Andrew Russell and Matt Sharpe recently learned what happens when training partners end up racing neck-and-neck in the final kilometre of a triathlon.
The two Victoria triathletes finished first and second, respectively, at the International Triathlon Union’s Continental Cup race in Magog, Que., on July 21.
The final kilometre was a scenario they’d been in many times over the past three years, having linked up dozens of times for training sessions, including many with Olympic team members Simon Whitfield and Kyle Jones.
“It was a situation that felt like a session in Beacon Hill Park, just running with your buddy and bringing out the best in each other,” Russell said.
But the race mentality is a different world, and even the keen sense of Sharpe, a youngster at 21-years-old, couldn’t match the late burst by Russell, who finished 16 seconds ahead for the win.
“We could see the turnaround point and knew we were quite a ways from the other runners behind us, so the race tactics shifted to us,” Sharpe said. “I know how fit Russell is, so I relaxed a bit as I knew he was going to surge. I figured he would, and on the final kilometre I couldn’t match him.”
The win is Russell’s first on the ITU circuit, a lifetime achievement he’s been chasing since moving to Victoria from Revelstoke with pro intentions five years ago.
And Sharpe has no problems finishing second to 30-year-old Russell.
It was only the fourth ITU race for Sharpe, a Claremont secondary grad, and he’s fast becoming an international threat, making a seamless transition from under-23 to the elite category. Last year Sharpe won his second Olympic distance race, taking gold in the U23 Pan American Cup race in San Francisco.
On July 8 Sharpe was eighth overall at the Edmonton ITU Triathlon World Cup race (Kyle Jones took gold). Sharpe was also the first among the U23 competitors in Edmonton, clinching him the Canadian U23 championship for 2012.
“Most athletes go through some growing pains with this transition as they figure it out,” Russell said. “Not Matt, who went from cramping and running the slowest 10km of his life in his first ITU to winning in San Francisco three weeks later, trumping two current Olympians in the process.”
Sharpe has blossomed under the guidance of coach Patrick Kelly and the National Triathlon Centre. He’s also trained with Russell and Whitfield, most recently for a two-month stint in New Zealand earlier this year.
“We met up with some more world-class athletes, and it was huge for my development,” Sharpe said.
Next up for Sharpe is the Kelowna Apple Triathlon on Aug. 18.
Don’t let Simon wear you down
This week Andrew Russell is in London, training with Simon Whitfield and Kyle Jones as the latter pair prep for their Olympic event on Aug. 7.
Russell will move on to an Ironman in Europe later this month.
Russell’s partnership with Whitfield dates back to 2007 when Russell arrived in Victoria. By 2009 Russell was regularly alongside Whitfield and Jones. Most recently, the trio is part of a highly elite group under the tutelage of Olympic marathoner turned coach Jon Brown.
It’s brought Russell to new heights, finally winning his first ITU this year. “Training alongside (Whitfield), a two-time medalist, has raised my game and I cannot thank him enough for that,” Russell said. “It has shown me what is possible with dedication and honest, hard work. The last three years I’ll cherish for sure.”
However, Russell said his group is not for everyone.
“The expectations and requirements each day with Simon are fierce and it can often wear on athletes. I learned that I am not Simon and I can’t handle the amount of training he does and the pace he does it in.
“You need to self-govern yourself within the program to get the most out of it while not getting run-down.
“Brown has been great with this aspect. He reads athletes well and balances my training to suit.”