Provantage is thrilled to share the story of one of our own, Andy Shepherd, who recently had the opportunity to represent GB in the European Sprint Distance Triathlon Championship held in Madrid. We caught up with Andy to find out about his gruelling but inspiring journey. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us about the lead-up to the race
Well, On 4th June, I had the opportunity to travel to the stunning city of Madrid and compete in the European Triathlon Championships as part of the GB Age Group team for the first time. I felt confident and excited going into it after a solid winter training block, but disaster nearly struck on more than one occasion before the race even started(!)…
The first near miss – despite my best efforts to pack my bike as it should have been, it somehow arrived at the airport damaged and in desperate need of a new part if I stood a chance of racing. Thankfully, through the power of google translate and a very patient local bike shop, I managed to source the new part and fit it the night before the race, not ideal as I didn’t have a chance to test it, but I just had to hope and pray that it would get me round okay!
The next ordeal in the saga – the race itself very almost didn’t go ahead! Rainfall in the lead-up to the race lead to unsafe water quality and with an hour to go before the start time it was confirmed that the ‘triathlon’ (swim-bike-run) was in fact going to be a ‘duathlon’ (run-bike-run). Needless to say, this was a major blow as myself and all of the other athletes have spent countless hours (& lengths!) in swimming pools preparing for the event, so not being able to swim felt really disheartening. Still, you can only deal with the hand that you’re dealt and after a short sulk, it was time to ‘control the controllables’ and reset my focus to the new face format at hand.
And what about the race itself?
The first of the two runs was around the Casa de Campo, a large public park located in the southwestern part of Madrid. It was a short 1.7km with a blistering pace set by the lead group which I managed to hold on to and make sure I was in the mix as we set out onto the bike.
The bike course itself was 20km and started with a short climb out of Casa de Campo before exiting onto a long stretch of closed-off motorway and re-entering the park for transition 2. With this being a draft-legal race, the pace was incredibly fast and thankfully the group that I managed to hook on to worked well together to stay away from the chasing group behind – holding an average of 23mph.
The remaining 5km run was definitely the toughest part of the race – a flat couple of kilometres rolled into a long and steep hill up to the Royal Palace. Once at the top, it was another 2km of flat course which took us past the palace on an ‘out and back’ loop before finally crossing the finish line.
Overall, I’m pleased to say that for my Age Group, I managed 4th overall European athlete and 1st British athlete across the line – my best result to date! All of the components came together which felt long overdue after some disappointing performances early in the season. All great learning experiences nonetheless and lead to a great result at the race that counted!
How would you sum up your experience?
In one word – Incredible. The days leading up to the event were really special as I was able to spend time with my family exploring Madrid and generally relaxing and soaking up the sun. The atmosphere at the race was absolutely electric and it was really inspiring to watch the professional athletes, most notably, the triple Olympic medallist Johnny Brownlee which left me as motivated as ever for my next races.
All in all, I’m proud of my performance in Madrid. It was a tough race, but I was able to overcome the challenges and come away with a great result. I’m also super excited to have automatically qualified for next year’s GB team by coming 1st in my age group.
So what’s next?
I still have some big goals to achieve this year so I’m certainly not done yet! I’m aiming to compete at a local running Grand Prix series of 4 races hosted by a Nottingham running club at the end of June with a big target of getting on the podium against out-and-out runners – which won’t be easy as I spread my time across three disciplines!
Aside from that I also have the opportunity to don the GB suit again for the European Aquathlon Championship (swim–run) which is being held in Belgium in August – fingers crossed that this time I actually swim and who knows maybe podium?
Congratulations to Andy on this outstanding performance. This is a remarkable achievement and we’re incredibly proud. Can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next. Way to go, Andy!