OK, so the second leg of the London Triathlon 2009 begins with the bike stage following what felt like a pretty lengthy swim and somewhat exaggerated T1.
First thing’s first, that T1 was the most incredible transition I’ve ever experienced. The usual bike exit was moved as a result of the extensive construction works to further enlarge the Excel exhibition space. Consequently, this added to the “running with bike” part of the transition by a good 600 metres. An interesting feat whilst wearing Carbon soled shoes with SL cleats bolted to them, adding another dimension to the run which included skating on the smooth painted surface of the Excel. Despite this, I survived the run to the mounting point without incident and quickly focused on getting onto the bike.
Searching for my pedals, I feel around with my right foot, locate and clip myself in with relative ease, assured by a satisfactory click. My left foot however slips over the top of the pedal as the cleat struggles to find the biting edge. I’m still not used to clipping into these new SL SPDs, great as they are. After a couple of attempts I’m fully engaged and man and machine become one, at long last.
Acclimatising to another discipline I roll down the exit ramp from Excel spinning my legs to get the right muscles warmed up and working to speed. First left onto the main drag where the support team are positioned and I start to crank up the pace on the straight lowering myself onto the tri bars for maximum efficiency.
I need to make up some time here after a poor effort on the swim leg, especially as the bike is my strongest discipline by far so this is where I can claw back some precious lost minutes. By the time I hit the end of the first long straight I must’ve passed eight or nine other riders at considerable pace. My aim, where possible, to go flat out on the bike. A few chicanes and various roundabouts later and I find myself heading away from Docklands with Canary Wharf to my left.
Up on the pedals I hit the first overpass to keep the pace high and I look to the next rider to catch and pass, at this point he’s a good 200 metres ahead of me. By the time I’m level with One Canada Square, and approaching the underpass tunnel I must’ve taken out thirty riders without yet being overtaken myself, suggesting to me that I’m way behind the strong riders from my own wave and/or passing more tired riders from the previous wave who are on their second and final lap. Either way, I know I have to keep going like a steam train to make up more lost time.
As I descend into the Limehouse Link tunnel I start hitting the high gears and ramping the speed up as much as possible as I launch myself down into the underpass using momentum and gravity to accelerate as hard as possible. Looking down at the speedo I’m touching 65 kph at the fastest point, it feels fast and I’m shooting past other riders as if they were crawling. Keeping to the right and positioned down on the tri bars I’m passing three or four other competitors at a time now. I feel good.
Approaching the light at the end of the tunnel the incline out takes it’s toll on my pace and I slow considerably to catch breath after an exhilarating few minutes of fast paced action, it’s not a pace I can sustain without being severely punished on the final run stage so I ease off, not necessarily through choice. As I hit the apex coming onto Commercial Road I push myself to pick up the pace again. Out of the saddle for a few, then back down to settle into a rhythm.
At this point the course narrows to use only one side of the road for both directions of the course. There is only room for three riders across the width so passing is a little tight at times. I find myself belching out continuous shouts of “on the right” as I warn slower riders ahead of my intentions to pass them. In some cases I repeat the instruction to more novice riders who are not necessarily familiar with race etiquette, frustrating at times, but understandable.
The course ahead takes a minor detour as we’re unexpectedly ushered to slow and are forced around onto the left side of the road. There appears to have been a fairly serious accident and two police cars and an ambulance are present and attending to a downed rider. Unsure of the circumstances I push on and pick up pace again. We’re now heading towards the first turning point a quarter of the way into the bike leg.
As a handful of us approach the turning point, a 180 degree hairpin, I’m still passing those who are braking much earlier. Hitting the turn on the inside I get back out of the saddle and push the pace up as quickly as I can, attempting to get into my stride ASAP, only to be ushered to slow again at the incident area. I overhear that a car hit a cyclist. Bad times, hope he recovers quickly.
We’re now stopped whilst the ambulance moves away from the scene and the road is cleared to continue. Those of us held at the unscheduled stop are eager to get going. When the all clear is given another minute later the more competitive, including myself, are up on the pedals and itching to sprint off again. Despite being held up on this narrow part of the course I’m quickly back out into clear road and soon descending back into the Limehouse Link back towards docklands. Again I hit this hard to get the most out of the momentum and once through the tunnel keep on the pedals and out of the saddle to maintain speed.
Before I know it, I’m twisting and turning myself back into the darkest depths of Docklands en route for Excel. Approaching the fast straight where many of the spectators (including my family and friends) are cheering I position myself back down onto the tri bars for full effect as well as to keep streamlined, of course.
Once on the most easterly section of the bike course, through the underpass, and across two roundabouts, the turning point appears. Cautiously pedalling around and now coming back in the opposite direction it hits me hard, an incredible head wind that slows my pace down so much I take the opportunity to rest for the next 50 metres. A good time to take on more liquid I also remember that I put a small handful of jelly babies into my rear pockets. Feeling around for them I find nothing and realise they must’ve melted away during the swim, genius. Maybe I absorbed them through my skin somehow.
Approaching the halfway point, I see some of the riders in front peeling off to the left and up the ramp towards the next transition (T2), unfortunately I need to complete another 20 km lap of the same circuit. Lap 1 was completed in 33 minutes 31 second, a respectable time by all accounts.
Lap two follows the same routine as the the first. I’m not tiring and still feel strong so keep pushing as hard as I can. For a minute I consider whether riding at a hard pace will prove detrimental to the run, but decide to deal with that when the time comes and continue to push.
Almost a mirror of lap one apart from the crash incident, lap two goes without hitch and before I know it I’m heading back to docklands and feeling strong for the next transition. At the final turning point back into the headwind I ease off and start to spin my legs down in preparation for the run. Relieved that I’m now in the position of turning left onto the exit ramp towards T2 I gently change into a low gear ready to dismount. At the last minute I consider dismounting leaving my shoes on the bike allowing me to run bare foot for a faster non-slip transition run. Unfortunately I’ve left it too late to prepare for this and have to unclip from the pedals before I fall sideways onto the deck. Bike leg completed in 01:06:44.
The run back to the transition point is fairly uneventful and goes without hitch, thankfully. Bike racked, I rip the helmet off my head placing it down onto the floor by my bike, throw my cycling shoes off and slip my running shoes on. A deep breathe and I’m off for the final stage, the run. More of this in part 3 (coming soon).