On Sunday Mark Buckingham won the British Elite Duathlon Championship 2011 at Prestwold Hall Airfield, Loughborough. He was joined by Holmfirth Harriers clubmate, Richard Anderson who has begun to emerge as another talented athlete after a period of sustained hard training.
The two men toed the line in the elite race for senior/junior men along with 61 athletes in a high calibre field. The race over the sprint distance of a 5k run (2 laps) followed by a 20k bike ride (8 laps) and a 2.5k run, got off to a brisk start, with Buckingham leading from the front. The men went through the first lap in 7.26 and 7.37 for the second lap where Buckingham entered transition in first place (15:03.45) followed closely by Todd Leckie, a medical student from Eastbourne who is a member of British Triathlon’s World Class Development Squad and Phil Wylie another talented athlete who won the event in 2008.
Buckingham, a member of British Triathlon’s “TriGold” squad, has benefitted from a move to Loughborough in October last year and is now training full-time as he makes the transition from mainstream athletics to the sport of triathlon. He demonstrated a slick transition in T1 with the second fastest time heading off on the bike with a clear lead. In contrast some of the athletes using “Pyro’s”, a stiff pedal platform that allows them to use their running shoes on the bike instead of changing footwear, were still no quicker and Leckie lost valuable time after forgetting where he had racked his bike!
Buckingham allowed the chasing group to catch him as 8 laps on his own in a draft-legal race would have been a tough option. A group of 7 athletes worked hard at the front to make a gap on the chasing group, after the first lap one rider dropped-off the back and by lap three a chasing group had caught the leaders, swelling the lead group to 13 after a lot of work done by Tom Lowe, a former Duathlon Champion with the nickname “The Lung”, due to his massive lung capacity and some extraordinary bike riding skills. On lap 7 Lowe made a break, which was covered by Buckingham and the two men broke away from the leaders and were first to T2, with Buckingham just 2 seconds ahead, recording a time of 29:52.30 for the bike leg. Lowe recorded the fastest bike time of 28:51.90, almost 35 quicker seconds quicker than the second fastest time.
The start of the final run looked very promising as the Holmfirth athlete opened a gap of 10 – 15 seconds, but Leckie began to close the gap as Buckingham was suffering with “jelly legs” after the bike ride. Leckie eventually caught him and as the athletes approached the final straight he had a good lead. Buckingham used his experience, not reacting immediately and giving himself the chance to recover before moving wide and sprinting the last 300 metres, winning in a finishing time of 55:33.10 (8:02.30 run 2), Leckie finished 2nd in 53:36.4 (7:52.75 run 2) and Phil Wylie recording the fastest time for the second run of 7:51.25 took the bronze medal in 53.43.25. Buckingham’s TriGold training partner was 4th 53:50.10 and Holmfirth’s Richard Anderson was a well deserved 14th in 56:01.50 (Run 1 15.47.80 10th, Bike 30:51.50 28th fastest, Run 2 8:36.90 12th fastest).
This race was a selection race for the European Elite Duathlon Championships to be held in Limerick, Ireland on Sunday 17 April 2011. Mark enters a busy period of competition as he travels to Turkey on Wednesday for the Antalya ITU Triathlon European Cup, his first International triathlon representing Great Britain and on Easter Sunday he will represent the French Grand Prix team, Mulhouse Olympique Triathlon at the Nice Grand Prix.
Report & Photos by John Buckingham