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Tue 5th Jul 2022
Stuart Lumb: The rain in Spain...
Posted by: jetsetsupervet
Posted on: Thursday 26th May 2011

Tags  Extremadura  |  Jet Set Super Vet  |  JSSV  |  Stuart Lumb

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Last month our resident Jet Set Super Vet (JSSV), Stuart Lumb, headed off to Spain for the inaugural ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships and reports back on his experience - and even at his 'tender age', is still making mistakes that he really should know better...

To many athletes off-road or Cross Triathlon is a bit of a strange beast. It's far more popular in the USA where XTERRA run a number of events culminating in the World Championships in Maui held each October and which incidentally is moving this year from the traditional dry volcanic course in the south to the lusher greener north side of the island. There are a number of XTERRA races held in Europe but sadly there's not been a UK one since 2008 – that event is forever etched in my brain- seven hours of pouring very wet Welsh rain! There have been a number of European (ETU) Cross Tri events – Myjava last year, Hungary this year, on July 2nd (please note!), plus this year the ITU put on the first World Championship at El Anillo in the Extremadura region of Spain. Extremadura is defo not the Costa Del Concrete so I had to communicate by smiling and waving my arms. Seems most of the cross tri events abroad are in very rural locations which is great scenically but is very demanding if you can't speak the local lingo.

The race venue was at "The Ring". This is an amazing circular enclosed structure, a bit like a square sectioned doughnut, built on a circular piece of land which sticks out into a large lake. I thought it was an enclosed bike / running track but in fact it was divided into sections and can be used as classrooms / accommodation etc. Seemingly its official description is "An International Innovation Centre for Outdoor Sports."

My star supporter / Groupie in-chief Mrs JSSV came along to kept me straight. As near as possible anyway. We flew from Stansted to Madrid, although we were only about 100km from Portugal. We stayed in a very nice hotel, 40mins drive from the race venue, which was also the base for the South African tri team, near the ancient town of Plasencia. It had a lot of old ruins - with that total increasing by one after JSSV arrived...

Peter Lilley and Stuart LumbThe actual race was a 1km swim, 20km bike and a 6km off road run. Thursday was spent registering, bumping into Brits and finding our bearings. I partook of a brisk dip to check out my wetsuit and all important goggles, although one or two hardy American gals went in clad just in their cossies. We met up with Peter Lilley, a Lancastrian now domiciled in North Carolina and his wife Brenda. I'd raced Peter twice in Maui with him beating me both times, but given we were in Spain I was hoping for an upset – but not the intestinal kind. It was my first open water swim since last October in Maui – anyway my wetsuit was fine and It still fit plus the water was ok. The bike split wasn't that hilly but a lot of single track with a longish section by the lakeside which was a bit rocky. I got round most of the course but as usual with nobody to follow got lost! I was riding my trusty Giant Anthem soft tail although probably a hard tail would have been a preferable mount. Many of the American guys (they brought the biggest team) were on 29ers which were deemed legal. My Giant's a 26er. Bigger diameter wheels ride the bumps better plus the manufacturers are getting the weights down so if you're planning on shelling out big bucks on an expensive bike it would seem logical to seriously consider getting a 29er. Daren't suggest that to Mrs JSSV though…she'd demand another new kitchen as compensation!

Given our sub tropical UK weather of late it came as a shock to find overcast skies in Extremadura and a race day forecast of rain. Fortunately race day was dull and overcast, but fine and no wind. Parking was somewhat haphazard due to the nature of the race site and it meant biking 1km from my hire car to T1. We had a very posh transition area, with astro turf and proper elite style bike racks – none of your typical cheap & nasty scaffolding. Each athlete was given a small shallow blue plastic box , into which all the race gear had to fit. Around 450 athletes were taking part, divided as usual in to age group waves, with mine going at 0950. We were told in no uncertain manner to line up by age group and by number – none of the mad dash that often is the case - and we started the swim hanging on to a long pontoon. My goggles kept clear – seem to have cracked that one now – the technique that is, not the lenses - and about 2/3 round the swim split the girls swept by – or rather over – me, but it saved sighting though! I was probably last into T1- nothing new – my avatar should be "Lantern Rouge" I think. At least I never have trouble locating my bike...

swim start

The bike split was two laps and because of all the rain some of it was under water and in one place it was thigh deep - shades of XTERRA UK in 2008. Then on to the run. I made two bad decisions; one to run in my trail shoes and two to forego wearing socks in my frantic attempt to save precious seconds in order to catch Peter. About three quarters of the way round the first lap run my feet were telling me I'd made two very bad choices. As my avid readers know I'm a "carthorse" anyway, but the time I lost through blistering my feet exceeded the time I saved by not wearing socks. I should know better at my tender age. Senility setting in ..yet again …I was relieved to finally finish, but wasn't quite sure in what position. You'd have thought that for a Worlds there would have been a screen showing real time results, but this wasn't the case. The race day weather finally turned out quite nice as it happened so we didn't have to gather up our gear, wash bikes etc in the pouring rain as can happen sometimes. The awards bash was not until 10pm, held at a restaurant in a neighbouring town so we headed off back to Plasencia and a well deserved soak in a hot tub. Paul McGreal who incidentally puts on the infamous Durty Tri in the Scottish Borders was our excellent team captain and I decided to phone him to find out how our stalwart team of Brits had done. Much to my delight and pride he told me I'd won Bronze, so I actually had a really good day at the office. We then drove back later that evening for the Medal Ceremony, when a huge number of athletes, family and friends crammed into the venue (fortunately Health & Safety doesn't seem to translate into Spanish), to see all the gongs being dished out.

Stuart with the Giant Anthem and medal

Myself and Mrs JSSV had a couple of days R&R before heading back to Madrid airport. My GPS decided it only understood English but we did have a map and more by good luck than good management we found the car rental place. "After the 3rd circumnavigation of the airport I finally (correctly) opted for Terminal 1. But honey, on the flight booking it just said Madrid airport…doing a Worlds race is far less stressful…"

Then came the painful bit - checking all the charges. I hire cars abroad quite a bit for work and leisure and for the life of me I can't see why all the extra insurance costs can't be included in the quotes. Need for some EU legislation, methinks. My SciCon bike box has logged up thousands of air miles and is now suffering a bit. The small dolly wheel support plates are riveted into the box base and with all the hammer its had, cracks have appeared. Anyway, I literally papered over them, with many layers of sticky brown parcel tape and to my relief my box made it home ok. I'll have to crack out some fibreglass and do a proper repair job before my next overseas race, unless I can persuade some kind generous box maker to sponsor me.

Kerry McPheeWell, our brave band of Brits - 23 in total - came away with 2 golds, 2 slivers and 2 bronze medals which wasn't a bad haul at all. Our sole (Age Group) lady was Kerry McPhee (who gained silver bonnie lassie). Some of our team picked up a few war wounds, with Rick Berry DNF'ing due to injury he picked up. I think around 40 Spanish women raced and ok it was home territory for them but what have the Spanish fairer sex got that's lacking in our home based ladies - maybe it's the Sangria??

The European Cross Tri is on July 2nd near Budapest and BTF are looking for GB entrants, so c'mon guys, let's have a good presence out in Hungary!



Stuart Lumb About the Author

Stuart Lumb lives in God's County - Yorkshire, where else.. took up triathlon when most of his peers were packing in. Works abroad a lot hence christened "Jet Set Super Vet" by a Barracuda club mate. Also enjoys competing in cross tri / XTERRA events - did I hear "Crazy JSSV"? But, you only live once...

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