With over 1000 entries and World Age group duathlon championship qualifying places on the line, the Extra Mile Events Oulton Park Spring Duathlon was always going to start the season with a bang. Racepace would be represented by Mark Egan and Rodger Wilkins in the draft-legal sprint distance (4.3km, 20km, 4.3km). Despite many athletes waking up to sunshine and blue skies at home, as I neared the venue rain and sleet was falling just minutes before the 10am start. Both Racepace athletes ran well with Rodger well placed arriving at T1, but during the bike the cold and wet conditions forced many competitors to withdraw. Despite this both Mark and Rodger rode smart tactical races and Rodger returned to transition in a two-man group with only two athletes ahead. By now the cold had taken its toll and with no feeling in hands or feet transition was a struggle. Before long Rodge was hypothermic and forced to withdraw, requiring medical attention and almost an hour in an ambulance. Massive thanks to the medical professionals there! Mark returned to T2 in better shape and ran strongly to finish with a superb 13th in category.
There was a larger Racepace contingent in the standard distance race (8.6km, 38.7km, 4.3km) with Sarah Jepson & Victoria Kollard and Matt Holder and Bob Cassidy both entering relay teams and Ben Slaven and myself individually. There were some slightly nervous athletes around having witnessed the scenes in the aftermath of the earlier race but the conditions turned out slightly warmer and no more precipitation meant just a wet track to contend with. For me the aim was about pacing; not getting drawn into running too hard at the beginning so I could start the bike leg in good shape to ride well. I executed pretty much as planned and after a smooth start several athletes who had set off fast came back to me and I moved up a few places. I remained calm in transition despite struggling to fasten my bike helmet with cold hands and was soon out onto the bike in around 5th or 6th place. The bike comprised nine laps of the smooth and fast racing circuit and I aimed to keep a bit in reserve during the first couple of laps. Having lead off the first run by just over 30seconds Richard Anderson was the man to catch and after four relatively controlled laps I'd made my way up to the front. From there I pushed on and managed to build up a lead during the second half of the bike before being caught on the last lap by Matt Bottrill, a quality rider and multiple British TT champion. T2 was an uncomfortable affair with threatening twinges of cramp in my hamstrings and calves but I got going and managed my body for the first km until I got some feeling back in my feet. I pulled away from Bottrill and ran almost the same pace as my first run to seal the victory against a strong field. Richard Anderson ran well again to move back up to second with Paul Hawkins taking third. Ben ran a well paced race moving up the field on the bike and running virtually the same pace on his second run as his first. Sarah and Victoria both executed good races to finish first women's relay team and Bob and Matt finished strongly to win the relay competition by just two seconds. All in all it was a great early season race to test everyone's fitness after the winter. It was great to see and feel the team spirit between the Racepace athletes across their various racing exploits, and I'm sure that spurred each of them on to give their best performances on the day.