It has been a while since racing in Shepparton however I have fond memories of holding the course record on the previous track. The event now is conducted in the heart of Shepparton drawing on the towns support of sporting events.
Race day temperature was as close to ideal as you could ask for, a little chilly to start with, however perfect for racing once you got going. My plan was to take advantage of the strong swimmers Sam Betten, Nick Kastelein (Jan Frodeno's training partner), Mike Phillips and Matt Pellow both from New Zealand, sitting on their feet and trying to keep the heart rate low so that once on the bike I could take advantage of the gusty conditions.
After the five of us exited the lake in just over 23 minutes it was onto the bike. I took the first 5km to settle myself down and get comfortable before turning into the block head wind and surging to the front. For the next 20km I put my head down and focused on holding pace until the first turn around where I was surprised to see that I had already build a 2 minute lead. The remainder of the 90km bike leg I concentrated on keeping things strong. Riding a 2.06 for the 90km and obtaining a new 20min peak power output for a race scenario at the beginning. Happy days.
Dismounting the bike at T2 and onto the 3 lap 21km run my lead had built to 6-7minutes. I just wanted a smooth, steady run and to keep things in control and let the guys battle it out behind. Finding my legs straight away and settling into a steady tempo it was nice to enjoy the spectacular run course which covers bushland, park and lake taking in the support from athletes, family and friends eventually crossing the finish line in 3.51. Sam Betten edged out Nick Kastelein in the final 1km to take 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Challenge Shepparton Half was a fantastic event and I have always had fond memories of racing in the area. A race as good as any and one that I would recommend to anyone. Best Luke Bell.