I'm still yet to report on my race from Hy-Vee the week prior, but I'll get around to that next. It is difficult to write about a topic when the culmination of a years' work leads to nothing but disappointment, so let it be known that I got a drafting penalty early on in the bike in Hy-Vee which put me out of the race. With the focus of 2013 however always being on Vegas, and Hy-Vee merely serving as a well-paying primer for Vegas, I still had my eyes on the Vegas prize. I had dreamt of the race in Vegas many times, trained to the thought of the course many more, and desired a spot on the podium every day. With my setback early in the year from a fibula stress fracture, I gave myself every opportunity to build into the season to peak in form by September. I think I got this part right, but my race tactics left me in the gutter, literally. I finished the race in 33rd, under a big shadow from last years 7th place.
The day started perfectly. I think I was tapped on the feet only once or twice during the swim. I lead the swim form start finish after a great start. I breathe to the left hand side, so I always like to start right so I can see the spread of athletes after the gun, and judge my position easily. I saw Andy Potts line up next to me, so I must have been in a good place. I started hard, had a clear lead to my left and set about keeping the pace high the entire time. Jan Frodeno told me after the race that the swim was fast & that he was hurting, so that makes me feel king beef. Swimming at the front isn't always easy, and it's never clear whether others behind are struggling from the pace or doing it easy, just slowly letting you burn your matches.
It had been raining all morning, and I was hoping it would have cleared up by the time we got onto the bikes so the Vegas weather could do what it does best. I typically have my best races in the heat, when the stress across all competitors is at it's highest. High hopes left me disappointed, but still eager to get on with the job. I had managed to split the swim considerably, but there was still a lot of pack meat about. There's some good climbs straight out of transition, which typically brings the workers up the front, showing portants of the 90km ride in just one section. It was Tim O'Donnell, Potts and myself up front. We swapped the lead a few times in the first 15 minutes or so and then we hit the first downhill. I was set up the week prior on the new Felt IA, and without this trying to sound like a salesman, it felt incredible. I got off the brakes and took the lead again, notching up top speed on the downhills. At this point in the race last year, I was probably second to third last wheel in the pack, but was now driving the pace up front. With the media cars and bikes around, this was a pretty amazing feeling. I think my cycling has been steadily improving the last couple years, but I had bought my best to this race. The next time I looked around to see what the situation of the pack was, I was by myself, entirely out of sight of anyone else.
Was this my race plan? Go all out, bust everyone up less than a quarter way into the bike leg and hit it off by myself? Please don't think I was stupid enough to think I could go at this course by myself, I always knew I would need a couple (minimum) athletes to work with to have gas left for a fast run on a hard course. But would could I do, it was a World Championship, and I was now out of sight. Jim Felt always tells me he's waiting for me to do a Craig Walton and go mental off the front and dominate the race. With this thought in my mind, I couldn't let the opportunity go so I went for it. I held my watts steady, tucked as aero as I could and jammed.
At the far turnaround, I could see there was now one large chase group that I wasn't gaining much time over. It had the momentum of Sebastian Kienle, so there was little chance I was going to extend my lead but I wasn't phased the slightest. I was committed to riding at the front and I did so until he caught me at the start of the longest climb on the course. Unfortunately, this was the first point in the race where my legs started to feel heavy. It was always going to be a huge ask to ride with him but I gave it a go and didn't ever come out the other side. My watts jacked up tantamount with lactic acid, and it was soon clear to me that this was the beginning of the end.
After this point I switched into survival mode, and only just made it to the end of the bike at the time the chase pack caught me. As soon as I got off the bike, I knew I had nothing to give for the run, and my legs sadly made it through the half-marathon. However, with a smile on my face, I could reflect on the fact that I seized on an opportunity to win. With some more experience and some more years in the legs, I have no doubts I'll be able to race in this manner and finish the job, but just not in 2013.
So with the long campaign to Las Vegas over, I look forward to finishing off the season in Australia and having fun with my training into these events. I thank everyone for their belief and support, and know I'll be working harder next year to make it all count.
All photos credit to
Paul Phillips / Competitive Imagine
Timothy Carlson / Slowtwitch