This past weekend I made the six hour drive from Lowell, MA to just outside of Montreal for the Coteau-du-lac Continental Cup. I competed in this event last year and finished in a close second to Canada’s Andrew Yorke. I knew my main competition in this race would be Jason Wilson (BAR) and last year’s defending champion Yorke. The swim was two laps (1000m + 500m) in a narrow canal. When the race got underway, the first 200 meters were pretty physical as we all jostled for position. The field began to string out a little bit, and I found had some room to surge to the front of the pack. Coming into the first turn buoy I was in second on the feet of Matthew Sharpe (CAN). I wanted to keep the pace high to see if I could drop some of the other fast runners. At the end of the first lap I was the first to emerge from the water, run down the pontoon, and dive in again for the second loop. I dropped back to about fourth spot on the second loop but exited the water right with the lead pack of ten guys.
As we exited the water and ran into t1 I noticed that Wilson and Yorke were right with me. I knew at that point that the race would most likely come down to the late stages of the run. The bike course was six out-and-back laps, dead flat, with a headwind one way and tailwind the other. We got out onto the bike and Andrew Yorke took the initiative of organizing our small group, which had become seven as we dropped a few guys in the first K. Our small group worked together extraordinarily well, which is a rarity in an ITU race. Everybody rotated through the paceline and took strong pulls. Anytime the pace lagged the Canadians would start yelling and get things going again. We also had a big German, Paul Schuster, in our group. He was a bit of a darkhorse. I didn’t know anything about him except that the Germans are generally tough, well-rounded triathletes. At any rate, I did my fair share of work and we put about 10-20 seconds per lap on the 15-man chase pack. They couldn’t seem to get organized and our lead balooned to about 90 seconds by the end of the bike leg. Nearing the final turn, the German made a move and was the first to enter t2. I trailed him by a few seconds leading the rest of the pack.
The run course was similar to the bike: four out-and-back laps and pancake flat. Schuster jumped out to an early lead with Wilson and Yorke charging after him. I hung back early and built into the first lap. The three guys ahead of me merged into a lead pack, and I sat in a comfortable fourth with a big gap back to fifth. Nearing the end of the first lap I began to surge and started making up ground on the leaders. At the start of the second lap I had reeled them in and the four of us were running together. Schuster cracked and began to drop back. For the next two laps I ran comfortably in third right on the shoulder or Wilson or Yorke. Those two switched leads frequently and would put in some surges to test one another. On the third lap the pace slowed. I stayed calm, was patient, and continued to sit in third. It was clear that this was more of a tactical race with no one wanting to push the pace too soon. By the end of the third lap the pace had slowed enough so that Schuster had clawed his way back up to us. We began the bell lap and I knew someone was going to make a move soon. It was Yorke. He surged ahead and strung us out. I was the first to make my way back up to his shoulder. I wasn’t sure what I had left. I could see the shadows of Schuster and Wilson behind me as they slowly tried to cover Yorke’s move. I didn’t want things to come together again, so with 2k to go I just went for it. I took off and the move proved to be decisive. I dropped everyone and began opening up a gap. I got excited and began to feel good. I paced the race extremely well — I was able to hold my surge all the way to finish. I broke the tape in first with a 20 second margin of victory over Yorke! After five ITU podiums in my career I finally got to that top spot!