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Gold Medal in the World Duathlon Championships, September 2009

Ian Cardy peaks when it matters, in Concord, North Carolina

I arrived in Concord on Wednesday afternoon after an eight hour flight and not much sleep. The heat (30 degrees) and humidity (90% at the time) hit me straight away – if conditions stayed like this the race would be tough. After checking in to the team hotel, a quick loosening run around the race venue confirmed my concerns that the climate would be a key part in deciding the race. Time to hydrate, fuel sensibly (tying to ignore the plethora of advertisements enticing me to eat burgers, pizza and all manner of tempting fattening delights!) and continue with my well rehearsed taper and drills for the final few days before the race.

The preparation went very well, with the usual nerves slightly more on edge than normal. Understandably. Race day dawned cool and wet – a dramatic turnaround from the heat and humidity I had been keen to acclimatize to since arriving in Concord. Now it was more like a British summer!

So I should have relaxed, right? Well, no. The last time I raced in the wet, I crashed in transition and dislocated a finger. Not a good omen.

Once I arrived at the venue, reports of the Elite athletes (who were racing in the morning – my race would be mid afternoon) crashing out and having difficulties dealing with the greasy conditions didn’t assist in settling the nerves. Nevertheless, some focus, quiet time in making final preparations and firing myself up with a tried and tested warm up seemed to help.

At 3:45pm local time, the horn blared and my wave was away. A quick paced run (which would have put us up ahead of the Elite guys) soon settled down – with a group of five setting the pace – myself, compatriot Lee Piercy, American Mark Beversdorf, Frenchman Didier Virvaleix and Mexican Mario Salazar.

The pace ebbed and flowed over the undulating twisting course, which had its fair share of technical bends and changes in surface to keep us occupied.

The five of us remained in a close group  over the ten kilometres course right up until the first transition onto the bike. We entered together around 32:30 for the 10k but left on the bikes very differently – our transition times were identical almost, but it was Lee and I that tore off on the slippery mix of road, car park and race track tarmac and concrete.

Within the first lap, we had put 30 seconds into Virvaleix, a minute into Beversdorf and two into Salazar. More ebbing and flowing ensued between Lee and I, whilst unbeknown to us three others were chasing us down – Americans Kevin O’Connor and Todd Wiley and with Didier making a comeback. I took more risks on the descents and bends than the others, who would then gain ground on the flat. Continual feeding and drinking kept me occupied in the meantime, along with a torrential downpour that served to cool the heat of the race. This continued until midway through the final lap when Lee pulled to the side out of the race. It transpired that he had hit a pothole and had broken his stem (the same pothole that dislodged my aero water bottle and left me with just a bar mounted bottle to keep me hydrated). Initial emotions of feeling sorry for Lee were rapidly replaced by the nervous reality that I was now comfortably leading the race. Time to push harder.

The two powerful Americans would eventually catch me up on the flatter part of the course within the Motor Speedway stadium as we neared the end of the 36 kilometre cycle leg in 56 minutes (the two Americans having taken around a minute less). Despite entering the transition dismount are in third, a very swift transition on my part (drills for which I had been practicing week on week!) enabled me to start the last run a few seconds ahead. Being the fox with two hounds chasing is not fun(!), but traditionally the final run is my strongest element. I knew it would hurt, but I had to push harder than I had ever done before – this is the World Championships after all. Two kilometers in, a change of course direction enabled me to casually check the progress of the others – I was clear. The race was mine to lose. A very nervous final kilometer then 500m of technical twists, turns, ascents and descents ensued, before finally entering the stadium and heading toward the finishing straight. The line in sight, I finally relaxed. No-one could beat me now and I virtually floated toward the finish to cover the final 5k in 16:44 and overall 1:46:34. Indescribable joy and emotion engulfed me as I realized what I had achieved – World Champion in my debut season. Despite the rain pouring around me I was inconsolably happy and proud. Recovering my emotions in time to welcome home O’Connor and Wiley, I grabbed a Union Flag and had a few pictures taken before finding a ‘phone to break the good news to my wife and daughter back at home.

That I raced hard was evident by the fact that despite now being willing and able to sample the delights of American cuisine I had sacrificed myself from having all this time, bad stomach cramps meant I spent most of the celebratory meal doubled up in pain whilst trying to eat some pasta! No pain, no gain. 

A short week later, I was back into competition at Oulton Park. The efforts of Concord had taken their toll, not helped by a very fast first run and not feeding enough on the bike leg. A second place behind former national champion Matt Moorhouse was all I could manage this time around, but I guess I peaked when it mattered!

Ian Cardy

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