70.3 Taupo, New Zealand

By Laurent Laclaverie

Posted on Tuesday 3rd March 2020

Racing under Coronavirus constant threat – 5h10

To the very last minute I was expecting a cancellation as I questioned the opportunity to go, I didn’t know it would be one of the last races before the world would fall apart.

I usually land on race place on Fridays for a Sunday race but always feel that I miss 1 day to really feel more relax and get into the event. 7 March 2020 is a Saturday race day, so I decided to travel on the Wednesday. Easy check-in, empty Sydney International airport, on-time flight, easy car-rental pickup, amazing weather, easy 3h30 drive from Auckland including 1h across a giant pines forest! The week can’t start better. I build my bike as soon as I arrive, spend about 2h resolving a recurring Di2 issue caused by a previously pinched cable below the cockpit. Problem fixed once for all.

70.3 and 140.6 races share the same date and the same course, with a 1h earlier start for the 70.3. Thursday early morning race check-in smooth, I always feel “small” when checking-in for the shorter race when both happen on the same day. Swim test in the lake, bike course recce, legs checks, and lots of rest Thursday and Friday. All looking good.

Transparent Swim – 36mn

Lake Taupo is enormous, and the soft water is so transparent. As the swim is not farther than 200m from the shore, you can see fishes and the bottom very clearly all the way. Massive red buoys make sighting easy. The water temperature was 17C, air temperature was 12C. After a waved start with 3 by 3 athletes following the traditional Kiwi ritual on the beach (that is something), I quickly settle into my usual race pace, 1:50/100m. I am still surprised to be passed by many other athletes; I mean…a lot! I’ll end up averaging 1:55/100m, probably one of my slowest swims, and a ranking of 43/75. Disappointing swim as usual, that will be the discipline I will focus on over the next few months.

Bumpy ride – 2h44

A rather rolling bike course, which could be fast, but the macadam is old and made of those oil residual rocks. Quite sticky and uncomfortable. The bike is shaky, so I hope my Di2 fix will resist. I am mentally prepared to stay on a fix gear if it doesn’t. Nothing more I can do for now, so I try not to think about it too much and focus on speed. I am glad to wear a wind breaker gilet and the temperature is still quite chilly, about 13C at the start of the ride. The first half was quite fast, 34km/h and 219w NP at the 45km U-turn, that was my target speed and power for the whole ride. I had changed my nutrition plan for this race on my search for a no cramp run, I am happy to keep enough focus all the way to stick to the plan. All gels in the aero frame bottle mixed with water, plus two 800ml bottles of electrolyte behind the saddle. I will drink everything and since a long time I won’t need to go to the toilet in T2. 33km/h average, 207w NP, ranking 29/75. I don’t know you guys but thank you, Greg, Jenny and Rob, we must have passed each other about 100 times over the 90km of the course, trying to make the pass within the rules kept us focused. T2 was much shorter than my tea break T1, and it didn’t take me long to settle into my run.

No cramp run – 1h40

First cramps usually come around km 2, and today, nothing. The fear of cramping has always prevented me from pushing too much on the bike. I had decided to build over the first 5km of the run, starting at 5:30 for k1, then 5:15 for k2, and so on down to 4:45 at k5 and see how I feel by then. I didn’t stick to that “smart” plan at all and ended up running at a constant pace of 4:45/4:50 all the way. Halfway, I still couldn’t feel any cramp coming. I had decided to run with a 500ml bottle filled with 4 gels and electrolyte. I’ll only drink less than 50% of it, plus 1 Cramp Fix in T2. And in the end, I’ll have my best run on a 70.3. Have I known I wouldn’t cramp, I’d have pushed more on the bike. But that will be for the next race! Run ranking is 17/75, happy with that.

My overall ranking was 23/75 in the 50/54 AG. Most athletes in this 50/54 AG are Aussie/Kiwis, very competitive bunch.

The support you get there is something to experience, amazing, people push you all the way in transition and on the run, they read your name on the bib and scream it, this is real! Do they really know me? If you can’t achieve <4h45 in this AG, forget the slot, just go there to enjoy the atmosphere, the scenery, the soft water, the support, the air, the people, the food. This is a rare feeling of true respect for mother nature.