Ribble-sponsored triathlete Ailbhe Carroll updates us on her eventful July at a European Cup triathlon in Spain
Oh my, Oh my, Oh my, my, my, July. Birthday month, kick start my international triathlon season month and fun times in warm places with cool people month… it was all there for the taking, but oh my, my, my, was it not to be!!!
July started off being a month filled with excitement. I was not really looking forward to the whole year older thing, but it was nice to spend time with friends and laugh at myself for being older. Laughter will keep you young they say!
On our way to sunny Spain
Next on the agenda was my first European Cup triathlon of the year and a trip to Spain with one of the funniest girls I know, Emma Sharkey, from the beautiful emerald isle of Ireland. Emma was flying from home and I was flying from the UK and we would meet in Spain and go from there. We would have each other so it would all be easy, breezy, beautiful, cover girl. We wish!
Delayed luggage coupled with our lack of Spanish had us off to a good start, but it had us laughing because there was nothing we could do. All luggage firmly in hand and all train tickets paid for, we were finally on our way to Barcelona and then the beautiful little seaside town of Altafulla. The heat made for a sweaty journey and Emma’s all black everything outfit left her hot, hot, hot! I also learned that jeans are just not meant for travel. Ever.
We found the hotel in Altafulla with little difficulty. We were here finally – straight to the sea for a swim please! We hopped into the sea and all was right in the world again. We did all the usual things after a day of travel with our bikes and then food, food… give us food! We got our bearings with where registration was, where the nicest Italian restaurants were and we even spotted the best Froyo (frozen yoghurt, Ed) shop for a treat after the race. We had it all done! We got this!
The next day we had the bike recce first thing. Altafulla was a really cool course with a nice big hill which intertwined its way through some old Spanish streets. It was super cool but this was as far as the love for the course grew for me. Up the hill for the first time and my bike became very vocal making all sorts of crazy noises. After much deliberation and some fiddling about with what I thought I may have done incorrectly when rebuilding my Ribble Aero 883, she seemed to be running smoothly thank god. A couple of more times up and over the hill and we were good to go.
Swim recce was next and as there is a lot less technical equipment involved for this section, it seemed to go rather swimmingly! Food, food, give us food! Once our hunger was put to bed we were free to relax and chill out, watching the WTS Hamburg race, before having to dash off to our registration and briefing.
Time for dinner…food again! Yay! Dinner done and home to do the last bits and bobs putting number stickers on bikes and helmets and then we were ready to sleep.
Triathlon race day
The next morning was a lazyish start as the race wasn’t until midday. A relaxed breakfast and a little nap before heading down. During our warm up my bike seemed to be running smoothly. I left Emma and decided I would do one more hill just to make sure my bike was ‘A OK’. Cue the disaster.
Seemingly my rear derailleur had been knocked in transit and it was spending a lot of time up against the spokes creating the noise I’d heard the day before. It had had enough on race morning though and got caught in the spokes which broke the replaceable derailleur hanger. With 45mins to race start I was without a working bike.
Panic… no, don’t panic. Who can help? Ring Stephen from Triathlon Ireland. He likes bikes. He will know. As expected he told me all the relevant details and what to do, but unless I could find a new hanger, I would be a little screwed.
The bike mechanic on site had an extensive tool kit – one small multi-tool. Great! What next? At this point I was stressing just a little. Everyone had racked their bikes and was down in swim warm-up. I was still in the athlete area with no tri-suit on and no bike to rack. These invaluable experiences in life that seem to be awful at the time, have to make sense at some point in your journey. Don’t panic.
I asked if could borrow a bike and the next minute along comes this bike. God knows what speed, or if any speed at all it was, how old it was and how much heavier than me it weighed but she went into transition and I would hop on later and see what happened.
Lets get it on
What happened next, not a whole lot. I had enough time to run down to swim warm up and take three strokes before we were called out of the water to line up. There was an Irish lady whose accent was more comforting than she knew at the time, who was shouting us on. My head was a ‘little’ frazzled and so the race wasn’t exactly what I had planned.
The swim seemed to just stay as one big group and I was at the back following feet constantly thinking about how this bike was going to be. Out of the swim, onto the bike and I could barely reach the handle bars or change gears! Disaster! One lap of the bike is all I could manage and made the decision to call it a day there. I don’t like giving up. Bike mishaps happen every day and are oh so fixable but this one was out of my control. Big lessons learned however – always carry spare hangers.
Emma went on to get the top 15 place we were both chasing. Go on Emmahuh!!
Race over and once packed we were on our way back to Barcelona where I would be leaving Emma who was staying there with friends for a night whilst I went back to the airport. We hopped onto our train in Altafulla and it was packed. I reminded myself to keep my phone in my hand as with a bag on my back and bike box in front of me, I wouldn’t be so sure that anything from my bag wouldn’t be stolen.
One hour passed on the train and our stop was coming up so I placed my phone in my bag. I strapped my bag and had it under my arm pit until the beeps to tell us the doors were about to open. I then doubled strapped it, grabbed the bike box and exited the train. I checked my bag and the phone was gone. Someone had stolen my phone. Now what?
I was leaving Emma and had no phone, no Spanish and no memory of Rich’s phone number to ring him and let him know the story. We went our separate ways. Emma messaged Rich and he eventually got word to the taxi driver collecting me that I needed a meet and greet at the airport. This was all beknownst to me. I arrived safely in the UK but there was no taxi driver to be seen. After some tears a very kind lady taxi driver who allowed me to use her phone to ring my mother. The taxi driver finally showed up and I was on route back to Loughborough. Just after midnight I arrived home a little worse for wear. All in a day’s work… who knew it could be so exciting.
Lessons learnt for next time
Not the trip I was after but these things happen. I learned more than you could even imagine. I dealt with the world of emotions. I laughed. I cried. It was all going on.
In light of it all, my poor Aero 883 had an emotional time also. It clearly came across some very rough luggage handlers at the airport. My bike box did extremely well to protect the frame as a whole and not allow the rough handlers to damage the frame itself. The bit that broke off is designed to do exactly that and with only costing a few pounds to fix I am very glad my Polaris bike box did its job and protected the frame which is slightly more expensive than a few pounds to replace!
Good equipment makes a huge difference and that is as simple as it gets really. Spend the dollar on good protective equipment and reap the benefits upon meeting a rough airport handler.
I am off to Sweden this week for another European Cup triathlon this weekend. Let’s hope the luck of the Irish stays with me this time round! Stay safe, stay happy and most importantly, stay healthy.
Ailbhe (Alva…just in case it’s slipped your mind!) 🙂