If you’ve been a regular at the Aviva Ironman 70.3 triathlon series that takes place every year at East Coast Park, no doubt you would be familiar by now with the mountainbikers that escort the top few athletes as they embark on the final, run leg of the race.
The guys clowning around while waiting L-R: Ellery, William, HM & Joshua
This year was no different and as usual Dirtraction was called upon to provide some knobby-tired support to the event. What a contrast our dirty, mud-encrusted mountainbikes were, to the sleek, carbon 2-wheeled wonders hanging from the transition racks!
More clowning around… when are the pros coming out? L-R: Kit, Su & LiYing
The mission: escort the top 3 male and female pros throughout the run leg, reporting on their position and clearing the way of errant joggers and other passers-by if necessary. Our weapons: $15 cateye bells! Well, actually while most of the other riders were content with their bells, I wanted something a little more… audible. I was lucky enough to score one of these babies as backup from HM as he would not be escorting but directing us from the transition area via radio. Boy, did I plan to use it! How often do you get to blast 115Db of pure “ZZZONK!” at people without getting dirty looks?
So the race starts, and we wait at the transition exit for the pros to start streaming out. I’m not going to pretend I know the who’s who of triathlon, so suffice to say when the first 3 dudes came bounding out, William, Ellery and Joshua duly set off ahead of each one to begin clearing the way. The top 3 female pros were quite a ways behind though, easily 10 places behind their male counterparts.
Looking for my next air horn victim while pro triathlete Andrea Hewitt (background) trails behind
Kit was assigned to Female Pro #1, Su to Female Pro #2 and lucky me got the easiest gig 🙂 My ward was Team TBB pro Tereza Macel, while Su got New Zealand athlete Andrea Hewitt (yes, I Googled their names for this!). Within the first 10 minutes or so though, Macel closed in on Hewitt and overtook her, so now I stay behind to guard the new number three, while Su took on Macel who is now the number two. And… it stayed that way pretty much for almost the entire duration of the run leg, with only a few pedestrians blocking the way a couple of times to liven things up a bit. Nothing the ol’ air horn can’t handle, though – 115Db of sonic mayhem coming your way baby!
Just some usual post-race hanging about and smiling for pictures… L-R: HM, Su & Kit
However, things started to get interesting in the final few KMs. As we passed by the start/finish arch for the last time, going for the final u-turn, I realized Macel was only 20 metres away and closing. Hewitt continued closing the gap until the two athletes eventually swapped positions. Su and I traded a few remarks about getting back our former charges, excited to be up close to some good racing action. Now escorting Macel again, I slow down and ride alongside. She is visibly at her limit, exhaling really loudly and quickly and sometimes gritting her teeth. I wondered if I should offer some words of encouragement but decide against it, trying to remain as neutral as possible. She obviously didn’t have much left in her tank, as Hewitt broke away comfortably and sprinted for the finish arch in second place. I escorted Macel to the last 20 metres or so, then broke formation, coasting into the sidelines. Oh well, better luck next year huh? At least I got to use my air horn… 😛