A few weeks back into training and I figured a cherry pick might be in order to rebuild some speed and replenish the bank balance after the disappointment of Ironman Melbourne. New Caledonia International Triathlon was the perfect fit. All expenses paid, deep paying Euros in hand and when I accepted their offer I didn’t know of anyone else racing. Little ripper.
As often happens with ‘cherry picks’ there are always a few other pros looking for a quick buck and several days out and I found myself arriving in Noumea only to be welcomed by 2 x Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Brad Khalefeldt, pedal stomper from NZ Graham O’Grady, Jesse Featonby, defending champ John Polson, some other international ITU racers.
With a slight calf niggle that had limited my run prep after Melbourne I quickly realised that there was only one game plan that could possibly lead to success against the currently superior runners. Saturday morning I went out scouting the course with Matilda Reynolds identifying where I was going to attack on the bike to try and get onto the run with enough of a margin to hopefully save the calf but also to give me a chance of a decent result.
Race morning, a different sort of warm up was required. In my tribal skirt I went down to the beach and performed a vigorous tribal dance evoking the wrath of the weather gods. They were surprisingly short tempered at the short white intruder insulting them with blisteringly good dance moves. An onslaught of rain and gusting winds immediately started belting into Noumea. I was delighted as it would mean the 5m drafting gaps would become nearly irrelevant.
Dropped at the first buoy in the swim, I kept the gap fairly steady gap getting out of the choppy swim 30 seconds back. With my usual sluggish transition I got out on the bike and set about getting back to the front of the race. After approximately 8kms averaging close to 350 watts I was back behind O’Grady and Khalefeldt and feeling great. It was immediately evident that whoever was at the front of the race was going to get a big advantage from the lead motorbike who was way too close, sitting approximately 20m ahead. So I waited until the first small climb and then launched the planned attack telling O’Grady to come with me whilst rudely neglecting to make the offer to Brad who can run a 30 min flat 10k most days of the week.
O’Grady followed but I could tell he was struggling coming off the back of a lot of travel and too little training so I figured I need to get rid of him too if he couldn’t’ help the Reed cause.
Keeping the power high and with the help of my lead motorbike ( despite me indicating that he needed to go further ahead I swear 🙂 I gradually gained about 2 minutes over the other guys and was able to settle into a comfortable pace on the run. Brad was closing but I felt like it wasn’t going to be quite fast enough. Then he suddenly he was quite a way back after running the extra 300m drafting loop punishment which it turned out post race he hadn’t needed to do and was a miscommunication between the official and himself.
I was pleased to take the win, Brad cruised in for 2nd with Johnny Polson showing his ever increasing strength on the bike and run taking 3rd.
I can see why this event has drawn a host of top pros over the 28 years it has been run. A technical, hilly bike leg, a crowd friendly multiple looped run course and island surroundings second only to Lord Howe Island.
Huge thanks to the event organisers for the invite. I hope the schedule allows me to return next year.