Finished the exams, popped down to the Bike Show and then headed off to Cyprus on saturday.
I got to Limassol around 6pm in time for the race briefing. With a small field, the atmosphere was informal and very friendly - the event organiser Bambos seemed to make it his mission to know everyone by name! After a cracking pasta party - IM organisers could learn a thing or two from these guys - I went to set up the bike I was borrowing from Stel (road bike as ITU race) ... and was up til just before one a.m/ struggling with my cleats - all threaded (note to self - rust screws from too much turbo use make cleat changing a pain in the arse). Managed to get two screws in one shoe to tighten and only one in the other - I was going to have to go for the elastic band racing start out of T1 to avoid running on them and ruining them completely.
Luckily, the cypriot race day is relaxed ... start time 9:30! So not too much lost sleep. We drive down to T1 at 8am to see no road markings, cones, marshalls or police anywhere... but were assured that they would all be sorted in time! And they were - materialing while we were in the water. I was having a good swim until the end of the first loop when I took a detour round the exit bouy, adding a couple of hundred meters on, and losing me first place out of the water. By the time I reached T1, I had no idea where I was, and could see several bikes already gone from the racks. Onto the 4 lap bike course. The sprint racers were out already and so it made it difficult to work out who was ahead. I saw Stel at one of the turnarounds and so started to chase as I figured he was ahead of me. By the last lap I finally found someone - a Brit - to ride to T2 with for the last 5km... up til then I'd only seen a couple of groups draughting effectively and not managed to take advantage of the draught legal race at all - I'd been a little nervous about being in a draught legal race as I'd never done one before, but it seems I shouldn't have worried! Through T2 I was in second or third with the guy I ridden the last 5km with. Stel, who we'd caught by the 39km mark, didn't pull into transition with us like I'd expected... he must have been on lap 3 - ie had a shocker of a swim thanks to breaking his collar bone not so long ago.
The run was 6 laps, and I'd moved into 1st by the 2nd lap. My shins were playing up so I switched from heel-toe to forefoot regularly to keep the pressure off my shins from building too much. Luckily I didn't need to push the pace up as I was comfortably extending the lead without any trouble. The first place bike marker was very entertaining and chatty, making the experience quite surreal!
Our calculations had been good - no elites turned up last minute!
Spent another couple of days out there, riding up to Troodos on Tuesday with Stel - a 50km hill climb with frequent 12%+ sections... a relentless climb (2000m climbing) worthy of the Alps! What a way to ease back into base training :)
I've been working on getting some sponsors recently too... with some positive results (thanks especially to Kev). When they're all 100% confirmed I'll put them up on the website... but I don't want to jinx it before then!