhill run. I enjoy the bike discipline, and although I was competing on an old Dawes racing bike, it was no match for the state of the art bikes that sped past me. However my combined body and bike weight was no match to the others on my downhill runs where I almost took off passing a Costa Rican and a Venezuelan who of course caught me on the next hill climb! Great fun!
My legs were starting to become extremely weary and seemed to have gained several stone in weight! On entering the final discipline of the run my legs seemingly did not want to respond. I now had to run 10km on another three lap course. I had lost touch with my age group long ago and only knew that I must finish. My run became a jog and in the final stages became more like a stagger! The noise of the spectators willing me on gave me the lift to complete the course. My GB Manager was hanging out Union flags to every Brit who passed the finishing line. My recorded time was 3 hours 31 minutes and 5 seconds. I had a position of 28th in the World in my age group and 4th in Great Britain. It was painful but exhilarating, and I shall be back for more at the next World Championships at Cancuin, Mexico in November 2002.
The next day I had the luxury of being a spectator in the stands for the Elite Men and Women races. These guys get round in just over 2 hours! They are supreme athletes. The medals were taken by the USA, Australian and New Zealand! But just for the record we age groupers were the best ever. We finished with 4 gold and 2 silver medals. This placed us 2nd in the medal table behind the USA(11 golds) BUT for the first time ever, ahead of the Aussies and Canadians (3 golds). This needs shouting about for when compared to the dismal efforts of our Athletic team (1 gold and 1 silver) in their World Championships in Edmonton, it shows the sport HAS come of age and needs to be taken more seriously than it is in the Media.