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The promising performance of Lancaster Triathletes in 2011 continued with commanding displays at the BUCS Duathlon Championships in Castle Combe, Wiltshire.
Consisting of a two-mile run either side of a ten-mile cycle, the competition was split into two waves. With four competitors in the first wave and eight in the second, Lancaster was well represented in a field containing top GB Triathletes.
There was a slight feeling of apprehension before the race due to the relative inexperience of the Lancaster team, but as the first wave got underway any nerves quickly vanished as Beth Watson and Rachel Hayes set off in determined fashion with Greg Slann and Sarah Barr not far behind.
Although it did not take long for the top female athletes to gain an imposing lead, all put in a solid performance and approached the finish of the first run on course for personal best times.
The transition proved somewhat more challenging as a combination of inexperience and the sheer number of competitors created a scramble, leaving helmets displaced and bikes dislodged from the racking.
This proved to have little bearing on actual race positions however, as the Lancaster four went off strongly in the opening stages of the cycle section. With Watson and Hayes continuing to lead the Lancaster athletes, Barr and Slann were closing fast.
What speed they lost due to the differentials in bike technology with other competitors, they made up with their spirited determination as they negotiated the customary five laps of the track.
The Castle Combe race circuit could in places be treacherous, with one of the female competitors sliding off on the chicane corner and sustaining head injuries as a result. Fortunately, the Lancaster athletes managed to finish the bike section without accident.
By the final run section, Slann had managed to build a slight lead over the girls, yet a slight breakdown early on in his run let the girls through to beat him convincingly.
In the end, Watson finished 258th in a time of 59.36, Hayes 262nd in 1:00.02, Barr 294th in 1:03.31, and Slann 296th in 1:03.47. It was a very good day for the four Lancaster athletes in the first wave, and each should be proud of their efforts.
The second wave did not start until the first wave was near completing the bike section. Joe Beech immediately lined up near the front of the wave followed closely by Nathan Keir, while Matthew Barnes, Sterling Austin, Fernando
Ortiz-Canavate, Sean Exley, Paul Steven and Andrew Weston held back in order to conserve energy for the bike.
Nevertheless, both Beech and Keir persevered through a frantic transition and stormed into the bike section with astonishing speed, overtaking a number of other competitors in the process. Exley and Barnes entered the transition slightly ahead of Ortiz-Canavate and Austin with Weston and Steven just a short way behind.
Impressively, it took Barnes just three laps of the circuit to catch Keir and close in on Beech, which meant there was little to separate Lancaster’s top three duathletes as they approached the second transition.
Negotiating the transition with much more ease, there was only twenty metres separating Lancaster’s top three a mile into the last run. With Keir closing on Barnes and Beech fading slightly in front, the conclusion of the race was primed for an exhilarating finish.
What came to pass was one of the most enthralling battles in the club’s history. Although Keir’s attempts to track down Barnes were unsuccessful, with only a few strides to go, Barnes overtook Beech only for Beech to dig deep and pip Barnes to the line.
Beech finished 50th in a time of 48.34, with Barnes finishing 51st and only one second behind in 48.35. Within sight of the epic duel ahead of him, Keir finished 60th in 48.57. Exley came a very commendable 104th in 51.24, Austin 143rd in 52.57, Weston 230th in 58.10, Steven 256th in 59.34, and Ortiz-Canavate 268th in 1:00.16.
After the race, club President Sterling Austin gave an insight into the impressive displays of his triathletes. “We’ve had some excellent training sessions this term and the new-comers to the team have added to the competitive nature of the club. Overall, it’s fantastic to have seen the club go from strength to strength.”
With four more scheduled competitions next year including the BUCS Sprint Triathlon in April, there is surely much more to come from the Lancaster University Triathlon team.