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Salford Triathalon

Roads closed, helicopters buzzing around and tight security. Another armed raid in Salford? No, this was the 2006 BG Salford Triathlon World Cup, which took place on Sunday, in Salford Quays.

Published on August 3rd 2006.

Salford Triathalon

Roads closed, helicopters buzzing around and tight security. Another armed raid in Salford?

No, this was the 2006 BG Salford Triathlon World Cup, which took place on Sunday (July 30th), in Salford Quays.

For those who don't know, a Triathlon is a race comprising a 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bike ride and a 10 km run. In previous years it has closed down most of Manchester, with the bike and run phases looped into the city centre.

This year however, shorter loops meant that the supportive crowd saw far more of the athletes, and there was hardly a break in the action - far better for those that wanted to see the event, and for those shoppers that didn't.

5.30 on a Sunday seemed like a wholly reasonable time to attend this event… that was, until I realised that there are two 5.30s on a Sunday. I know - can you believe it? Media briefing over and it’s straight into the racing at 7, with the mere mortals and 'fun' categories taking up the rest of the morning sessions. Highlights included a Bacon sarnie, and a slow motion bike crash.

No one drowned in the open water swim (the water in the quays basin is surprisingly clean), and some of the athletes could easily have stepped up into the elite categories given their performances.

Next up were the professional athletes. This is a fully sanctioned International Triathlon Union World Cup event, and as such there were competitors from all over the world, with many competitors from Australia, New Zealand and America.

Juniors were up first, and these only do a half distance - not that you'd call them lightweights. Britain has a wealth of talent that is being honed to perfection for the next Olympics.

Then onto the feature races which were covered by the BBC - hence the helicopter. First up were the women, who were led out of the water by Great Britain's Anneliese Heard, though by the end of the cycle and run she had been beaten by 3 minutes and was 18th. Liz Blatchford was our best hope in this race and came in 7th with the honours going to Samantha Warriner (New Zealand) from a tearful Mariana Ohata (Brazil) who just could not keep up with Samantha - who had a very strong run to overtake her and win by 23 seconds.

In the Elite men's race Great Britain had a good chance, being represented by the experienced Richard Stannard and the young Will Clarke, both who have good prospects. This is a world class field however and Stannard is just finding his form this year, after having taken on new coaching and physiotherapy to improve what has been an awkward running style in the past.

The swim went well for the Brits with Stannard in 3rd going into his weak event, the cycling. Andy Potts came out first though there was a bunch of 25 at the front who were all in contention. This looked like a good race in prospect.

The big screens around the quays showed the BBC footage of both the distant bike and the run loops and towards the end of the race one competitor eked out a big lead, funny how it always seems much easier at the front - he looked to be jogging. So it was that Brad Kahlefeldt (Australia) crossed the line 13 seconds ahead of Peter Robertson (Australia), with Will Clarke taking the final podium position before a partisan and appreciative crowd.

To get a step on a world podium at this level is a superb achievement for this 21 year old from Cambridge - he was 15th last year. We certainly expect big things from Will.

Richard Stannard (who I had been following with interest) placed 6th, only 18 seconds down on the leader. This is his best result at this level and he was pleased to do this on home soil, and was happy that his build up and training was starting to pay off with good results and feeling 'human' afterwards. Superb in an international field of 70 competitors.

Sir Rocco Forte was a headline sponsor and took part again, performing strongly in both the swim and bike sections, until an achilles injury forced him to stop competing. Sir Rocco also hosted the lavish 'Pasta Party' opener on the Friday at the Lowry Hotel, which was attended by most of the Elite athletes and many dignitaries including Downing Street darling Alastair Campbell and Emmerdale's Emma Atkins.

Winners? Anyone who jumped into the water to compete shows outstanding commitment and maybe a small tinge of masochism. Kind to spectators the weather may have been, with only a few dull moments and a few spots of rain, but the heat was not ideal for intense physical exertion (like carrying 20 pounds of camera gear around for 12 hours?).

If you want to catch up with the action, check out BBC Grandstand this weekend. The North West now had a set of established International venues capable of supporting diverse sport at the highest level, and showcasing the best in organisation, talent and support. Let’s hope that the Triathlon World Championship comes to Salford in 2010.

Chris Keller-Jackson

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