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On the heels of his 2nd place podium at Challenge Heilbronn two weeks prior, Trevor Wurtele fought to the finish to claim his first win of the season in an epic battle on the run course at Challenge Geraardsbergen.

Having spent the latter part of May and all of June training and competing in Europe, Trevor and his wife Heather, have been soaking up the European lifestyle while enjoying their successes so far on the racing circuit. “Heather and I have really been enjoying this trip. We needed a change from North American racing.  We wanted to see other courses, other race organizations, and other athletes that tend to stay and race mainly in the huge European triathlon scene. The racing and training over here has truly reinvigorated our love of the sport. I can honestly say I’m having FUN racing.  Of course, I’ve always enjoyed it, but to actually be smiling and just being in a “This is really cool” mentality is something else.  All in all, we just needed a change, rather than going back to our usual races, doing the same routine. It was the best decision we made for this year.”

Starting off with a lake-to-lake swim at Challenge Geraardsbergen, Wurtele found himself with an expected gap out of the water in 6th position, 1:54 in arrears from the leaders McNeice and Heemeryck. Familiar with his competition, Wurtele said “I knew Heemeryck and McNeice would be tough to beat.  Both Pieter and I have been racing a lot, at The Championship in Slovakia 4 weeks ago, he beat me there by a few minutes.”

The bike section of Challenge Geraardsbergen offered up a unique ‘opportunity’ of racing twice up the famous Muur climb. A steep and narrow cobbled climb well known in the cycling world and featured in the Tour of Flanders cycling classic.

On the 3-lap bike course, Wurtele worked his way through the field along with Sanne Swolfs, catching the lead swimmer, Dylan McNeice, meanwhile Heemeryck continued to put time into the pair. Race day rain added an element to the challenging cobbled Muur climb as Wurtele explained “We got a little wet on race day which definitely added to the difficulty of the climb. If you’ve selected your gearing correctly it’s not an intimidating climb.  All said it’s only 1km long with 1 steep pitch of 50 meters. However, you throw a little rain on the cobbles, maybe a bigger gear than you want and then all of a sudden it’s not an easy hill to get up.”  Heemeryck continued to build on his lead with the exception of slipping the final time up the Muur and had to walk up with his bike.

Following a quick transition, Wurtele started the run 2:17 behind Heemeryck and 6 seconds ahead of Swolfs. The 3-loop run course had the athletes running on a track within the first kilometer of each lap, providing a great opportunity to gauge time gaps. Describing the chase and battle for the race win, Wurtele said, “On the first lap of the run course Heemeryck was already off the track. I only saw his back as he was running away. The second loop he was just barely coming off the track and he saw me coming on. By the 3rd loop, with 6km to go, Heemeryck was on the track at about 300m and not looking happy at all.”

“That was my ‘drop the hammer’ moment, thinking; I can close the 70 seconds or so within 6km.” 

Pulling off his best ever half distance run (1:13:02) and nailing the fastest run split of the day, 2:54 faster than Heemeryck, Wurtele said “I managed to catch him right in town as we hit 1km to go. When you’re a spectator that situation looks like a decisive pass, but it does not feel like that. I was looking behind me every 30 seconds that last km assuming he’d find a sprint or something. In reality, I know what that feels like to get passed, and it’s just not easy at all to increase your pace when you’re already at the limit.”

In the exciting finale, Wurtele outran Heemeryk by 2:54 to win Challenge Geraardsbergen by 38 seconds. Relieved his effort was rewarded with the victory Wurtele said

“My last win was Ironman Canada in 2013, so grabbing the top step again after so many podiums over the previous 4 seasons is a great feeling”.

“Racing through these smaller European towns where they always seem to have the run course and finish right in the middle of all the cafes and pubs makes for such motivating racing.”

Following a little break to watch the Tour de France live before joining Heather to watch her race Challenge Roth, the pair will then head to compete at Challenge Iceland and determine later if they will return to Europe for the fall racing season.

Challenge Geraardsbergen
July 2, 2017

1. Trevor Wurtele (CAN) 3:58:05
2. Pieter Heemeryk (BEL) 3:58:43
3. Sanne Swolfs (BEL) 4:02:03
4. Dylan McNeice (NZL) 4:03:02
5. Timothy Van Houtem (BEL) 4:04:05