Challenge Davos was set to be an interesting affair in the first place, however the weather certainly threw a curve ball and what transpired was perhaps a unique race format that has never been seen before. Originally the plan was a 1900m swim, 50km bike and 21.1km run. Although the bike leg was shortened, the route headed up and over the Fluelapass… twice. The climb had been used in many professional cycling races and is classed as a HC category climb, there was practically no flat, just up for 12km, down for 13km, then back up for 13km and finally a 12km descent into Davos. This certainly would have been a Challenge! Excuse the pun.
Unfortunately the expected mid 20 degrees weather never materialised and instead we were greeted with snow and ice when we arrived on the Thursday evening. The guys at Challenge were positive they would be able to hold a race, and it seemed they worked tirelessly to make that so. Race formats from a triathlon with neutralised transitions (to force people to change into suitable clothing) through to a half marathon run race were voiced, but the final plan wasn’t announced until the morning of the race.
Although the weather wasn’t as bad as expected on the Sunday morning, it was still hovering above zero and there were frequent flurries of snow and rain. The water temperature was a balmy 13 degrees, which could have allowed a swim, but unfortunately the factored in 3 degree air temperature meant it was too risky to allow athletes in the water. The climb up the Fluelapass was in the majority clear, despite the blanket of snow lining the sides of the road and valleys. However the organisers thought it would be a risk to allow athletes to descend the other side and risk getting stranded in the case of surprise snow storm. Eventually it was decided that there would be a 10k hill TT with neutralised descent, and transition at the bottom. Every athlete was allowed up to 35 minutes to get back to transition and change. This is where the tactics started… How hard do you ride, how much time do you take for transition etc.
For myself, my coach and I decided the best option was to ride to power and HR. This way I knew what my body could handle, having been at altitude a month prior to the event. I finished the 10km climb in just under 30 minutes, with an average HR of 174. Granted it was a hard climb, but I felt I had left enough in the tank to give the half marathon a good go. The fastest rider beat me up the climb by over two minutes and I believe I was the 8th or 9th rider on the road! It was set to be a guessing game on the four lap run around the lake. I thought the PRO athletes might try and work it so that the run was handicapped going on the hill TT times, meaning who ever crossed the line first would be the winner, nevertheless this wasn’t the case and Sven Riederer (Olympic medallist) shot out of transition. Myself and compatriot Mark Buckingham were trying to figure out when to start our run, so that we knew what we needed to do to get on the podium, however it soon became evident we would just have to run as hard as we could! After the first lap I knew Mark and I were the fastest on the course and we were soon catching athletes that set off ahead off us. The only big name behind was David Hauss, and having placed 4th at London 2012, he was certainly a threat for the podium.
Eventually we reeled in Thomas Steger and Pieter Heemeryck, who by then we had realised were our competition for a podium, along with Riederer and Hauss. However we were unsure how much time they had put into us on the bike and also how much earlier they had set off on the run. It certainly was two individual time trials. I crossed the line absolutely empty, in the last few kilometres by glutes had been giving way and I was dreaming of the spa back in the hotel we were put up in. Crossing the line I didn’t know where I had finished until the CEO of Challenge came over to me and clasped me on the back saying I had finished third. He must have been a math genius to work that one out!
Steger’s fastest bike split of the day meant he held onto first place after the run. However he only narrowly beat Pieter Heemeryck by 1.5 seconds, I was 50 seconds back, with Sven Riederer 9 seconds behind me and Mark Buckingham a few seconds further behind - It was certainly a close race! Challenge were great all weekend, making sure they managed to get a race sorted for the hundreds of athletes racing over the weekend, and it will certainly be a great race in future years. I will be heading back for sure.