Waiting on the start line of a race is always nerve-wracking. The moments before the horn sounds can last an eternity. Sunday was no exception.
Although I had trained incredibly hard for it and was in the running and cycling form of my life, standing under the Powerman start banner alongside Seppe Odeyn, Felix Kohler, Soren Bystrup and plenty of other big names, was intimidating! I quickly reminded myself of the training I’d done, thought of my family (always inspirational) and directed some motivational swear words at myself under my breath.
The horn sounded and we were off. Fast. In elite Powerman racing there’s no holding back in the opening 10k, no keeping anything in the tank for the bike and final run. It’s intense effort from start to the finish, 2.5 hours or so later. Felix, Kasper Hartlev, Simon Hansen and Fabian Zehnder opened a slight gap after a few kilometres but going through 5k close to 15.40 was fast enough for me. I was working on the front of a group that included Soren, Seppe, Kristian Munk and Jan Petralia. After a few more kilometres, the group broke up a little and Kristian and I opened a slight gap on Soren with Seppe a few seconds further. Kristian and I entered T1, 25 seconds behind the front group and a fast transition meant I headed out on the road in 5th. That was my plan, to get a little ahead of Soren and Seppe, two very strong bikers that would give me a target to chase as they came past early in the bike leg.
The bike course was a real tester, two laps of 30km with 796m of vertical metres in total (according to Strava, obviously) including punchy climbs, technical descents, plenty of rolling terrain and an 80m cobbled section(!!). I settled in at a hard pace, aiming to hang with the big boys as long as possible. I was keeping an eye on my power to check I wasn’t going too crazy but it was hard not to go into the red up the steep sections, especially as my rivals were all a fair bit lighter than me and seemed to be dancing on the pedals! Soren, Seppe and Jan came past but I managed to keep Seppe in sight for a decent time which was encouraging and then midway through the opening lap I went past Kasper.
The descents during the bike leg were awesome. Scary fast, but awesome! I’d recce’d the course and the downhills thoroughly, seeing them as a chance to make up time. I realise this is slightly dangerous, especially in aero with hands away from the brakes, but when the adrenaline is going it’s hard to hold back! At the midpoint turn I had the chance to count my position but the age groupers were coming onto the course for their first lap of their bike leg which confused things! I reminded myself that the placing was incidental – I just needed to keep working as hard as I could. Then, when I got out of the saddle to punch over a small climb, I felt a twinge of cramp in my right calf, then in my left. Not good at this stage! I tried to relax and stay in aero – which was better on the calves – and gradual pick off the age groupers ahead. I must have been holding it together OK as no other elites came past and then I saw Jan Petralia in the distance. I caught him fast – it turned out he was having back issues and was rolling slowly home. With about 10minutes left two Danes came past – Chris Fischer and Nico Ward. Nico even gave me some very welcome words of encouragement. What a legend! There we were smashing ourselves – and each other – roughly in 10th, hoping for a top 10 (and prize money!) and he makes the effort to encourage me, a rival athlete!
I managed to keep them in sight and then we found ourselves flying into T2. I made sure I dismounted early – no need for a penalty trying to save a second in such a long race – then it was off with the helmet, on with the racing flats and out into the heat for the final 10k. I always push hard early in the final run. For me it’s a mental game – the body will respond if you make it (usually). The quicker I can run off the bike-leg-feeling the better. I did that and felt good. I went past Nico and Chris, making sure to encourage them in return, and dropped them reasonably quickly. The GB team manager Baron Mendelssohn told me I was in 8th with a big gap to 7th. I was very happy with 8th and not going to catch Bruins in 7th so tried to tap out a fast but manageable pace. However, at roughly 5k I was starting to feel a bit queasy in my stomach and a little light headed. Throwing water over my head at the water station felt good but I was definitely slowing and a few anxious glances over my shoulder showed Chris was coming back to me. Not good! However, Baron then told me I was making decent time on Bruins and could catch him. Chris came past and I tried to go with him but couldn’t. Now my target was Bruins. I wasn’t going too well but he was obviously struggling more. I was gradually reeling him in. I couldn’t go any faster- absolutely no way – would there be enough time to catch him?! I kept going, then with about 1 km to go I knew I could get him and 700m from the finish line I took him, finding a tiny little bit of a kick from somewhere to prevent him from thinking about going with me and then very soon crossed the line. 8th! What a feeling! The pain was over and the endorphins started flowing. I was over the moon with the result: absolutely buzzing as I nailed coke after coke in the sun chatting to my fellow racers who were all flying high themselves.
Last year in this European Championships in St Wendel, Germany, I was 15th, over 10 minutes back for the winner. This year I was 8th, only 3 mins back. Podium next year?!!! We can dream, can’t we?!
You can follow Ben’s duathlon journey through his colourful and engaging posts on Instagram @benpriceduath