Tom Bishop on racing Leeds WTCS

Last weekend we will witness some incredible feats of precision, control and innovation. The Sub7/Sub8 performances have shown that our sport is leading the way in technological advancement and how exciting this is for the spectator. I hope it’s the start of a revolution in long-course racing and I’m excited to see where it will go.

What to expect at the Leads WTCS

This coming weekend in Leeds will be quite the antithesis of what happened in Germany. The WTCS is furious, reactive and out of control (albeit for the winner). Yes, there are lots of constants such as nutritional strategies, clothing development, and shoe technology, but the focal areas are about the maximal output for an hour, not a test of endurance over half a day.

We’ll be operating way above threshold for most of the race whereas the Sub7/Sub8 teams would ride a precise line underneath the physiological turn-point.

The course in Leeds remains in Roundhay Park after it moved last year due to Covid-19 precautions. The reverse loop is much more challenging and the run course has been kept inside the park; for those who know Roundhay, that means only one thing – hills! Shortened from previous editions to a sprint distance the WTCS will be a lot close together, but that doesn’t mean the race won’t break apart either.

With a hill straight out of the swim, in typical Yorkshire fashion the bike won’t ease at all until the fast downhill towards the end of the lap. The second transition will have to cope with a downhill dismount and straight into a long drag uphill for the first 500m of the run.

After that, the gradient kicks up savagely. If you think the downhill will be an opportunity to recover, you’re mistaken! I feel the final 400m of each lap will be the most damaging of the race and I think it will be the fastest-ever finish to a race.

Tom getting in a hard bike-training session pre-Leeds (Credit: CSansomPhoto)

Focusing on race delivery

I’ve raced every edition of Leeds WTCS, some of which have been the highlights of my career. Last year It was a very different race for me with the pressure of the Olympic Games qualification on my shoulders, but I still raced well considering. This year it’s a completely different situation.

I spent the early winter recovering from a foot injury that I picked up last season. It’s fully recovered now, and, since my first two races of the year in spring, training has gone well, so I think I’m ready to deliver a performance I’m of. I’m seeing personal bests in training and taking a few Strava KOMs which is always a confidence boost, not that it’s ever an aim of training, just a perk!

There’s also an opportunity to qualify for our Commonwealth Games team, but that’s not my aim this weekend. I just want to focus on the processes of delivery and compete on my terms.
What’s also really exciting is that my girlfriend Siân Rainsley is competing in the women’s race. She’s currently ranked fourth in the series which is incredible for someone only in their second year of racing at the highest level. She has the opportunity to make the Commonwealth Games team too, but, like me, it’s all about focusing on race delivery and not the outcome.

This year’s only getting started. As I mentioned before, my first two races were more training exercises to see where my current level was and to identify areas to improve. I’m approaching this race in the same way. In the past, I’ve finished in fifth place but I’m in a different position now, and to target a finishing position won’t be conducive to a good performance.

I’m ranked last on Saturday after a tough couple of years, and I only got a start through the invite procedure. So a modest result is all I should hope for, but I’m feeling good and who knows what can happen when it comes to race day?!

Long-distance triathlon novice

After Leeds, there’s a big unknown for me. I’ve entered Challenge Wales and some other short-course races but it’s hard to plan with the uncertainty of selection and qualification. Challenge Wales has me excited, especially after last weekend’s races, but I’m a complete novice when it comes to long-distance racing so it’s just a learning experience.

The rest of my season is unknown. I’d love to plan an altitude training camp somewhere if the calendar permits as it’s one of my favorite things to do. You’ll be updated in my next piece about racing plans, camps band other current news which may occur henceforth.

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