Last weekend Jo and I drove up to Bolton bright and early on Friday to arrive at the Hotel in time for Breakfast. We’d got in to the race hotel and I must say it’s the best race hotel I’ve been in. It was a combination of things. It was right next to the race start, plenty of parking, large spacious rooms and most importantly very friendly and super helpful staff. Nothing was too much. They had a buffet dinner each night with the competitors in mind – yes that meant pasta and yes it meant we didn’t use it but I bet 95% of those racing thought it was ace. To top it all from 2:30am they had breakfast on race morning. Not just some cereal and a toast machine they had the full on buffet breakfast. I enjoyed a fuel up at 4:30am before heading to the race start.
I’d made sure I’d got some decent training in the previous two days not only to ensure I didn’t feel any pressure to train on race day but also to give Jo space to just relax. It meant I’d had two long wet days in the saddle and come to the conclusion that in all my extensive riding around the UK this area has by far the worst drivers for cutting (very) close to cyclists. It happened so many times and it was always regular cars – white van man was unusually courteous and thoughtful round here.All confirmed by Nick Rose ( a local) on race day. It’s not somewhere I will be coming back to in a hurry to do cycling. The best riding I found was up north of Preston and around the Ribble value – unfortunately from the race venue it’s quite a ride to get there.
Back to my breakfast… reading the sunday paper watching the nervous athletes and loving it. Not often you get to enjoy the buzz without the nerves. I wandered down to the swim start. Not the best one for spectating as the start is well in to the water and you don’t really see a huge amount. I managed to get the perfect spot for a photo of Jo as she ran out only to hit the on/off button instead of the shutter as she ran through. She’d done a 58 minute swim split and looked very happy so didn’t bother to let her know the leaders came out in 43 minutes indicating the course was several hundred meters short. She was about 8 or so minutes down on the lead girls which was probably about as expected.
Having seen her out on to the bike I had to peg it back to the hotel. Text her mum and sister and hop on my bike. To get to the main loop on the bike without riding the course required a slightly longer route so I put my foot down to get there. At this point Bella was pulling away but she’d halved the deficit to 2nd and 3rd. Back on the bike to peg it over to another point on the loop. This defined the bike course for me – get to a point before Bella arrived. Time the gaps, let Jo know, text Jo’s mum and sister on progress back on the bike to get across the course before Bella arrived at that point. This involved Balls out 20-30 minute efforts as Bella was pulling away so I had less and less time to make it. This was the toughest bit of spectating since after the first check Jo was slowly dropping back and there was nothing I could do about it. By the end of the bike her gap to 2nd and 3rd was the same as at the start of the bike but Bella was 24 minutes up.
This meant that Jo was already close to the 5% rule. The game wasn’t over but did she believe that. I managed to get to the point a few miles in to the run and she’d already closed a few minutes on Bella and third place. Yvette was running just as well as Jo. Just looking at them running you could tell Jo should be able to get 3rd and would close on Bella. I told her this and said “this race can still be great”. I wanted her to realise that she was still in a position to end up with a top race performance.
Now it was a pleasure to support. Jo was running so super strong and she was gaining on everyone other than Yvette (who chased down Bella for the win). Her sister and Andy were there and I bumped into Nick Rose and got chatting with others. They all helped with splits so she knew exactly where she was. She moved in to 3rd place at about halfway and was closing on Bella but unless she walked she would run out of road. Bella didn’t look in a great place but she’s one tough cookie and kept moving at a reasonable place to hang on to 2nd. Good on her.
3rd place in her first season as pro – superb. There were 4 pro slots and we’d been told the split was likely to be 3 male, 1 female putting Jo just out of the slots. As it turned out the split of males to females that actually started was about equal. Jo was on the podium when they said there were 2 slots for women. I went completely bananas and she looked pretty damned pleased. Kona as a pro in her first season…. I’m proud as punch.