Sundried ambassador Oliver Crossley won his Age Group at the ITU World Championships in Switzerland and is now World Champion. He tells us about his racing experience in Lausanne.
Racing at the AG World Championships was my main focus for this season. The European Championships went really well back in June, as I was able to retain my title from last year. Following that race, I managed to sneak in a few rest (active recovery) days before getting back on schedule in preparation for Lausanne. I worked closely with my coach to build a plan to ensure I was in the best shape possible come September.
I’m absolutely sure that consistency is key when it comes to training. This is not always possible when you have a full-time job but luckily, this year, I was able to complete every session, despite some being abroad or during work trips! I got to within 3 weeks of the race and everything was looking good, too good to be true actually. Everything that could have gone wrong in the 2 weeks before I boarded the plane to Switzerland did go wrong. My brake cable snapped, my chain buckled and my cleats snapped to name a few. Although very stressful, this turned out to be extremely lucky as it meant that when I arrived in Switzerland everything was in tiptop condition.
The Final Countdown
We landed in Geneva on the Wednesday, hired a van (big enough for 3 suitcases, a bike box, and 5 people) and drove around lake Geneva to Lausanne where we had booked an Airbnb 5km away from the race venue. We spent Thursday taking in the atmosphere, having a look at the run course and sorting out registration before going back to the apartment to assemble my bike.
The compulsory bike tinkering took the best part of Friday morning - just in time to recce the bike course with a group of other team GB athletes. We cycled the course, albeit the wrong way due to the races that were happening, to make sure there were no nasty surprises come Sunday.
It always seems to be extremely hot at these events and Lausanne was no different. I was hoping that the temperature would cool down for the race but the blazing sun and the crystal clear waters of Lake Geneva made for a perfect swim course recce on Saturday. It was obvious that it was going to be a non-wetsuit swim as the water was lovely and warm which meant that I ended up swimming a bit further than I should have as I didn’t want to get out! After racking my bike in transition, we went back to cook the traditional mound of pasta, put on our race tattoos and get an early night.
I’m always a bit nervous on race morning but I have the best family and fiancée anyone could wish for who put up with me getting a bit grumpy when things aren’t quite right. After transition set-up and warm-up, I took my pre-race gel and entered the holding pen to await the race start. This race was different to usual as there were so many entrants in my age group that it had to be split into 2 waves. I was in the later wave so I had some chasing to do (5 minutes)!
I like to take the swim out hard and get some clear water. This has always been my tactic since my first ever open water triathlon where I ended up in the dreaded swimming washing machine. I got a good amount of clear water by the 250m buoy and could only see one person in front of me. After the first turn there was a long (~700m) straight section which I spent trying to shake a swimmer that had caught my tail. Although I couldn’t shake him, we put a significant distance between the rest of the pack by the end of the swim. I climbed out onto the beach in second position, about a minute behind the lead swimmer.
This was a non-drafting race, which makes it a lot easier to plan for. During training, I had spent months on the turbo at target race power so I was confident that I would be able to repeat this. I got my head down and cycled hard. I do not remember much of the bike course as my focus was only on the 20m of road in front of me!
Coming into the last couple of km of the bike I knew I was in a good position. I heard my family shout “Come on Oliver, you can actually do this”. Without wanting to tell me directly, I knew this only meant one thing – I was winning the race!
Wow, this was hot! I spent the first 1km of the run settling into a rhythm, as I always go out of transition a bit fast! At about 1.5km I found myself running with a Mexican and a Swiss athlete and we began working together to push the pace on. We were giving each other encouragement up the hills (there were 2 very step ones) and the Mexican even offered me some of his water when I missed my cup at the aid station! By this point, it was into the high 20s Celsius so I was very thankful for the water!
After 1 lap of the 2-lap course, I knew that I had to give everything if I was going to win. I have never pushed so hard so far from the finish line but once I had started, there was no looking back. Coming down the finishing straight, I gave it absolutely everything, as I still wasn’t certain I was in the lead. I fell to the floor after crossing the line and after about 5 seconds I heard the commentator say, “Well done Oliver Crossley, our new World Champion!”
I knew I was in good shape and I always believed in myself, but when I actually won, I still couldn’t believe it!
I want to say a massive thank you to my coach Andy who has worked very closely with me to get to this point and to my family for their awesome support through training and racing!
About the author: Oliver Crossley is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.