It was a world stage special for St Helens Tri at the weekend as several club members made the trip to Leeds for the biggest short distance triathlon festival of the year at the ITU world championships. Held over two days, the event includes a wide variety of races for all ages and experience levels, including junior races, elite youth competitions, a Go Tri and then regular sprint and standard distance races on the Sunday morning prior to the elite triathletes racing draft legal through the city centre in the afternoon. Some of the pro athletes appearing on the Sunday afternoon had been participating in an ITU relay event in Nottinghamshire on the Thursday night, where in an interesting parallel, George Houghton would kickstart the St Helens Tri weekend on the Saturday morning by placing second in his age group at the Warrior Assault obstacle course race to provisionally qualify for the world championships. Up north we had Emma Austin competing in the elite junior and youth race on the Saturday while Oscar Heard experienced his first open water triathlon in the Go Tri competition. Rarely do more than two weeks pass without Emma featuring on a club report and here she was hoping to carry her form from the Southport Triathlon over to elite level. She delivered in style, as she managed consistent splits which had her on the fringes of the first results page including a top-20 run segment, eventually lifting her to 21st female over the line in just over 45 minutes. Oscar Heard has long been a loyal supporter of the inspirational achievements of Myka and Che Heard and they would get their opportunity the following morning, but Saturday was Oscar’s turn to shine as he recorded a swim time of 4:13 for the 200 metres which had him within touching distance of the top 10. The bike was somewhat more difficult but he recovered brilliantly on the run to lift himself to 23rd place while beating the 50 minute mark with a great sprint finish.
That was it for the Saturday but for those who had been spectating or driving over to Yorkshire during the afternoon it was a bit of a scramble to get everything set up in transition where you were allowed to leave your bikes and any other equipment of your choice overnight in a secure location; after all the entry fee of £79 might seem fairly steep (though BTF members can save £10 in the 14 days after entries open with priority booking) but for the standard of organisation and atmosphere it is hard to imagine a short distance race providing the same value for money. As such the club was in good spirits despite the 4:30am alarm call to get to the start line for the standard distance swim waves which began for some as early as 7am. Among the early starters were Che Heard and Mark Turner. Che needed to borrow Oscar’s bike after a last-minute fault was found on the rear wheel of his Giant Propel but he coped with the challenge admirably and with a bit more luck might well have been the first club member home. As it was, the honour fell to Mark who placed in the top 100 overall, however Che was still very happy with his result particularly his 37:12 10k run split which was over five minutes quicker than he managed on a flatter course last month in Southport, and would surely translate to a time of 36 minutes or less at the fast and flat Leeds Abbey Dash which is scheduled for 4 November. Myka Heard and Steve Williams were also racing the standard distance and both featured well up the order in their respective age groups, Myka placing fifth in her division thanks to a huge improvement on her time trial bike while Steve recorded his first sub-50 minute 10k split en route to fourth in his age group. The club’s sole representative in the sprint distance was Robert Chesters, who after failing to push off properly from the pontoon got rather disorientated in the water trying to swim with basic pool goggles and somehow mistook a yellow canoe for the first turning point while trying to stay afloat against faster swimmers (insert yellow submarine joke here) but the fifth-fastest bike time lifted him back into contention and eighth overall on the run including some decisive passes on the long straight past the retail parks into the city centre secured 18th overall and 4th in the M30-34 division at the finish line, where as one of the sprint distance entrants he was one of the first to appear on the BBC finish line camera set up prior to a thrilling afternoon of elite level racing in the park and the city centre which saw local athletes Vicky Holland and Georgia Taylor-Brown take first and second in the elite ladies’ race and give Emma Austin, and indeed all the St Helens Tri juniors, a fine example to aspire to for the future. In part 2 of the weekend round-up we will cover all the remaining results, including the junior Trawlerman Triathlon, Ironman 70.3, the Lakesman, the Great Swim and the EpicMan Middle Distance.