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Jim McConnel's Transylvania travels
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Monday 25th April 2016


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Jim McConnel escapes from a tough day in Transylvania with European Cross Duathlon Silver

This past Saturday saw the second edition of the ETU Cross Duathlon European Championships in Târgu Mures, Romania, and long-time off-road athlete Jim Mcconnel was one of the Great Britain Age-Group team who made the trip to the land of Dracula.

It proved to be a worthwhile trip, and he's put together a race report for us.


ETU Cross Duathlon European Championships 2016 – Târgu Mures, Transylvania

www.crossduathlon.ro

Transylvania is a fantastic area in Romania - a fairly new country for exploration and travel for Brits, but undeterred, a group of 21 British (plus one Irish athlete), Cross Duathletes headed there last weekend to see the country and culture and of course to race at the second running of the ETU Cross Duathlon Championships.

The event was held in a natural wooded park surrounding a wildlife zoo. Perched on top of a hill on the outskirts of Târgu Mures, the setting was just right for a race with services in place for the visitors to the park, as well as endless tracks and trails in the densely wooded area. The town has an international airport so it was easy to get in and out for most. Others made a stay of it and travelled the country before the race, visiting 1000 year old churches and villages, hiking and bear tracking, riding summer bike trails in the small ski resorts and of course visiting Dracula’s castle at Bran.

Romania retains its currency, the LEI - approx. 6 to the pound. It is very economic to live, stay, eat and drink in Romania making it even more attractive for a visit.

Cross Duathlon is simple. Starting with an off-road run of approx. 9k, followed by T1 to a Mountain Bike section of 28k, and then T2 to finish with a shorter second run – 3k in this case. At Târgu Mures the twisting windy course was created into shortish laps making spectator viewing really good with plenty going on throughout the race.

At 8.30 am on Saturday we took to the line. All Age-Groupers, male and female together. 22 countries represented. A familiar feeling as the first race of 2016 for me got underway in a flurry of arms and legs as we bounded down the start straight towards the first tricky descent for the first time.

Jim Mcconnel

Despite the weather being cool at that time of day, the sun was already climbing in the sky and the warmth from exertion was building quickly. The first run took casualties as it was clear this event was going to be about endurance, a never ending succession of steep climbs followed by toe crunching descents made me feel like I was at one of the famed UK Cross Duathlon courses on army land in Surrey (!). The gaps grew quickly as people tried to get into rhythm. I moved forward with the lead trio and after three laps was in a good position coming onto the lovely blue carpet in T1.

Onto the bike and it was immediately obvious it was going to be a very hard day in the office. Wherever the course pitched up I struggled to get on top of the gear I had and make progress. After the race there was a lot of chat amongst the UK team about gear selection and clearly I had chosen to run a setup somewhat foolhardy for the terrain. Learn for next time. Anyway, I had to live with it and pushed on as best I could. It was hard for me to hear a few riders catch and pass me, with no possible response. On lap two at the bottom of the fastest descent I came across the crumpled form of a UK athlete who had crashed badly. The on-site Med team were in full attendance and taking all the precautions necessary – speaking after he’d been let out of hospital later, it was apparent he had lost control on this fast part of the course and gone over the bars to test out his helmet. The Med team did the rest which was massively reassuring for everyone. Recover well Simon.

Jim Mcconnel

So, lap three and I was sliding down the roster, I concentrated on feeding properly with STEALTH gels, riding to my best pace and keeping something for the final run. The bike laps were in excess of 20 minutes and I could see this would be a 2+ hour race so plenty of time for resurgence! As I gratefully left T2 back in my inov-8’s on the second run, I knew I had a good medal chance in my category. More importantly to my addled brain was that I had information that the next place on the trail was less than a 40 seconds ahead of me. Like a red rag to a bull as soon as I could see him, I dragged myself up to his heels, lungs and limbs protesting. I attacked him where I felt the weakest and hoped he did too - on the steepest climb. Probably not wise as we were both in the red but it was enough to break his morale and let me slip away to come home fifth overall. I was super pleased to bring home a Silver medal in the V40-44 for Team GB!

Then came the fantastic experience of see the remaining GB athletes race home, collecting medals in almost every category. A really fruitful and thankfully, safe day in the end.

Related Article: ETU Cross Duathlon - GB medals and roundup

Jim Mcconnel


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