English Riviera Triathlon

English Riviera Triathlon

After Eastbourne Triathlon was weathered out, I wanted to do another one to see where my ability was. I looked at my calendar and 29 / 30 June was the only weekend when I was available to race, and I looked at British Triathlon website to find a race on this weekend, with a flat bike course and a flat run course. I eventually narrowed myself into choosing between Cardiff and Torquay. I eventually signed up for Torquay because it was much cheaper than Cardiff, and it had a sea swim as well, despite preferring an urban environment.

Travel & accommodation

As Torquay is so far away from London (4 1/2 hours by train), I would have to travel the day before and book one night of hotel accommodation. I booked a pair of cheap inflexible train tickets between Clapham Junction and Torquay at £17.45 + £20.10 (after discount) with a bike reservation between Clapham Junction and Exeter, and a single room at Riviera Hotel for £42.50.

On the Friday before the race, I pumped up the tyres and took the bike out for a short ride without problem. However, the tube exploded while I was on the train from Kensal Rise to Clapham Junction on Saturday!!! I have done two triathlons and it was the second time my tube blew out just before a race!!! And unfortunately as I was travelling on an inflexible ticket I could not delay my journey from Clapham Junction to get my bike fixed in London, and I reached Torquay on time while replacing the tube on the train. I had only got one spare in my kit so I had already used the only spare before even getting to the start line.

Also, I couldn’t get the tyre pumped fully using my hand pump – the adapter couldn’t be locked tight to the valve and air leaked out as I pumped, and I was panicking at that point.

As the registration would close at 17:00, and my train arrived at Torquay at the same time, I headed straight to the registration after getting off the train. Afterwards I checked into the hotel. I then searched Google Maps for a bike store and found absolutely nothing open in the whole of Torquay, only showing something like B&Q (which closes at 20:00) and Argos.

I then decided to have a little swim at the beach first, and took a chance at the B&Q to see if I could get another hand pump or a tube. However, I saw a Halfords just next to Torr station on the way there, and it was just closed at 18:00!! I thought I checked Google well before 18:00 but it didn’t suggest Halfords as a result of bike shop!!!! Eventually I found nothing I wanted at B&Q. I then returned to town to have dinner and went back to the hotel.

The race

Fortunately there was a stand pump placed at the registration, I used it to get my tyre back to full pressure without a problem, suggesting that my hand pump was defective. My bike was race ready but naked (without the ability for fixing another flat), so I had to pray that it would last for another 40 km without blowing up.

I ate 4 baps (from a pack of 12 white rolls from a typical supermarket) before the race.

The swim

The swim was a sea swim with 2 laps. It was a beach start and low tide when the race started, and the water was shallow a long way out, so the organiser told no duck dive at the start.

The sea temperature was between 16 to 17 degrees so I didn’t use a wetsuit.

The swim course was a bit shorter than advertised with 1304 m registered on my watch, and I completed it in 24:48.32, 12/70 among all males, with the fastest doing it in 18:32.83.

Transition 1

It was a long run across the road from the beach to the transition area, which was timed separately.

I had accidentally entered the wrong lane in the transition, but fortunately it only cost me just seconds to get back to my bike.

I wiped off some water using my towel, then put on my clothes, socks, shoes, glasses and race belt. And finally helmet on and bike off.

It took me 2:20.00 from the swim out to the transition in, and 2:45.77 from the transition in to transition out. While I was in transition, I heard an announcement that the leader was already doing the second lap of the bike.

The bike

The bike course was 10 laps, which the organiser claimed a lap was 4 km flat.

However, not long after I started my ride, I saw a steep hill, and I was forced to use the lowest gear to get to the turning point on the top of the hill, with the speed dropping to about 9 km/h going up, and more than 40 km/h after turning. My first lap took me 9 1/2 minutes.

The second to the fifth lap took me 10 minutes each. The speed getting up the hill was not as good as the first lap but as I familiarised the turnings I could keep more of my downhill speed while travelling through the turns.

My bum started getting painful at about the fifth lap. Then my speed dropped further, with the sixth lap taking 11 minutes, the seventh lap taking 12 minutes, and the pain became increasingly intolerable. I also started feeling hungry as I suspect that I should have eaten 6 baps instead of 4 (my normal breakfast) and I didn’t take nutrition at T1.

I eventually had to roll occasionally even on the flat section in my final laps, and my uphill speed further dropped to about 7 km/h. My eighth lap took me 12 1/2 minutes, my ninth lap took me 13 minutes, and my final lap took me 12 minutes into T2. I was the slowest male on the bike leg, taking 1:50:03.96 to complete 10 laps with the fastest taking 58:22.72. It was a bit shorter than advertised with my watch registering 38.64 km.

Transition 2

I racked up my bike, removed my helmet, and drank half a 500 mL bottle of sport drink. This transition took me 1:27.62.

The run

The run was 2 1/4 laps, with each lap beginning with a flat run on the promenade towards the harbour, turning back to the same hill along the bike course, and back to the promenade. After two laps the course continued, but turned early on the promenade.

My bum was so painful that I had to start slow, but eventually settled at about 11 km/h on the flat section. However, my speed dropped to 7-8 km/h going up the hill and rose to 13-14 km/h going down.

I completed the run in 57:17.04, 55/70 of all males, with the fastest at 36:16.72. My watch showed 10.07 km for the run course.

My overall result was 3:18:42.73, 67/70 of all males, with the winning time at 1:55:51.62.


I want to get an early season time. I know that I am rubbish on any kind of hills so I wanted to avoid them, but the organiser lied to BTF saying a bike / run course with a hill as flat.

I then talked with the race organiser about it, and he told me that this race was already the flattest in the whole of Devon and the other races by the organiser were much hillier!

The elevation on the bike course was about 1% of the total length. In my experience commuting in London, it means some significant hills along the route, manageable for a short commute but not for a 40 km ride (I wouldn’t do a cycle commute on routes much hillier than this ratio).

In the future I’ll choose races more carefully to see if they are as flat as a train track, or a promenade ride / run.

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