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Wed 21st Aug 2019
Sam Gardner: Maui DNF deflation
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Friday 30th October 2009

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The Brits have been on fire of late in the triathlon world. Alistair Brownlee, Chrissie Wellington and Jodie Swallow have all gained world championship honours in recent weeks. And it is no different off-road, where Julie Dibens and Lesley Patterson took gold and silver in Maui at the XTERRA World Champs. They were joined by Daz Parker, who was the first age group finisher too.

Alas, it's not all good news. Sam Gardner is the UK's top off-road / XTERRA athlete, and had been in fine form leading up to his season goal of the XTERRA World Champs. It was looking good too. Despite a poor swim, he had ridden away from 2008 silver medal winner Michael Weiss, and looked set for the top-5 finish he had prepared for. And then things went wrong....

Sorry for the late race report. I have been pretty devastated and down all week, since the race. I had worked so hard for it and was in the shape of my life at the time. In a perfect world, had I got the position I deserved, it would have paid for the trip nicely and hopefully opened the door to some decent financial support next season. However as you'll read I'm now left with deflated tyres and a deflated morale and the need to return to a job for the winter and hunt for decent sponsorship for next season.

After breaking a chain in 2008, I was leaving nothing to chance, fitting brand new tyres, chain and cassette the day before. Then testing it thoroughly!

At 9am the sky was slightly overcast in places, but when the sun did poke through, you knew it would be hot later. There was a lot of creeping forward and pushing on the start line, as 500 people fought to get the best position. My race strategy was to go really hard for the first 200m of the swim, hopefully get on some fast feet and get towed round. It worked for me in Austria, but unfortunately not here. I was immediately grabbed and swum over, it seemed like forever until I could get two strokes in succession before being clobbered again. Yellow age group swim hats swamped me and then stopped in front of me leaving me with no-where to go. Although I swum the best I've swum at Maui, I was still way further back than I should have been and four minutes off the leaders.

I had a minor problem in transition when the zip caught slightly on my Maystorm speed suit and I had to pretty much dislocate my shoulder in an escape artist type manoeuvre to get out of it. Onto the bike and I felt good immediately, I had felt pretty tired the previous weekend and so I had a week's taper, instead of the five days I'd planned to have, this left my legs feeling super fresh. I caught Michael Weiss (second last year, and another poor swimmer) on the first climb, and although he got back past me on the following descent, I passed him again soon and rode away. Shortly after this I caught Julie Dibens, which was way sooner than usual, and seeing Julie's times at the end it wasn't her hanging around! On the hardest climb of the race, Ned's climb (named after mountain bike and Xterra legend Ned Overend), I got within spitting distance of favourite Nico LeBrun in sixth place. However on the next descent ‘the plunge’ I punctured. I repaired it fairly quickly losing possibly five places, and three miles later I was back in the top-10 and charging, only to be hit with yet another puncture and this time my gas cartridge didn't work properly. I eventually borrowed stuff from other athletes, but I had lost 20 minutes or more.

I didn't start the run, I came to Maui for a top five finish against the best in the world, and I'm positive I'd have achieved that. I was on for the fastest bike split by at least two minutes, Michael Wiess got the quickest bike split in the end and I was 1 min 15 sec up on him when I punctured. By my calculations I might well have started the run in the race lead. I was running well too, doing my mile reps comfortably in just over 5 minutes. However all this is speculation and no-one will believe it until I get that result to prove it. I know in my head that on my day there is no one in the Xterra that is impossible to beat any more.

The season has gone great really with two world cup wins (Xterra Saipan and Xterra Japan), and another win in Xterra Guam. Seven victory's in all including UK races. Third place in the European tour and third in the European Champs also. Third also at Xterra Malaysia and 4th's at Xterra North East US cup and Xterra Czech. I was the only male athlete to finish in the prize money at both the European tour and the US tour.

Thanks again for your support this season, time for a big swim push and change of swim coach to be starting the bike with the leaders. Watch this space, but sponsor permitting I am hoping to race full time next season again too.

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