Last weekend I raced the Challenge in Geraardsbergen, a race on home soil. This year it also was the Belgian National championship which added an extra dimension to the race. After a very good swim, I was able to come out of the water in first position, 5 seconds ahead of a group containing some of the other favourites. My plan was to go hard in the first lap of the two-lap bike course where we had to climb the famously steep "Muur van Geraardsbergen" to finish every lap. After the first lap of 45 km, I already had a gap of more than 3 minutes back to the second placed athlete, so I decided to ride a bit more controlled for the rest of the bike. After leading the swim and bike I was able to start the run solo in first place, ahead of Joe Skipper who came into T2 in second. I knew Joe was a fast runner, so continued to push the pace hard. However, I soon found out that Joe had to pull out of the race because of an injury. At this point, I knew that the victory was safe because I had a 5 minutes lead over Thomas Steger and David Bishop. With all of the Belgian crowds, it was very nice to lead from beginning till the end. It was the second time I could win an International race in my home country and with the win, I now have 650 points more than second place in the World Challenge Bonus ranking, so it was a good day at the office! Next up for me is the European Championship 70.3 in Elsinore this weekend where I am hoping for a spot on the podium!
After exiting the swim in 26:57, I knew I had a gap of 1:30 to make up on the super swimmer Fenella Langridge who was leading the race. I knew that I could take over the control of the race on the bike, so I started to push the pedals as hard as I could to catch the leader. After making up the 90-second deficit within the first 40 kilometres, I was able to open up a gap and in the process, I set the fastest bike split of the day (2:26:07). I started the half marathon with a lead of over a minute and was in full control of the race, and ended up opening up a bigger lead on the final leg. After a strong run (1:23:01), I crossed the line to take the win at Challenge Geraardsbergen - ahead of Fenella Langridge from Great Britain (4:20:46) and Sara van de Vel from Belgium (4:23:45).
I’m really happy to have proved that I’m in good shape two weeks ahead of the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt, by winning Challenge Geraardsbergen with a new course record! (4:18:32). The race went well, but it looked easier than it felt! I had some pretty tough times during the race as I had recently put in a big training block after Challenge Samorin, in order to perform well at IRONMAN Frankfurt in two weeks. I was training hard the days before the race, instead of recovering as usual, which makes me feel even happier about the result.