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Stuart Lumb: Hungary for mud...
Posted by: jetsetsupervet
Posted on: Wednesday 3rd August 2011


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


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Stuart Lumb, our resident Jet Set Super Vet (JSSV) has been getting dirty again, this time at the ETU Cross Triathlon Championships in Visegrad, Hungary.

He may have finished as Lanterne Rouge, but is still as positive as ever about off-road racing - though keen to encourage more entrants to this discipline of the sport.


Off-road, or Cross Triathlon has a big following in the States due to the XTERRA race series. The enthusiasm for this extreme type of triathlon has yet to reach the same level in Europe though. The race format is the same as for on-road events with National, European and World Championships being held. The European Championships took place on July 2nd in Visegrad, a pleasant large village situated on the banks of the Danube about an hour's drive from Budapest, Hungary.

British Age Group team in Hungary

The GB squad did at one time exceed 20, but due to various problems this got whittled down to five. Well, quality not quantity of course! Because of the nature of off road triathlon the race venues tend to be in quite rural locations and so it's quite an achievement actually getting to the venue never mind racing. Last year when the Europeans were near Myjava in Slovakia a hire care was essential. This time the venue was accessible by public transport from Budapest airport, via subway, tram train and finally - ferry. Paul McGreal and James Dickinson deserved to get medals for simply getting themselves and their luggage to our hotel which was also race HQ. (Although James actually did win a silver).

Stuart with Swiss Pro Renata BucherBecause of weight limitations I borrowed a bike bag and had forgotten how unwieldy those wretched things are – for me anyway. Fortunately Elica Winchester who runs HBL Travel (www.hbltravel.hu) arranged for me to share a taxi with none other than “Swiss Miss” Renata Bucher, one of the Elite lady racers - fame at last for JSSV – so I travelled in style from the airport to my hotel and back again on the Monday after the race and got chance to learn about racing as an elite athlete sees it. She won gold incidentally.

On Friday the 20km bike split was open and so the GB squad rode round it, or should I say up it, as it involved 800m of climbing and a lot of mud plugging. In fact my gears locked up twice with the mud. I hadn't planned on doing the full 20km but of course these trails are in virgin forests and you have no choice once committed but to do the full circuit. I only came off once and fortunately I didn't damage my brand new Bell helmet courtesy of my sponsor DANISCO who also paid for my helmet container. Thanks Andrew !

Saturday was race day, with around 120 age groupers starting at a civilised hour – mid morning. None of this crack of dawn stuff you on-roadies endure…

The swim was a triangular course in a sheltered bend of the Danube, two laps x 400m and I was relieved not to come out last. I'd had a niggling cold since my business trip to Iowa in mid June so hadn't swum much, plus had a shoulder problem as well (fiddle out here folks...). I had a job getting a decent rhythm going but managed to get the last 200m right.

Then it was off on the bike split, and all that climbing . Half way up the major ascent some wag had hung an empty beer can on one of the course marker tapes. I was tailing a Hungarian guy who was racing in trainers and flats. For him to climb through all that mud was amazing – I nearly left a shoe in a particularly muddy patch – shades of Euro 2010 and Lucy Cash losing her shoe- so he really earned his bronze medal. I got to within 10m of him and at that point I realised that doing the bike split the day before had not been a good idea, although the one positive was that I could remember most of the route and that on reaching a clearing and the 13km signpost the rest was downhill. There were wonderful views of the Danube although I hadn't time to enjoy them.

I came out of T2 cheered on by my GB team mates. I was absolutely knackered and the thought of climbing the steep ascent up to the castle overlooking Visegrad was not a pleasant one. My right heel had been bothering me (more fiddling – double base now), but I was so dead beat if it was bothering me I didn't notice it. At the top of the climb was an aid station. On the table were small blocks of brown stuff which turned out to be marzipan. It tasted absolutely fabulous so I scoffed quite a few, feeling completely guiltless as, yes, you've guessed it, JSSV was Lanterne Rouge yet again! At the bottom of the descent the policeman who I was supposed to “run” round had obviously had got fed up of waiting for me and was no doubt knocking one back in the pub - lucky lad .

Fortunately there were arrows on the road to follow. The final sting in the tail involved running bent double through a culvert under the road, with the mud trying to pull my trainers off. Then it was back into the transition area and the finish. As I crawled across the line the time keeper asked me if I'd got lost (amazing sense of humour these Goulash eaters have), to which I replied in similar vein: "no, I'd taken the scenic route and was admiring the scenery!” I was very relieved to have finished, despite being in the worst place, 4th . I've raced XTERRA Worlds twice in stifling heat but can honestly say that Hungarian circuit was far more demanding than Maui. In fact the ITU should have used the Visegrad course for the World's as it was far more testing than the Spanish circuit.

James Dickinson was our sole medalist and James proudly received his hard won silver, only to be told seconds later that the organisers had run out of medals and that this last silver gong had to keep being re circulated!! Maybe some had got lost in the post ……..or ??

James Dickinson takes silver - well, briefly!

Seemingly the ITU / ETU are keen to promote off-road triathlon and up the participation. There's obviously a hard core of athletes, many of whom race XTERRA as well, who will compete regardless, but something drastic needs to be done to pull in those extra punters. Maybe the ITU/ ETU can be more pro-active and give more help to the host nation, or help get more sponsorship. When this race was on the Dutch island of Ameland the Dutch hosts laid on a coach for competitors from Schiphol airport and back. How come the Hungarian organisers didn't do that from Budapest airport? Cross tri events need more competitors, especially ladies. Hauling a bike box/bag uphill and down dale is bad enough for macho males (I'm not in that category now!), let alone slightly built women. If a coach was laid on then it reduces some of the hassle and might just tip the balance in terms of getting more competitors to take part.

XTERRA France took place recently - and it was just as muddy there. There were 1000 competitors and it had been sold out for months. It's sad that a European Championship event couldn't even manage to get a fifth of that number. Suggestions, on a postcard please, to...


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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