What’s It Like Competing In The World Champs? Geoff Wynn Tells Us All About It
Big Bear Bikes supported athlete Geoff Wynn tested himself against the best in the Sprint Duathlon World Final in Targu Mures, Romania. Here, he tells us about the experience of competing in a world event, Romanian drivers and an unexpected performance.
This was a race I had qualified for back in April 2021 when I took qualifying position one in my age group at the Croft circuit in North Yorkshire. I had been looking forward to it since I got that confirmation email from British Triathlon.
This was to be my first world final, having previously raced at European finals so there was some trepidation about the step up in standard. I travelled out on Thursday prior to the race and got stuck in Munich airport for 13 hours due to the airline overselling the flight. Arriving at my hotel at 4am on Friday instead of 4pm Thursday having not slept for over 46 hours was not the way I wanted to start my race preparations and I worried this was going to have a knock-on effect with only 55 hours until the race start. Fortunately, a good sleep followed and after waking up mid-morning my first priority was to get my nutrition sorted, having missed breakfast.
Arriving and preparing for the race
I spent the afternoon exploring the local area and caught up with a team mate who I had met on the first flight from Manchester. Fortunately the start line was right outside my hotel and the entire race was contained within the city centre so it made it easier to familiarise ourselves with the course (this would become extremely relevant later). Late afternoon a group of us met up to ride the bike route and it’s safe to say I hope to never experience the Romanian standard of driving in the UK because I think I'd abandon road riding forever. The course was five laps of 4k with two 180 degree turns, 11 corners and a cobbled section which would make for some interesting riding if the rain forecast for race day materialised!
Having made it back to the hotel in one piece after two laps I went to meet up with some team mates to get tea. Despite travelling alone, it's very easy to meet up with others who are all there for the same reason and to share the experience with. I've made a number of friends at each of the finals I've been to and it adds to the fun of the race. Racing abroad brings different elements and Romania's most obvious one is heat! Daytime temperatures from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius were commonplace and with an 11:10am start on race day the forecast was for 25 degrees, rain and no wind.
The build-up on race day
Saturday was spent mentally preparing, checking kit and making sure everything was ready to go. We headed out for a team photo then tea and then the fun and games started - emails landing left right and centre from the organisers with changes to the run course due to a religious celebration, the number of laps for run one increased to six and a bit and the distance went from 5k to 5.7k. This threw some participants into a panic and the Facebook group was alive with people trying to get their heads round the changes. Fortunately, being quite methodical in my approach to racing I was satisfied in my head I knew what I was doing. Time to get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed ready for the race. Anyone who sleeps well the night before, I envy you! I managed a few hours before waking up at 5am and staring at the ceiling until it was time to get up.
I ate breakfast and then it was off to athlete check in where we are subject to kit checks by the technical officials before being allowed to set up in transition. With the bike set up I completed my routine of walking the transition area as if I were racing, checking the areas for run in, bike out, bike in and final run out. I find this helps me visualise how I'll do it in the race and calms my pre-race nerves as i'm leaving nothing to chance.
Running my own race
Come 11:10am, the starters had us ready and then everything went silent. In my head I just kept reminding myself to race my own race and not to get caught up the madness of people inevitably going off too quick. The starter horn goes and it was game on, a steady start and building pace through the laps saw me picking off people and coming to the end of the first run with an average pace I was very happy with. The heat had sapped a little bit from my speed but I'd only lost about 6s per mile on what I'd expect to do in perfect conditions. Into T1 (transition one) and a flawless transition saw me out on the bike quickly, feet into shoes, head down and put the power down. A shout from the sidelines warned me of a competitor trying to get on my back wheel (it was a draft legal race so nothing wrong with doing it) and a quick change of pace ensured they weren't getting an easy ride sat behind me.
Lap one was about settling down into an even pace, bringing the heart rate down and picking the best racing lines through every corner. Whilst it was a draft legal race there weren't many groups forming and due to the technical nature it was far better to be in a two or three so you weren't bunching up on the corners. The bike leg passed quickly and the predicted rain held off which meant a much faster leg than expected so now it was just 2.5km of running between me and the finish line.
I set out on run two with a plan to complete lap one just below my target pace then lap two at target pace and to finish the final section with whatever energy I had left. For once the plan played out perfectly and I was soon onto the last section flying past other runners and with the finish line in sight it was all out just as I heard the commentator shout "here we go, a sprint finish for the line". Realising there was another athlete on my right shoulder I drained the last drop of energy, taking the line before him.
An unexpected performance
A quick check of the watch and I could see I crossed the line in 1:06:45. I was expecting around 1:10:00 given the technical aspect of the bike and the heat on the run so I was over the moon to see the time. Having barely had time to gather my thoughts I was approached by a woman with a camera and a microphone and interviewed. I haven't seen the footage yet but I'm sure I'll cringe when I do. The following couple of hours flew by, taking in what had ju
st happened and after collecting our bikes we headed out for some celebratory beers and to treat ourselves to some of the cakes and deserts we had seen but so far avoided.
It became apparent that there were a number of athletes who had failed to complete the race correctly with many not doing enough laps and some doing too many. As the results were adjusted and finally released I was in for my biggest surprise of the trip, all the effort had resulted in me taking 6th place in the 40 to 44 age group and 31st place overall. I'd never opened up about my goals to anyone prior to the race as I didn't believe it would happen but I had set myself a target of breaking into the top 10 after never finishing higher than 15th at the Euros. After the frustrations of being injured in February this was beyond my wildest dreams and I had pinch myself to make sure i wasn't finally catching up on all that missed sleep!
Roll on the next race!
By virtue of finishing within the top 10 and being in the first three British athletes in my age group, I have pre-qualified for next year’s world final, which will be held in Ibiza. We celebrated long into the night, with one of my new friends from the trip winning a gold medal in her age group, and started to make plans for our reunion in Ibiza next year (the after party for that one should be pretty good).
Monday was spent exploring the city and relaxing, we spent our morning at the local zoo and rounded our trip off with a visit to a steak house we had found days earlier. Targu was a fantastic location with some incredible buildings to view. The people were welcoming and it was another trip where I thought I'm really happy that the sport I love has brought me to as I'd probably have never visited otherwise. Now reality has hit home and I'm back in the UK bemoaning that nothing is as cheap here as it was out there (typical tight Yorkshireman). Time to start the focus on the next race in August and look further forward to Abu Dhabi in November and the World Triathlon Final.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to the team at Big Bear Bikes for their ongoing support and especially to Rich for getting my Trek Madone prepped and ready for this race as I know he didn't have it easy.
Keep up to date with our supported athletes, which also include mountain bike and road racers, by following Big Bear Bikes on Facebook and Instagram.