I flew via Moscow into Bishkek (the capital of Kyrgyzstan) and then was driven 4 hours into the mountains up to an altitude of 1600m to the town of Cholpon-Ata, on the shores of the Issyk-Kul Lake. The race was held in the Kapriz resort where we were staying. A lot of new information and names I know, I hope I haven't lost you. Phew!
Obviously, I’ve never been to this country or town before, so I had no idea what to expect and if I did have any expectations they were blown away by how beautiful the place was. The resort was stunning, and the lake was breath-taking (and that’s not because of the altitude). The lake was just insane, freshwater and crystal clear, mountains in the backdrop, it was splendid. I arrived the day before race day, purely because this was what they offered in terms of accommodation but looking back on it I should have come a week earlier to acclimatise, but that’s a lesson learnt for the next race I have at altitude.
On to race day. A few things took us all by surprise. Firstly, we did not expect the weather to be as hot as it was, 30C+ degrees and secondly was the course. In the description the ride was described as ‘flat and fast’. Well it was anything but. There was a steep hill out of the resort and then the out and back laps were downhill one way and up the other! Not so flat. Thankfully the lake was flat … we thought.
I did my usual prerace warm ups and drills, racked my bike and headed for the start. The horn sounded almost the same time as ‘on your marks’ was said and we were diving into the water, without wetsuits. Straight away the swim was brutal. I was battered from both sides and then from the front and behind, but I fought my way through. I also felt the lack of oxygen with my breathing instantly, I was gasping for air in the first few 100metres. The first turn was just a dunking, whoever you are, do not dunk me again, I’m ready for revenge. The stretch between the two turning buoys I was constantly being hit from behind by the same bloke, I was getting so mad I almost stopped to dunk him like he did to me, but I restrained myself and managed to find some clear water on the way back. I came out of the water in 9:32, another consistent swim which I was happy with although running up to T1 (which was 300m up hill) I knew I had some ground to make up.
Jumping onto the bike I immediately found myself with 3 Kazakhs, a Russian and a Belorussian. It was quickly established we were the chase pack of about 6 and there was a lead pack of around 9 or 10 ahead. However, the Kazakhs just looked at each other whenever they were at the front and could not understand how rolling through worked. It was ever so frustrating. I tried a half-hearted breakaway at one point but knew I wasn't going to close the gap alone. Thankfully after 1 of 3 laps we started to roll through a bit and we were rolling fast. We were catching the lead pack and on the last lap we did…I say we…but me and one Kazakh didn’t. I had just finished my turn, a sizeable effort to try and close the final few metres. We were almost on the back and as we did the u-turn up the hill the other guys all accelerated to the group, but my legs were cooked. I tried so damn hard to stay and hook on the back but failed. I did manage to hold the gap I had between them for a while, but then it grew to 100 metres or so. I wasn't out but it was annoying that’s for sure. At every race I’m learning and getting better. To have been that close to the lead pack, I have to take many positives from that ride. I rode well, and I rode smart, if I may say so (except for that last little bit, I know).
Heading out on the run I was pretty wasted. The run course was 4 laps, with a hill each lap, two dead turns and 7 other corners per lap. It was tight, technical and very demanding. There was nowhere you could get into a rhythm, it was always down or up or a turn. I tried my best to catch someone but didn't succeed. My lungs were bedbug stretched to their limit and my legs were being worked overtime.
Coming into the finish I had no idea where I was placed or what my time was. The aim was to finish in the top 20 and within 5% of the winner and then pick up ITU points which contribute to a world ranking and help me get into bigger and better races. Later that night I discovered I had finished 15th! My best Continental Cup result to date, I wasn't going to complain about that! However, when I worked out the timings I found I was 0.95% outside the time limit. Gutted to say the least, but that’s how it goes I guess. 15th, my best ever finish, I am more than happy with that, and I know the points will come in due course whether at my next race or next year, I’m not too bothered as I have many years ahead of me. This is only my first year chasing points, it’s not rush hour. Time for once is on my side.
After the race we had some time to enjoy the beautiful country we were lucky to visit. Mike, Tommy, Valerio and I got together and decided we should rent a sauna on the pier. The only spot available was half past midnight to half past one in the morning. Who cares, it was a yes! What a good decision too! It was an awesome night of jumping between the sauna, the lake and tea drinking. Afterwards we watched the Russia v Croatia game with many Russian supporters which was a good laugh.
I really cannot thank the Kyrgyzstan Triathlon Federation for putting on an amazing show at a spectacular venue, it really made the trip worthwhile and made us fall in love with Kyrgyzstan. I hope they are able to put it on again next year as it would definitely be worth going back! Check out some of the pictures below to see what the location was like.
As always, my sponsors are always backing me and are always there for me. I am really grateful for their support, they made a huge difference. Thank you!
My next race is the ASTC Almaty Sprint Asian Cup in Kazakhstan where I am heading very soon Another new country which I am super excited and super lucky to be able to visit.
Have a great week everyone. Good luck to any of you enthusiastic readers if you are racing next weekend and a huge thank you for reading my blog and following my progress.