Triathletes warm up for Leeds’ day in the sporting spotlight

Swimmers at Roundhay Park. Picture Tony Johnson
Swimmers at Roundhay Park. Picture Tony Johnson
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Amateur triathletes from all over the UK and beyond have joined triathlon’s elite in getting to grips with Leeds’ debut ITU World Triathlon Series stage as another day in the sporting spotlight looms.

Triathlon exhibitions, demonstrations and Olympic meet-and-greet events took place in Leeds city centre today as thousands of amateur triathletes descended on Leeds Beckett University’s Rose Bowl to register for their own Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon experience.

Youths cycle in Roundhay Park  Picture Tony Johnson

Youths cycle in Roundhay Park Picture Tony Johnson

Meanwhile the crowds gathered in Roundhay Park for further exhibitions and a triathlon festival in which some of the sport’s elite competitors dipped their toes into Roundhay’s Waterloo Lake for the first time as beginners took on a Go Tri mini triathlon in front of interested onlookers.

Cyclists were seen riding from the city centre out to Roundhay to check in their own equipment at swim-to-bike and bike-to-run transition points as Leeds gears up for yet another day of world-class sport that will see the city’s landmarks beamed across the world on live television.

Around 5,000 amateurs will set out on a gruelling triathlon course - a 1.5km swim through Waterloo Lake, 41.5km bike ride from Roundhay through Headingley to the city centre and a 10km city run – hours before elite stars such as Leeds’ own Brownlee brothers do the same on a similar route tomorrow.

Tracy Bertran, a 46-year-old business consultant from Guildford, will be taking on the sprint distance amateur triathlon tomorrow with her friend Rose Corrigan, who is completing her first triathlon to mark her upcoming 50th birthday.

Tracy, who grew up in Yorkshire, said: “I’ve always watched the world series in London every year, my mum’s been to watch it in Madrid and Stockholm, and when I heard it was in Leeds I couldn’t resist the temptation to do it in my home county.

“I’m really looking forward to a great crowd, we are hoping for a brilliant atmosphere.”

Norfolk-based salesman Ian Bruce, 46, has ventured to Leeds for the first time since his childhood to compete in his first Olympic distance triathlon in memory of his late mum and in aid of the Bone Cancer Research Trust. He will be among the first wave of amateurs setting off tomorrow at 7am.

“The course is hilly, we don’t do hilly in Norfolk – for me it’s going to be a shock,” he said.

“Everyone here is really friendly, and it’s great to have this kind of thing outside London - it’s good to go and see other parts of the country.”

The Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds is one of nine ITU World Triathlon Series stages in 2016, and the last before much of the field fly to Rio for the 2016 summer Olympics.

With many of the top triathletes being based in Leeds, including the Bramhope-based Brownlee brothers and Team GB stars Non Stanford and Vicky Holland, who was milling around Leeds city centre this morning, hopes are high for an elite Team GB winner tomorrow.

The amateurs will set off from 7am and filter into the city centre throughout the morning before the elite women start in Roundhay at 1pm, and the men begin at 3.45pm.

Experienced amateur triathlete Duncan Eley travelled to Leeds with members of his local triathlon club, Ulverston Tri Club, and is hoping that the friendly nature of the sport shows through during Sunday’s event. He will be taking on the Olympic distance course.

The 35-year-old said: “It’s good to see the world series spread around - not just southerners like triathlon.

“It’s a great sport and a very friendly sport. Coming from a team sport background there’s far more encouragement from your fellow competitors – you don’t feel like you’re out there alone.”

Jack Buckner, chief executive of British Triathlon, explained that the tension is growing ahead of tomorrow’s main event but warned that amateurs should be wary of the undulating course that lays ahead for them.

“There is a great atmosphere, participation and a real buzz about it,” he said. “There’s a really nice feel and a good atmosphere brewing.

“Roundhay was great today with participation but people do seem to be nervous and excited about tomorrow. People are saying it’s quite a tough course – I’d say don’t underestimate it.”

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