Dan Wilson was the winner of Challenge Shepparton this morning, so we caught up with the athlete to chat about the treacherous cross-winds and recap the ins and outs of the race.
“I wanted to get through it as efficiently as I could,” says Dan Wilson brightly, just a few hours after his triumph in country Victoria. “I don’t think I’ve ever raced in winds like that. There were crosswinds both ways. There wasn’t one free pedal stroke or any easy kilometres, it was a really tough bike.”
Clearly, the weather wasn’t the best for the athletes this morning but before we dive into the details of the desperately windy bike race, let’s check out how Wilson for Challenge Shepparton 2016.
Challenge Shepparton – Dan Wilson’s pre-race training regime
Just two weeks ago, Dan Wilson ran to victory with an impressive and seemingly tireless race at Noosa, so he’s had very little recovery time. “The two week turnaround is tricky,” says Dan. “A one week turnaround is easier, as you can take it easy – or three weeks is good because you can take a week to recover then get back into it.”
After battling three serious injuries in the past eighteen months, Dan knows the importance of recovery. “I kept intensity low the week after Noosa. I’ve got a heavy block of races coming up so I knew I had to keep up my fitness, but just take it easy. I did long, slow sessions in the week after Noosa,” Dan says slowly.
Dan Wilson’s Key Pre-Race Prep
Dan’s Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday sessions before the race were fairly normal. “Thursday was a reasonably easy day, then Friday was my travel and rest day; I jumped on the plane and drove up to Shepparton,” he adds. And, with the 2.5 hour flight and a further two hour drive, the trip to to Shepparton “is a fair bit of travel… not a huge amount, but enough.”
The champion arrived at 7pm, greeted the organisers and went to bed. “On Saturday, I went for a ride on the course, then checked out the swim. I did an interview for Challenge and we had a ‘meet the pros’ obligation, then I went for a little bike, had dinner and that was it,” says Dan casually.
Dan’s laid-back manner is so relaxed, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was just a young athlete ‘giving it a go’ when in reality he consistently takes his place on top of the podium.
Challenge Shepparton Swim – Dan Wilson’s tactic
After being able to create a significant gap between himself and the chase pack in the Noosa swim two weeks ago, Dan was keen to replicate the strategy, and began Challenge Shepparton on the far right of the pack. “I figured most people would start on the left,” he says. “I wanted to get some clear space and break it up as soon as possible, it was a pretty straight forward start.”
As Dan plunged into a fierce first position, Sam Betten was hot on his heels and the two began vying for the lead. “I felt a bit sluggish in my arms, but I figured I was getting the job done half decently,” says Dan, almost oblivious he’s one of the fastest long distance swimmers in Australia. “I pushed the swim hard but was still feeling really good. Me and Sam had a bit of a gap, and that was how I was planning to start the bike.”
Challenge Shepparton Bike – Dan Wilson’s approach
“With the crosswinds, there wasn’t much advantage in swapping around the pace setting with Sam; we just had to get down to it,” says Dan calmly. “It was hard trying to eat and drink though, because when you took a hand off the handlebars you got wobbly.” The fierce wind relentlessly pushed the riders from both sides on the excruciatingly flat course, and even stole Dan’s water bottle. “At the 35km mark I went to have a drink out my Aero bottle, but I dropped it. I lost 50g of carbs in the bottle, which lost me a bit of energy,” says Dan.
After riding consistently, Dan was feeling strong at the transition. “Matt Burton caught me at T2. I didn’t even see him, but he pretty much ran over the top of me when I was putting on my running shoes,” says Dan laughing. “I was just a bit after Lachie at the transition.”
Challenge Shepparton Run – Dan Wilson’s strategy
After an astoundingly powerful run at Noosa two weeks ago, Wilson was ready to do it again. “I was feeling positive and started pretty conservatively,” he explains. “I just didn’t max it out on the first lap.” He was far from taking it easy though, as Dan says: “I was running at a comfortably hard pace.”
As the race continued, he developed a greater gap between himself and the men behind him. “There are lots of U-turn sections, so you get a good look at the guys behind you,” he says. “I knew I was feeling comfortable and there was a big gap there so I was content to do what I had to do. I have more races this year, including Western Sydney in two weeks, so I wanted to get through it efficiently.”
Dan Wilson finished first with a bare chest thanks to a wardrobe malfunction, in just 3:50:45, over four minutes ahead of Matt Burton. With only two weeks until Western Sydney, we hope Dan gets to enkoy a little bit of celebrating before resuming his gruelling training schedule.