A small and fairly new river triathlon set in a picturesque part of Wiltshire. The Avon makes for a cold swim but the hilly bike course will get the legs of most cyclists burning.
Where: River Avon, Wiltshire, south England.
Distances: Sprint and Olympic
Olympic distance completed 2010
Official race website here.
- The Olympic is only split into two waves making the numbers in the river quite high – get out wide or in some space before the swim starts so you don’t get stuck in traffic and waste energy in the melee
- Go for a thick wetsuit – rivers aren’t that warm in May. If not, then just make sure you get some open water practice before the event
- Don’t swallow any water – rivers are grubby – David Walliams, Thames Tummy – need we say more!
- Have an energy or fruit drink in the transition area or on bike – there’s only water stations at two points on the run – also a can of coke at the finish is a good tip to avoid any stomach bugs from the river
- Train on some hilly cycle routes. The bike ride has some tough inclines and quite a lot of them
- Grow some balls – there are few rules they impose on a couple of the downhill stints but overall go for it and make up some time
- It shouldn’t be very windy and with lots of downhill sections, tri-bars are a good idea
- Save some juice for the run – even though it’s flat – it is a bit of a slog as you see the same scenery twice – also the 5th and 6th kilometre seemed ridiculously long (poor measuring?!)
This triathlon is quite new to the tri calendar. It doesn’t have a massive amount of people taking part, making it quite a low maintenance event for the organisers. Race packs don’t get sent out prior to the tri but we did get sent update emails and the race website is pretty informative.
The transition area could be better organised. It’s quite cramped and not completely obvious where everything is. It made it difficult for spectators to find a good spot to see the racers and get some snaps. Also there were a few idiots who thought they could drive down the track in their cars and ended up getting stranded where the race starts despite all the signs for the triathlon.
In terms of the course, the signage was excellent for both sprint/Olympic and all the stewards were spot-on for directing you the right way to go.
The smart phone scanners worked a treat so friends/family could track how well you’re doing during the tri and also the results were up online ridiculously quickly after the race.
What’s the course like?
The course is in a picturesque part of Somerset and Bradford-on-Avon itself is a very pretty village.
The swim is in the river Avon, while the cycle goes on a hilly route around many of the other surrounding villages and the run is along the canal and back.
We had emails pre-race warning of the high water level and extremely low temperatures of the river. They made it mandatory to wear long sleeves and gloves on the bike because of the 11 degree water but this was relaxed on the day as it had reached a barmy, almost tropical-like 12 degrees Celsius.
The swim was shortened the year we ran the race due to high river level with the strong currents. It went from a 1.5k to a 1k route for the Olympic distance.
The bike route had some seriously steep hills, which were nice and challenging. Brutal and snail-like going up. Fast and furious coming down.
The run was flat but scenic and easy to pace yourself as it was an out-and-back route. Also meant you got to see the ultra-hardcore race leaders flying past you.
How’s the atmosphere?
There’s not much opportunity for people coming to watch you on the bike or run so most of the spectators are gathered in and around the transition and the river.
There was good support coming out the swim and for the last tiny stretch of the run but overall quite a quiet race.
But as mentioned there aren’t loads of people taking part so it was never exactly going to be a Wembley atmosphere. As with many triathlons, it also starts at the crack of doom on a Sunday morning when most sensible people are in the land of nod.
How difficult is Bradford On Avon Triathlon?
The swim was the standard frantic start and it was pretty chilly. Once you get going the course isn’t too bad – for the Olympic you do a couple of laps but the canoes are there to help guide you.
You do have to fight a bit for room and also with the current for half of it but that’s part of the fun.
The cycle is comfortably the hardest part – lots of steep hills to climb up and fly down. It comes in at a few kilometers short of 40k though and with the downhill stretches it doesn’t take long. The run is just a solid slog. Very flat but after the bike ride, it’s taxing enough.
Overall it’s not too bad – just a steadfast Olympic tri and it seemed to be a good event early in the season to build up to the bigger races later in the summer for many competitors taking part.
What is there to do after the race in the area?
It’s a lovely part of the country and a fine place to spend a weekend away. There wasn’t much of a carnival atmosphere in the village for the event but the Olympic torch relay was coming through a few days later and there were some other sporting events that were all tied-in together.
There is also a good bike shop in the village if you need any last minute repairs or accessories! Not much of Bradford-on-Avon will be open when the race starts for spectators etc but by the time you finish there’s some good little cafes and pubs in the area to grab lunch.
You are only a few miles from Bath. Enough said.
Official Race website here.
Tourist information for the area here.
My Race Diary
Tri no.: 6
Time: 2 hours 24 minutes
This was only my second Olympic distance triathlon and my first of 2012; and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Despite all the warning emails about the water temperature, I didn’t find the river too bad. I normally use a short and thin surfing wetsuit but I upgraded to a thicker, full-body one, which probably helped.
It was slightly too big for me so slowed me down a tad but considering a few others seemed to be freezing their nuts off, I quite enjoyed the dip in the river. I did well in the swim and was 8th out of the water – I was a bit gutted they’d shortened the distance as its my strongest discipline but was happy with that result.
I was slow in transition as my hands were struggling to work and someone (who shall not be named) had safety pinned my race number to both sides of my cycling top!
I ended up coming mid-pack for the cycle but quite enjoyed some of the climbs. I only use a hybrid bike and it did seem everyone going past me looked like an extra from Tron with their latest high-tech bikes but I think that’s down to this event being a good warm-up race for the longer distance tris.
I was sluggish on the run which was a bit frustrating as I’d done a fair bit of running training but if your legs are gone, your legs are gone. Overall pleased with finishing easily in the top half and top ten for the swim. Would happily come back next year.