So I arrived on Thursday in Switzerland, spent Friday in the Alpstein (quite a gem in the Alps) and had a wonderful time. For Sunday we looked at the starting list and we saw that there was a good chance for me to reach a good position in this field as some of the possible rivals just competed at the Ironman in South Africa and would be missing.
Sunday came and the weather got colder and colder and in St.Gallen there was even some snow. Luckily the weather forecast predicted no precipitation for the time of the race - be this rain or snow. It was great to see so many familiar faces and it felt as if I was never away. It was still dry when I installed my bike in the transition area but all of a sudden and about 20 minutes before the start another cloud passed and the wind and snow was everything else than what I wanted. I was hoping it was as quickly over as it came but you never know. I didn't change any of my clothing choices and if you take a closer look at the starting line its the fat bloke with most layers on - or the other way round ;)
Everybody was wearing at least something more than I did. At least I was wearing a short sleave shirt, gloves and a headband which saved me a little bit. Other than that I thought its the same for everybody and its over in less than an hour - what could possibly go wrong?
The race consisted of a 4km run/ 17km bike/ 4km run. Once the gun went Felix Köhler started the first few hundred meters rather quick trying to put some distance right away between him and everybody else. After the first kilometer we were on our own and we both did some work to get away from the rest. This was in the best of my interests as I knew I wouldn't be the fastest cyclist. I had to realize this again this year in the training camp that I have quite a disadvantage in the flat. However when it comes to hills, that's where my strengths lie. Unfortunately the whole course including the runs had probably under 50 meters of incline so it was flat as a pancake.
I had a couple of seconds advantage before the transition area and was the first out. I positioned my bike slightly different than everybody else which gave me a bit of an advantage (professional secret). In the meantime the snow stopped but the roads were really wet. Out on the bike I thought Köhler would be right with me but I never looked back and just pedaled. After a few kilometers he passed me and it was clear he wanted to make a move so I had to shift a few gears up. I was hanging in there but I felt it would be hard. He pushed around the tight corners and because of the wet conditions and the fact that I was riding this bike for the second time this year I decided not to risk to much. If he would have been a Swiss athlete I would have given everything to stay with him but then again if I would have stayed with him I was taking the risk of hitting the wall. On the second bike lap of two I was still on my own and I knew that I should be able to close a potential handicap from now on if somebody comes from behind. I tried not to get irritated by the fact that one of the brakes was actually touching the wheel more or less constantly..
It was my teammate Martin Bader who first appeared next to me but then again he was another foreigner and as I was looking back I saw a whole bunch of athletes coming which were potentially drafting. Towards the end of the bike split Andy Sutz overtook us and tried to break away. It was clearly not his day because he should have been with Köhler and me after the first run. However, he didn't get away from the group and as the pace got higher we came closer on Köhler.
Just before we entered the transition area I took a zip of my drink but was unable to put the bottle back because my fingers were numb. So I threw it away and I started to realize that it would be difficult to open my helmet in the transition area. I entered it on 5th position, placed my bike in the rack and tried to undo my helmet - without success. Alright i got into my running shoes and tried it again - again no luck I just didn't had the right control over my fingers and the gloves made it even worse to feel for button to undo the helmet. Instead of losing more time (this only took a few seconds but it feels like eternity) I decided to run out with my helmet still on taking the risk of finishing with it. I soon managed to get rid of it and a volunteer was kind enough to look after it.
I was now in 3rd position overall with Köhler about 20 seconds ahead and Bader right in front of me. While I was passing Bader quite soon I wasn't able to make any ground on Köhler. All I wanted was to finish with a solid run and not getting into trouble with a potential sprint finish. On the last kilometer I realized that I was just about the be Swiss Champion for the first time. I have thought about the title throughout the whole race and all went according to my plans.
I have won medals at Swiss Championships in Duathlon, Half Marathon, Marathon and mountain running but never Gold. And here it was! I have to add that I am well aware that it hasn't been that easy for a very long time to gain this gold medal. However, it's not my fault other athletes weren't present and I am super happy to take the title.
Now remains the question, am I going to do other Duathlons? As the national champion that's what you would expect. Unfortunately I will be very busy finishing my studies in June - just when the world championships are so this is not really an option. And after I finish my Osteopathy studies it is time to hit the mountains!
Running Shoes: Scott Palani RC
Dress: Scott Plasma Suit
Bike: Scott Plasma Premium
Cycling shoes: Scott Tri Carbon Shoe
Cycling helmet: Scott Vanish
Sunglasses: Scott Spur
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