After spending a significant portion of last season racing in Europe with much success, the Wurtele’s returned for last weekend’s Challenge Championship race and followed that up with Challenge Geraardsbergen, a race that Trevor Wurtele won last year and Heather put on her radar for the 2018 season.
Challenge Geraardsbergen is a particularly unique half distance triathlon race, the athletes ascend the fierce iconic climb – the Muur van Geraardsbergen – twice. The Muur is a steep and narrow cobbled climb well known in the cycling world and featured in the Tour of Flanders cycling classic.
Returning to test herself on the tough course and take the opportunity to race on the historic climb, Wurtele stated “I love that the Muur van Geraardsbergen is incorporated into this race! There is so much cycling history in this area with the Tour of Flanders – since 1913 – and it was super cool to be able to ride up this iconic climb in the race. Two times no less, with the second one at 85km in!”
“An average grade of 9% and max of 19% definitely hurt the legs, but it hurt so good! The people lining the course gave you so much energy and the whole experience was just awesome, though it was definitely a relief to make it to the top successfully”.
In atypical conditions, Wurtele cracked out a great swim setting herself up well to launch her crushing bike-run combo. Pleased to be in the mix right out of the water, Wurtele said “Weather in Belgium has been unusually warm lately, and with an 11am start it turned out to be a hot day. It was a non-wetsuit swim with a beach start (my favorite) so I was happy to be in the lead swim group of 3.”
At home on the challenging bike course, Wurtele broke free building a sizable gap stating “I pushed really hard on the first loop of the bike to get into the lead and was happy to finally open up a gap to my competition on the first trip up the Muur. The bike course was super challenging – tough climbs, lots of rolling terrain and technical corners through towns so it was easy to stay engaged, but also easy to ride too hard! I tried to save some energy for the second trip up the Muur and was happy to find the big crowds made it easier. “
“On the run I felt good – which was a relief since I haven’t had the best run legs in my past two races – and just kept the pressure on since I really had no idea of the time gaps to anyone else. The run was also challenging with some steep cobbled climbs up to the town square – it even included a lap of a running track. It is so cool to race in historic places like this and to finish in the heart of town.”
Sustaining her effort for a dominant bike-run combo to win Challenge Geraardsbergen in a time of 4:20:29 (5:50 ahead of 2nd place Katrien Verstuyft and 8:31 on 3rd place Alexandra Tondeur), Wurtele remarked, “It’s really cool that both Trevor and I have been able to win the race here. We both just really like tough, dynamic, interesting courses and this one really has it all. I can’t recommend this race highly enough.”
“I was disappointed with my race last weekend, finishing 6th at the Championship in Samorin, so I was really happy to have one of those days where it all came together and I felt strong throughout.”
“Honestly, part of it may just be having more time in the European time zone. It’s funny how sometimes your internal clock takes a while to cooperate.”
While Trevor is turning his focus back to IRONMAN Canada, Heather has her sights set on 70.3 Worlds and has plans for another half distance race prior to a big training block back at home in Canada heading into World Championships.
June 10, 2018
1. Heather Wurtele 4:20:29
2. Katrien Verstuyft 4:26:09
3. Alexandra Tondeur 4:29:00
4. Sonia Bracegirdle 4:43:51
5. Ewa Komander 4:44:53
6. Miriam van Reijen 4:46:42