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© Janos M Schmidt/ITU Media/triathlon.org
Phil Graves: Baku memories
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 17th June 2015


Tags  Baku  |  Baku 2015  |  European Games  |  Phil Graves  |  Philip Graves


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Sunday's European Games Men's Triathlon was a stunning display from the Great Britain men's team, who produced an incredible tactical performance to put Gordon Benson in contention for the podium starting the run - a position he grabbed with both hands, to earn Great Britain's first Gold medal in Baku, Azerbaijan.

It was a performance I got to enjoy in person in my role as the on-site venue commentator/announcer at Bilgah Beach, and I've tried to sum up the events of the day separately HERE.

What was it like to actually be in the race - and be a part of the Great Britain trio? Well, in this piece Philip Graves gives his experiences of Baku 2015, alongside Tom Bishop and Gordon Benson - "one of the most amazing and incredible weeks of my life." This is a must read!


Philip Graves - Baku 2015 European Games 2015

How do you sum up one of the most amazing and incredible weeks of your life? Well, that's what I'm going to try and do in this blog. For anyone following the last week or those of you who watched the race, you will know the outcome; Gordon Benson became the first ever Briton to win not just any medal at the European Games, but a gold one at that.

It's not just the actual race that made the week so amazing though, but the whole European Games experience. Living in the Team GB block in the village, mixing with the other athletes and that feeling that you are part of something a whole lot bigger than just triathlon. Lining up on that start line, you are not only representing yourself and all those that support you, but also every other Team GB athlete there. There is such a great team atmosphere amongst all the athletes I've never really experienced anything like that before, so when you can bring a medal back from your event it does just feel amazing!

I guess I should talk about the race at some point anyway! Going to Baku, we obviously went as a team and not individual athletes with Gordon as 'Team Leader', a title he didn't let us forget during the entire week! The ideal scenario was that we all swam in the front pack and just hammered it, but that was a bit optimistic so we had to affect the race somehow, though even going into the race we didn't really know exactly how this was going to happen. We had talked about points to attack and suchlike, but it's one thing talking about it and another thing doing it in a Championship race.

Baku 2015 European Games - ©Janos M. Schmidt / ITU Media / triathlon.org

So to the swim – well, it was shallow! There was so much dolphin diving it was crazy and I think everyone found that bit the hardest and most knackering part of the whole race. Having short sausage legs really doesn't help either! As with any swim it's just solid and physical. I had a rubbish start and was pretty much at the back but managed to pull through on the second lap despite being hammered by the guy next to me on the last 400m. I missed the front pack that Tom Bishop made, but when I stood up dolphin diving back in I could see Gordon just a few meters in front of me, so least I near the boss.

Baku 2015 European Games - ©Janos M. Schmidt / ITU Media / triathlon.org

The first bit of the bike is always fast and people want to chase so it was strung out as people tried to sort themselves out; perfect for me really! After 2km things were pretty stable, we had a large group of about 30 guys with six out front at 20 or so seconds - definitely nothing to worry about, but with all the best runners in our group what on earth we were going to do?

With Tom in that front group it did give us a satellite to jump over to, and this was the tactic I was thinking of using, so after everyone else had chased hard to keep the gap at 20 or so seconds, after a couple of laps with Gordon on the wheel I went full gas and literally caught the front group in about 1km. I was hoping we would just take a few athletes over but being early in the race I think people were quite fresh, so were able to sit on and the whole group ended up together. This however wasn't a disaster as Tom immediately attacked again whilst everyone was trying to recover and quickly got a 15 second gap.

With Tom's running pedigree it forced others to chase, which was ideal. I was able to sit back and slow the pace down so Tom's gap could increase which panicked a lot of guys, as they would come through really hard. This happened for a couple of km's until 'it' happened, the big attack. It was nothing we had planned whatsoever but was just a very random scenario. Benson will tell you he is not the best around corners so coming out of the technical section I think he had got dropped a bit so there was a gap in front of him which he quickly covered with the decent power he has. The guy on Gordon's wheel obviously wasn't paying attention and I was riding along at tempo on the front when Gord's suddenly came past me saying "come on we have a gap". Firstly, I was like, how on earth did that happen? So, I got myself into TT mode, popped past Gordon so he could sit on and then it began.

Baku 2015 European Games - ©Janos M. Schmidt / ITU Media / triathlon.org

Two words describe the next 17 or so kilometres – FULL GAS! With Bish up the road I just went full bore to catch him and then it was simply into TT mode. For the last half of the bike the pace didn't slacken once, I had one job to do, simply to empty the tank and look after Gordon. I didn't even know who or how many people were in the group I just rode as fast, and probably more importantly, as smooth as I could. We got a gap of 20secs quite quickly, and then it grew to 40 seconds.

Baku 2015 European Games - ©Janos M. Schmidt / ITU Media / triathlon.org

Beforehand we talked about best possible case scenarios and if we got Gordon a 40 sec lead then we thought that would be unbelievable. So, when the gap grew to one minute we couldn't believe it but just kept pushing all the way back into T2 where I dropped off Gordon and let him do his stuff. To have a gap of 1:45 over all the fastest runners in the field far exceeded all our expectations. It was amazing, and hopefully Gordon could do his stuff on the run, which thankfully he did and 32 minutes after coming off the bike he was crowned European Games champion.

Baku 2015 European Games - ©Janos M. Schmidt / ITU Media / triathlon.org

I book-ended Gordon's performance by coming dead last, 46th place, but my job was done and I was just overjoyed we had pulled off something amazing. It's proof that team tactics work in triathlon, even on the biggest stage of all! I could talk endlessly about how incredible it all was, pulling off the most unexpected of results, but anyone who watched will know how special it was. It truly was one Team GB and I'm so thankful that I have such great memories that will last a lifetime.

Well done and thanks to everyone that made it possible, from the support staff, family, friends, sponsors and the wider Team GB community, you all made it possible and its great to be part of history!

Baku 2015 European Games - ©Janos M. Schmidt / ITU Media / triathlon.org


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