Lough Neagh has always been lucky with the weather for its annual triathlon boasting glorious days of sunshine but as the heavens opened on Friday night right into the early hours of Saturday morning I think everyone began to worry that it was going to be a repeat of the unfortunate weather conditions of Triathlone and the Galway triathlon. Despite our Irish triathletes becoming more accustomed to, and many boasting a preference for wet and windy conditions it does put a dampner on a race and certainly doesnt encourage spectatorship.
Registration opened at 7am and with that the sun began to rise and it turned into a glorious day. With 2 races ahead, closed roads and nearly 500 athletes fluttering around it was a busy day for the host club HiElbow and the entourage involved in ensuring the day went off without a hitch. Once everybody was signed in and set up in transition the race briefing took place. Everybody listened intently or so it seemed, quite possibly many of the athletes were in the zone psyching themselves up for what lay ahead.
The first race, the age group race kicked off shortly after 10am in four waves with five minutes between each wave. Male and female juniors and vets and all relay teams went off first, followed by male and female 20-29s followed by female 30-39 along with male 35-39s and off last were the male 30-34 - the age group with the largest number of competitors. With the most competitive athletes so widely spread across the age groups and therefore all starting at different times it was a tough task for anyone to know quite how well they were doing outside of their own age group.
Peter Jack from Triangle Triathlon Club was the official commentator for the event and as always provided the crowd with entertaining commentary from start to finish. Colin Bolger from Pulse TC who was in the first wave was first back into T2 and went out strongly on the run, next up was Colm Cassidy who had been in the second wave, Colms swim has improved over this season but his bike split is where the real dividends pay off. Colm, who had started 5 minutes after Colin gradually gained ground over the four laps and was the first to cross the finish line. He couldnt start the celebrations just yet but he was pleased with his race and confident that he had put in a good time. Liam Dolan, Tom Kelly, Colin Bolger, Art MacManusa were among the first group to cross the line. With Brian Crinion, Alvin Cooney and some of the older lads a little further behind due to a later start.
In the ladies event Anne Paul from Trianlge TC was first lady to cross the finishing line but as with the mens event it wasnt until the overall results were compiled we knew who had won overall. Claire Connor who looked very strong throughout the event was next over the line followed by Aoife O’ Connor and Elena Maslova.
HiElbow run the race as an age group race and award prizes for 1st / 2nd / 3rd in each age group. The prizes for the overall winners are awarded to them within their age group. However top three winners are as follows:
Colm Cassidy 3Dtri 2:02.57
Brian Crinion Belpark 2:03.24
Alvin Cooney Mersey 2:04.34
Claire Connor 2:15.19
Anne Paul Triangle 2:17.42
Aoife O’ Connor Belpark 2:20.08
Shortly after the age group race was finished the race briefing for the elite race took place. This is a draft legal race and we had 17 triathletes at the start line.
We were delighted to welcome British triathletes Richard Stannard, who recently came 6th in both The London Triathlon and the Salford World Cup, Clayton Payne who recently came 2nd in the Koh Samet Olympic Distance Triathlon and 3rd in the Koh Samet Long distance Aquathlon, Emma Davies who came 12th in the London Triathlon and also Shawna Novak from Israel. We were also delighted to welcome our own Gavin Noble back home for the race as well as Irish athletes Rich Brady and Simon Biddell who are based in the UK.
Richard Stannard is a very strong swimmer and so sure was Peter Jack that Richard would be first to exit the water he offered the keys of his house to anyone willing to take on his wager….lets hope Peter hasnt been sleeping in a tent since Saturday night!! Gavin Noble was first out of the water just in front of Stannard both finishing in under 18mins. Clayton Payne was just behind. Payne was soon dropped on the bike and he stayed with the second group which included Brian Campbell and Simon Biddell. Part if the next group were Eanna McGrath, Rich Brady amongst others. Emma Davies who was 5th out of the swim managed to hold onto this group. Each pack worked well together with everyone putting in their fair share of work. At the pack of the field there was a collision between Paul Wilson and Aubrey Storey resulting in Wilson taking a fall from the bike and putting an end to his race. Thankfully there was no serious injury, just a few scrapes and cuts. The standard at the front of this race was superb to watch, if you blinked you missed Stannard and Noble return to T2. Both set off looking quite comfortable with a 10km run to face. The second and third packs had managed to merge by the last lap and all arrived back to T2 together. Brian Campbell and Eanna McGrath were soon in third and fourth place. Stannard managed to put some space between himself and Noble on the run to win the race in 1hr 55.33, Noble came in second in 1:56.23 winning the title of Irish Elite Champion 2006. In third place was Brian Campbell who put in the fastest run split of the day in 33.22. Eanna McGrath finished in 4th. In the ladies race Emma Davies who worked hard to keep up with the men on the bike finished in an impressive 2:08.11 and Shawna Novak finished 2nd in 2:24.04.
The under 23s raced with the male and female elites. Simon Biddell won first place, followed by Ed Cooke.
For full details check out www.triathlonireland.com