Race date: 11.5.19
Ben Price, who came fourth in the event, reveals the highs and lows of taking part.
The Powerman organisers like to hype it up, create an atmosphere, build-up the anticipation and swell the tension on the start line. It’s great for the spectators but no good for the athletes, whose nerves are already fraught!
We were lined up in Powerman World Series rank order 15m behind the start-line with the Star Wars Imperial March blaring over the loudspeakers before a hyped up boxing match style resume of your previous results introduced you to the crowd. You then jog forward – via a high five with race organiser John – to the start line.
I was obviously nervous but the adrenaline was going, there was no turning back from this point and I simply wanted to get the race underway. Winter and spring of dedicated training for this moment – let’s get racing!
My running is still a little stronger than my biking so I had to get a lead over the strong bikers on the opening 10k run. That meant going out hard from the start: an easy thing to say, another thing to actually do with the prospect of over 2.5hours or hard racing ahead! My coach was there, my mum and dad were there, the well-wishing on social media was inspiring: I simply had to give it a go.
The horn sounded and we headed off. The pace was high, partly because the opening stretch was down a steep hill but partly because a lot of these guys can run! The opening descent was followed by a flat section where we found a rhythm but the road soon started to climb and the group broke apart. Simon Hansen (Denmark) went to the front as expected, driving the pace on. He soon had a small gap and I settled in with Thibaut le Cras (France), Jan Petralia (Belgium), Gonzalo Fuentes (Spain) and Fabian Zendher (Switzerland). We kept the pace high, taking it in turns to test one another out, working hard up the steep cobbled climb at the end of each 2.5km lap through the picturesque streets of Viborg. The first lap was soon over and we found ourselves heading back down the original hill for the 2ndlap. As time went by my confidence grew. I was on the front of the group feeling OK but could tell the others were finding it hard. I surged a little and only Jan Petralia went with me. Then Fabian Zendher gradually came across to us and so did Fuentes to form a group of 4 with Thibaut le Cras falling back a little. After the fourth ascent up the steep cobbled climb (hurting!), we raced into T1, jostling for position before frantically grabbing our bikes and heading out onto the road.
After a short cobbled section (where the bumping caused my rear bottle to fly across the road) we found ourselves back on the smooth fast downhill road out of town. I was trying to get my feet in my tri-shoes whilst riding one handed down the decent in hot pursuit of Jan and Simon who were ahead of me. A bit dangerous but you can do crazy things when the adrenaline is on! We smashed across the bridge over Lake Sonderso and hit a short uphill where Zehnder and then Fuentes flashed past me – I worked hard to keep them in sight but was then passed by Gossauer (Switzerland) and then not long after that by Chris Fischer (Denmark) and Daan de Groot (Netherlands). These two are STRONG bikers but I thought I would not see them for a while because of the buffer I should have had over them from the first run. I clearly didn’t have as much of a cushion as I thought and they came past me, FAST! This was pretty demoralising. I was losing places and the guys were coming past and disappearing up the road. I tried not to think about it. Maybe I wasn’t having a bad day, maybe they had gone out too fast? I settled into a hard but controlled pace: not quite agony, but definitely hurting! After a while, I could see Fuentes and Gossaeur coming back towards me so I had a target. Then Nico Munoz (Denmark) came passed me. No! Now in 9th. I tried to up it a bit whilst maintaining aero as much as possible, especially into the tough headwind that we hit in the final 10k of the first of two 30km laps. Fuentes and Gossaeur were up ahead and we were soon rattling over the cobbles past transition and heading out for the second lap. I was feeling OK, it hurt, but my power and heart rate was steady: I pushed on, trying to get a gap over Fuenbtes and Gossauer. I couldn’t break them! Then at about 45km, I had my first little hint of cramp in my right calf. Stay relaxed, don’t panic. Don’t tense up! Luckily it stayed away and I managed to maintain the power. The final section into the wind was rolling and tough but I caught Hansen which gave me a lift before another twitch of cramp came on. The quads were also feeling pretty battered so I was feeling apprehensive about the final run. How would my legs feel? Really bad? Or just bad? They never feel good after a tough 10km run and a 60km time trial!
After 93mins of hard riding, I came back into Viborg, undid my tri-shoes and juddered across the cobbles and into transition. After a pretty un-composed transition I headed out on the final run in 7th. My coach was there and was shouting at me: ‘Fast and relaxed. Fast and relax. Feel for the toes down the hill’. I leant forward down the hill and let gravity take me and stretch out my stride. No hint of cramp. Awesome. This might be OK! I quickly went past Gossauer who had a fast T2 but then Fuentes came past me at a rate of knots! Man, he looked light, bouncy and fast! There was no way I could go with him. I forgot about him and settled into a fast but controlled pace. It’s all about managing yourself to the line. Too slow and you’ll get caught, too fast and cramp can take hold of you and leave you walking – or worse – in seconds. I got a shout from my mum, this time telling me I was gaining on 6thplace and saw Munoz up ahead. I drew up behind him then surged past. He went with me. Not good. I couldn’t maintain that pace for long. I stayed on it and luckily heard his footsteps fade. Back to the strong and controlled pace. Then after about a lap, I was told I was gaining all the time on 5thand 4thplace….. could I gain another place or two?! I was already in a great position: I was happy with 6th. Should I try and push on for better and risk losing it all? Fortunately, I didn’t have to change anything because I soon saw Chris Fischer up the road. He was really struggling (which was sad to see – he’s a good mate and a top bloke) and I caught him quickly and went past.
With one lap (2.5km) to go I was beginning to feel it in the legs but relative to the others – with the exception of Fuentes – I was running strong. Then I heard a call from the coach: I was gaining on Zehnder! I tapped out the pace as quick as I could up the hill at the far end of the course and drew level with him. One more surge and I could take 4th! I went for it and opened a gap. This was a dreamland for me and now it was a case of getting to the end in one peace. Strong and controlled! I hit the final climb up the cobbles and focused entirely on the arms – if you move the arms the legs will follow. I hit the top of the climb and pushed around the corner, never looking back, just forward. I turned off from the main running route for the final 200m circuit around the Cathedral to the finish line. At this point, as the course curved slowly round roughly 180 degrees, I chanced a glance backwards – empty road. I came fourth! I had time to enjoy the moment and soak it up as I ran down the red carpet and under the Powerman finishing stanchion. I couldn’t believe it! I’m still buzzing now as I type! A lot of sweaty hugs with my fellow athletes, coach, mum and dad and pretty much anyone in sight!
Next year have my sights set on the podium!