Sunday, November 13, 2011

ITU World Championship

The earlier part of last weekend's odyssey was a quick trip to Las Vegas for the opportunity to photograph the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, a race boasting world-class athletes and much of the storied Silverman course.  This opportunity was one I couldn't pass up since it included a media motorcycle, and as we all know, access is everything!

I met up with a mate from New Zealand, Pete (and his fiancee Alex), and was able to crash at his homestay, courtesy of a lovely Aussie named Margaret.  Hi to all of you if you're reading this!  The night before the race brought a change in the weather, including a rainstorm.  We knew that the storm would clear by morning, but none of us knew just what an impact that blustery pre-race day would have...

Lake Las Vegas, waters never to be plundered

As we were walking up to Lake Las Vegas on race morning, rumors were abuzz that the swim had been canceled.  Sure enough, they held true; the storm's influence on the air temperature, as well as the rain's influence on the water temperature, put the combination of the two off the ITU's chart of contingency plans, and they demanded that the swim be canceled.  If I had been racing, I would have had my own emotions and reaction to deal with, but instead of a backpack full of spandex, I had a backpack full of photo gear, and that meant I got to observe how everyone else dealt with it.  For every strong swimmer who was absolutely furious (like Pete), there was another weak swimmer grinning from ear to ear and jumping up and down.

This race was scheduled to be a 4k swim/120k bike/30k run, and as such, the swim is proportionally longer than it is in most other recognized triathlons.  Strong swimmer?  Open up a gap and laugh all the way to the finish.  Weak swimmer?  No matter how strong on land, highly unlikely to claw your way back into contention.  Taking the swim out wholly changed the race dynamics for age-groupers and pros alike.  The call was made to start the race on the bike with 5 seconds between each athlete.  This also had the effect of each racer not necessarily knowing where he or she might stand with other racers out on course, at least without doing lots of math, which certainly isn't my strong suit after 6 hours racing in the red...

Lots of expensive wheels lie in wait in T1

So...the media motorcycle: meet Tim.

Hi, Tim!

Tim proudly piloted a BMW 1150 GS, a ripping all-road bike with camera gear-friendly Peli cases for saddlebags.  Score.  Tim, being awesome, was keen to go all across the desert to get the shot, and was a great buddy for the day.  We only got pulled over once, and that was for me doing the responsible thing, namely riding backwards on the bike to get The Shot.  Whatever.

Anyhow, Tim's radness mostly took my mind off the photos I had scoped out the day prior for the swim.  So onto the bike we go...

Jordan Rapp (USA), Massimo Cigana (ITA), and Sylvain Sudrie (FRA) maintain their 12m draft zone

Rapp opens up the throttle to hurt Cigana and Sudrie

Further up the road, Martin Jensen (DEN) leads solo

Jensen opens his gap on the others

The Rapp group crosses a bridge on the way out of Lake Mead National Monument (90mm TS-E, in case you're photoshop trickery here)

Joe Gambles (AUS) leads his group including Michael Raelert (GER) through the Three Sisters (of Silverman infamy)

Gambles tops out the third Sister

Unidentified racer absorbs Cancer Waves along the Bike Path to Nowhere

I have to admit that the huge hookup of the motorcycle got me caught up in following the race more than I intended.  My Plan, since I wasn't working for any particular media group, was to make a handful of rad photos instead of following the leaders, but the shortened race and its quick pace threw me off, and I don't think I did the course the justice it deserved.  Furthermore, the midway bike turnaround for this race skipped most of Silverman's ridiculous scenery.  Enough with the excuses.  On to a few run photos.

Perfect handoff for Kelmerson Buck (BRA)

Caroline Steffen (SUI) casts a long shadow

Leanda Cave (GBR) ticks off the miles

Raelert hasn't quite rejoined consciousness in the classical sense yet.  Pretty impressive that he still ran nineteen 6:20 miles in that state (he claims to not remember anything after halfway on the bike)!

Pete and his futuro-shades

In the end, it was a solid victory for Rapp, who ran down Jensen (eventually 4th) on the run and also held off Gambles and Sudrie.  On the women's side, it was a 1-2 for Great Britain, with Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave taking home top honors.  They had lots of lead changes on the run, and Meredith Kessler (USA) and Nikki Butterfield (AUS) rounded out the top 4.  Again, a bummer for all involved that there wasn't a swim, but that's what the racing gods had to offer that day, and not much else can be said about it.

So that was the race.  Pretty darn fun.  After a few hours laying low at Margaret's house and charging my batteries (literally and figuratively), she dropped me to the airport and I headed back north to continue the rest of the odyssey as previously documented.  What a weekend!


No comments:

Past Detritus