Race report

Week 33: finally competing again! Triatlon van Vlanderen

Wow one whole month without posting any updates. I think it was starting to feel repetitive – almost like a hamster wheel I was keeping myself entertained, talking to nobody (not even myself).

But last week was definitely a routine-breaker! With all summer competitions cancelled in the Netherlands – I was happy to find out through another ATAC member that Belgium was still organising corona-proof races!

So I was happy to get a spot in the 1st Triatlon van Vlanderen, in Oudenaarde! Not that I checked much the cycling profile, maybe I would have been more aware of what awaited me…

Regarding the corona-proof measures, the main changes were quite intuitive: way less participants (94 for the OD distance, 294 in total, quite a small event), no spectators, and enforced social distancing (with marked spots for the queuing before the swim, individual starts…). For the aid stations, no disposable water cups were handed – but water refill was provided by the volunteers in the disposable cup that we got with our race number.

The triathlon had a bit unusual distances: 1000m swim in a fresh water lake, 45 km cycling including some parts of the cobblestone roads of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and 11km race around some nice fields (and including a tunnel crossing!).

The results were not my best – but my excuse is that the rest were very good competitors!

I ended with:

  • Swim: 24:18 for the swim
  • T1: 2:02
  • Cycling: 1:40:50
  • T2: 1:34
  • Run: 57:43

Total: 3:06:29

All in all it was not my best time, and my result falls in the last third of the table – but yet I did a good effort and I ended quite happy, especially with the swim after so long without continuous practice.

Regarding the triathlon itself – it was quite well organised. The briefing was fully online, so I had checked the map, loading the bike route GPS in the computer, and checked the transition zone routes.

I only got confused at the 2nd lap for the bike – as it was not fully clear to me where the turning point was – and it was in a roundabout before getting to the starting location.

The swim was quite calm: a big lake, with not much visibility, but good temperature and not too choppy. The entry and exit were a bit difficult as it was in a muddy shore (no stairs o ramp to get out), but the fact that the swim was an individual start made it very relaxed. The buoys were quite visible and there were volunteers in boards standing next to them, making them even more visible.

The transitions happened in a road next to the lake, about 50m away from it. With enough distance per personal spot, and easy to manoeuvre.

The cycling part was probably the most special one, thanks to the Vlaanderen hills. We had quite some ups and downs – and that’s the moment I understood why not so many people were using TT bars in their triathlon bikes!…

There was quite a hilly profile, with continuous ups and downs. It was quite fun – but not being used to it, I just had to surrender to being surpassed by other cyclists.

To close, the run had also two loops, mostly around fields and a very calm area – including a run next to a canal, and some dirt paths, including a small tunnel. All completely flat (except some ups and downs to change paths, but nothing compared to the bike ride), and a very calm and pleasant track to run on.

Even if spectators were not allowed and encouraged, people still find some spots to cheer for us while keeping a good distance in the different sports. It felt quite a sport-driven town, and it definitely gave a bit of extra motivation when facing the 6th hill up, knowing that at the end there would be another fast and scary descent ended with a cobblestone torture.

It was quite special to race during the corona times – and it was quite obvious that it was an effort by the organizers and volunteers. The cost was really symbolic for all the effort and thought they put in the race – thanks for making it possible!

For the next race I found the St Niklaas Triathlon, also in Belgium – so I will likely cross the border again for some racing!

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