Challenge Forte Village: a tip top European race on an Italian Island

Rodolphe Von BergRace Report

I decided months ago to race in Sardinia at the Challenge Forte Village at the end of October because I heard it was a beautiful island, a well organized race, and most importantly a fun and challenging course, especially on the bike. And it definitely did not disappoint. It was twisty, very hilly (2h20 bike split) and technical. It was made even more challenging by the very high winds that day; it was a “real” course, and you had to have the complete package as a cyclist to ride well there.

The start list was the strongest it’s ever been at this race. At least 6 guys had the pedigree to win the race, and another 5 had a legit shot at the podium. The field was strong at this final race of the year for Challenge held as such an iconic destination.

Race day:

I’ll be honest: I wanted to win the race. 

The swim was two loops of 950m with wetsuits. The water was 21 celsius (69-70F) but due to the winds wetsuits were allowed. I started well, was in 5th-6th at the first buoy, and I stayed in that position for the first loop. I must have lost a few meters towards the end of the first loop because running out of the water there were a few guys with a 2-3sec advantage. We pretty caught back to them, but unfortunately, during the second loop we started catching all the Age Groupers and it became complete chaos. Somehow, and I don’t know how it happened, I exited the water in 8th with 20sec gap to the lead. I didn’t want to be 20″ down so I had to have a fast T1 and ride very hard for a couple km’s.

My helmet fell off my bike and the visor came off and I couldn’t ride fast enough at the beginning of the ride so I found myself alone on the bike, chasing 8 guys. After 5km I was 30sec down on the group.

At that point I was already disappointed with my race, but I had no other choice but to keep pushing, there was still a long way and I had to fight for as long as I could.

Little by little, my legs felt better. It was nothing amazing, but it became ok.

Photo Credit: Dirk Verstraete

Photo Credit: Tri247

On the climb at km25 I caught 3 guys. In the technical descent following the climb, I was able to drop them and continue my journey towards the front. At 50km, Bart Aernouts came by me riding like a madman and I couldn’t stay with him. He was impressive on the bike on that day with the best ride time by more than 3min. From 50km to 90km, I caught another 3 guys and dropped each of them. By the end of the 90km ride, and after 2h20 of riding, I entered T2 with a 35sec deficit to the 3 leaders. All that for that!

Photo Credit: Dirk Verstraete

I had to run down some strong guys upfront if I wanted to finish on the podium. The first 10.5km loop wasn’t great and I kept a steady pace but lost another 25″ on Aernouts and Molinari. By then, the eventual winner, Vicente Hernandez was already 2min30 ahead and cruising to victory. With a 1′ deficit on 2 guys, I knew I could catch them and finish 2nd, but 1′ is still a long way to catch up. When Trevor Wurtele caught me starting the second 10.5km loop, I started feeling better, and I told myself it’s now or never. I stayed with him for 2km, and then went for it. I ran pretty fast for 3.5km and caught Molinari who was still running pretty well. Aernouts was another 20-25sec ahead and I had to push push push to catch him in the last 4.5km. At 2km, I was 6sec behind him. At that point, I told myself I had to pass him and drop him right away. But I was running all out, and It stabilized at 6sec for 1km. I kept on trying to close the gap but just couldn’t. This went on for the last 1.5km of the race, and I stayed within sprinting distance but never could actually catch him. I was maxing out. I finished 7sec behind him. Bummer. But I gave my best, and with how the day started, I didn’t think I would have the legs to finish on the podium. But you have to keep fighting and I was pleased to come third!

1st – Vicente Hernandez (ESP) – 3:57:15
2nd – Bart Aernouts (BEL) – 4:01:08
3rd – Rodolphe Von Berg (USA) – 4:01:15

Now it’s time to fly back to Boulder in two days and prepare for IRONMAN 70.3 Los Cabos in two weeks. That will be another solid race with a stacked field. No more cherry picking in professional triathlon.

Thank you for the support: family, friends, agents, sponsors, it obviously couldn’t be done without all of you!

Watch race highlights here

70.3 Worlds!

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I haven’t updated my blog for quite a while now, but I am going to do a better job at it, and it starts here. 

Last weekend was one of the biggest races of my life in Chattanooga TN, for 70.3 World Championships. I travelled from Denver to Charlotte to Chattanooga, and my awesome homestay Jim Brewer came to get me at the airport. He has a very nice house and it was a pleasure staying there with other athletes such as Kevin Collington and Jeanni Seymour. 

On Thursday was the briefing, and below is a pic of me signing in on the big board for the big dance of the weekend!

Everything went smoothly before the race and having raced the week before in the Escape Des Moines race with Javier Gomez, and performed well against him, I was confident I could get in the Top10 in my first World Championship. 

RACE DAY

Swim: I executed my plan to stay at the front end of the front pack. I knew that maybe Ben Kanute and Gomez would be off the front, and that’s exactly what happened. I came out of the water in 6th with a time of 25’06, and I was out of T1 in 4th, setting myself up for a good day on the bike. 

Bike: I stayed with the top group with all the major players throughout the bike portion. Unfortunately, a 5′ penalty was given to me around mile 20-25 for slotting in, and that changed my day forever. A little depressed at first, I had no other choice but to adapt to the situation, and find a new objective, which ended being trying to push the pace as much as I could, and why not do a little breakaway. We ended up putting 3’30 on the chase group in the last 15 miles, which was a lot, but at the end of the bike segment, entering T2, I had to stop in the tent for 5′. 

Run: After stopping for 5′ in the penalty right before T2, I was slightly out of it, but at that point, I still had a chance at a Top10 finish if I had a great run. However, hard to have a great run when you’re not in the thick of it anymore, and when you just stood on the side of the road for 5′. I rolled into T2 with the second main pack including some fast runner such as Tutukin, Mendez, Collington, Collucci and Reid. I ran an average split on the very hilly run (1h17’30”) which gave me a 13th place finish. I had issues with psoas cramps in my stomach that slowed me down a fair amount from mile 7 to 10.5. 

Overall a day that could have been very good without the penalty, but that became pretty average with it. 13th in the world is still a solid result overall, and I can only build on that now. 13th in the world with pretty much 5′ added to my time, is solid. But I believe in executing what I came for, and in the result, and in the end the result was unsatisfactory, and I failed at my objective of a Top10. I’ll have to come back next year (South Africa) and the year after in Nice, France to improve on this finish. 

Thank you to all the Maverick team sponsors and to everybody following my journey, friends and family. In the end, I have the passion for the sport, but no PRO athlete could do it without some external motivation, we do it for other people too, to make them proud, and to achieve. So thank you to everybody contributing to my journey as an athlete. 

Next race: Lake Geneva Escape

 

St Anthony’s Race Report

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I was excited to get back to the St Anthony’s triathlon this year, after my 4th place in a stacked field 2 years ago. St Anthony’s is the number 1 Olympic distance non-draft race in the US with over 4,000 athletes and the course and organization are flawless. Also, the prize money is pretty solid compared to any other olympic race in the US.

After 2 disappointing races in Clermont and Sarasota I was happy to get the TT bike for a few weeks and do some non-drafting race!

I was staying with Davide Giardini in an awesome homestay with Gina-Marieand Jeremy very close to race site. They were very cool and provided us with a very specially decorated house, good food and a relaxing pre race stay.

Race morning was beautiful and with almost no wind the bay’s waters were calmer than ever.IMG_0408

I took a solid start and was very close to the lead. At one point though, John Rasmussen a fellow ITU athlete started dropping and somehow wouldn’t let me go ahead to bridge the gap. I had to produce a high effort to catch the leaders and I did very close to swim exit. That bridging effort enabled us to put a gap on the main pack of swimmers and we were 4 out together in the lead pack. Since I didn’t have a speed suit, I had a swift T1 and exited 1st!

I started quickly and Cam Dye passed me after 2km. I couldn’t follow him but kept the effort high. 10km later the main pack of contenders caught me. The rest of the ride was either moderate efforts at the rear of the non draft “pack”, or going as hard as I could to bridge up to Sam Appleton, Tyler Butterfield and Tim O’Donnell. In the end the main contenders pretty much all stayed together except for Cam Dye who had more than 2min lead in T2.

Coming out on the run the legs were a little heavy but I tried to quickly get up to pace to try and hit a low 32′ run. I was running pretty good, but I didn’t have that extra little energy or freshness to run as fast as I could. I could hold a high controlled effort, but I couldn’t really reach my max 10km speed and hold it. I ran with TO the whole way and decided to just sprint it out because I couldn’t really drop him. I got him on the sprint and ended 3rd behind Cam Dye and Ivan Tutukin from Russia who had a pretty swift run. I ended up with a 33’23 run for 10.2km (which gives about 32’45- 10km). A little disappointed with the run time.

 

Overall very happy with the weekend and nice to get some cash flowing in for the first time this season. I really hope the St Anthony’s triathlon stays on for as long as possible (it’s been a glorious 32years) and keeps on putting on a great event. Everybody loves it including me!

Thank you to Rudy Project North America, Huub Design and Kiwami for the product sponsor, and to my parents for making the whole thing possible!

Next race is in 2 weeks with the Huatulco ITU World Cup in SouthWest Mexico, a tropical place 🙂

 

Sarasota Sprint American Champs Race Report (15th)

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Another disappointing weekend for me in Sarasota with a 15th place finish.

I swam pretty solid and almost made the first pack but for a couple seconds I didn’t make it. The packs pretty much split not far ahead of me and I missed it. That’s always a big bummer because being in the front pack of just 10-12 guys is a huge advantage.

After riding solo for more than a loop (out of 3) I had to wait for the second pack of at least 15-20 guys. We (again) didn’t work very well due to more than half the group somewhat not wanting to do any work (even though they are out of contention) and we lost about 20 to 30″ to the front pack.

IMG_0320After a swift T2 I ran rather poorly and managed to finish 15th in a pretty solid field on a hot and windy Florida day.

My result would have been very different if I made that front pack but that’s ITU life, things can change drastically for a couple seconds lost putting your helmet on.

So overall very disappointed with my first 2 races of the season, but I’m still building my speed and I will improve without a doubt. There is now time for a solid 5 week training block before St Anthony’s triathlon (April 24th) and the Huatulco World Cup 2 weeks later.

There is hope 🙂

Thank you for the read

Rudy VB

Clermont ITU Race Report (11th)

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It didn’t go the way I wanted to, and I was definitely disappointed with my result.

I was ready to go and I’ve been training consistently for months. I was confident I could crack a Top5 and even get on the podium if everything went beautifully.

However after a pretty bad swim I quickly saw that it was going to be difficult to follow my expectations. And not feeling great on the swim wasn’t helped either by a dude who deliberately pulled my shoulder and whole body down and under the water and that happened at a critical point 100meters into the swim. That type of thing doesn’t happen by accident and I don’t think it is very sportsman like. I understand we’ll be swimming on each other and it will be a little violent but don’t deliberately pull somebody down.

However on the bike I quickly tried to organize and motivate our group (which is a very difficult thing oddly, considering everybody is out of contention at that point!!). We organized ok with the few elements that were willing and strong enough to pull (McElroy, Libin, Yorke, Hemming, ONeill- sorry if I forget someone 🙂 ) but we couldn’t catch the lead pack of 8 guys.

We came into T2 20 to 30 seconds down and I was out running in 3rd of our group. I maintained a solid pace (even though I was disappointed with my time and gap to the best runners) and missed out on the Top10 in 11th. Great job to the housemate for the weekend Matt McElroy (3rd) and to Ben Kanute for the win.

So overall very disappointed with the result but it’s now time to re concentrate for Sarasota next Saturday the 12th of March which is a more important race. After that there will be time to decide how to proceed for the rest of the season.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned 🙂

Rudy