Monday, 20 September 2021

Record number of competitors for Challenge Henley

A RECORD number of athletes took part in the third Challenge Henley triathlon and Henley half on Sunday.

A RECORD number of athletes took part in the third Challenge Henley triathlon and Henley half on Sunday.

Hundreds of spectators lined the streets of Henley and the surrounding villages to watch 1,400 competitors complete the iron-distance and half-iron endurance events.

Athletes ranged in age from their teens to their late sixties and came from around the world.

Entrants in the main event had to swim 3.8km along the Henley Royal Regatta reach, cycle 180m along a new route through the Chilterns and run 42.2km through Henley and along the Thames towpath.

The athletes were able to cross the finish line at Phyllis Court Club with their children or partners and one man chose to share the moment with his pug. Two marriage proposals were accepted on the finish line.

The race was won by Tom Lowe, who finished in eight hours, 30 minutes and 19 seconds, beating last year’s winner, Stephen Bayliss, into second place.

Lowe, who was supported by his girlfriend and four-times world Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington, did a victory lap of Phyllis Court Club following his win.

Bayliss’ wife, Bella, was the fastest female, finishing in a time of nine hours, 41 minutes and 46 seconds. She said the win was a “dream come true” as the event was her last race before retirement from the sport.

Yvette Grice, who won the inaugural race in 2011, finished second.

Former British swimmer Steve Parry was one of three Olympians taking part in this year’s event. He entertained the crowds by pretending to do the butterfly as he crossed the finish line of the Henley half in six hours, seven minutes and nine seconds.

Afterwards, he said the atmosphere was better than at the London marathon but called the run “horrendous”. He said: “The swim was over in 25 minutes and I felt like I did pretty good on the bike but there is far too much running in a triathlon.”

Parry, who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, was supported by a group of family and friends, including double Olympic rowing gold medallist James Cracknell.

He said it had been hard to find time to train as his second child, Florence, was born five weeks ago but admitted that he might have caught the triathlon bug.

“It has been a fabulous day out and the sense of achievement is huge,” he said. “It is a friendly event and you couldn’t have a better setting than in Henley — it is gorgeous.

“The people are lovely and they were cheering you through all the way around.”

Former Olympic skier Graham Bell, of New Street, Henley, completed the full Challenge event last year but chose to take part in the shorter race this time.

After finishing in five hours, 30 minutes and 59 seconds, he said he had made the right decision.

“You don’t dig as deep but you kind of push harder because you know it is not as far,” he said. “It was killer last year, a completely different ball game.”

However, Bell said he wouldn’t rule out returning to compete in the iron-distance race next year.

He added: “It is a beautiful place to do something like this. So many people come into Henley, see the town and enjoy it. I think it is brilliant and it would be a real shame if we lost it.”

Pole vaulter Nick Buckfield, the former British outdoor record holder, completed the iron- distance event in 12 hours, 30 minutes and six seconds.

Buckfield, who was racing in memory of his father who died when he was 12, posted a message on Twitter describing the race as “tough, very tough” and saying: “Henley rocks!”

Other local athletes who took part included Peter McNaughton, of Vicarage Road, Henley, who completed the half, finishing second in the 60 to 64 age category in a time of six hours, 40 minutes and 22 seconds.

The 60-year-old was inspired to take part after learning the crawl in order to take part in the Henley Classic swim event in the summer.

He said: “I have always been a runner so once my swimming was up to speed it seemed like a logical progression to do a triathlon.”

Mr McNaughton, who completed the running leg of Challenge Henley as part of a relay two years ago, said the cycle section was the hardest part.

“It just seemed to go on forever,” he said. “It was quite a tough course as we were always going up and down and there was not much flat but you could see all the pros racing around at the speed of light.”

He said crossing the finish line was an overwhelming experience.

“I felt tired and elated,” he said. “I was never really that sure I could do it so to have finished and be second in my age category is fantastic.”

He added: “We are so privileged in Henley to have this iron- distance event. There was such a good atmosphere and it really puts Henley on the map for a different reason other than rowing or the music festival.”

James Thompson, sales manager of AW Cycles in Henley Road, Caversham, completed the main event in 14 hours, 36 minutes and four seconds.

He said it was both the worst and best day of his life.

“There were so many times that I was really close to quitting but I had my friends and family’s voices in my head willing me to carry on,” he said.

“The swim really took a lot more out of me than I thought it would and then I struggled on the bike. When you are coming to the end of the cycle ride you are coming up to this marathon and you think, ‘how am I going to run 26 miles now?’ But I ploughed through and the next thing I knew I was crossing the finish line, which was such an amazing feeling.

“It was a moment of complete elation and it just made all of the hard work and pain worthwhile.”

Mr Thompson, 29, received medical attention after he finished as he had started shivering and was sick after being given some flapjacks in an attempt to raise his sugar levels.

“It is easy to forget how hard you are pushing your body,” he said. “You are taking it way out of its comfort zone, even having done so much training.”

Mr Thompson, who lives in Reading, was overtaken by his training partner Simon Rourke on the cycle section.

“The next time I saw him he was way ahead but I am genuinely pleased for him because he performed much better,” he said.

Mr Thompson celebrated his achievement with a couple of double cheeseburgers and chips.

He said: “You are burning nearly 14,000 calories across the day and all you are craving is fat and salt. I actually woke up in the middle of the night and had another double cheeseburger cold.”

Mr Thompson hopes the event will continue to be an annual fixture. “The majority of people in Henley were so supportive and I think it is a bit of a shame that there is the whole road closure controversy,” he said.

Mr Thompson was raising money for Sue Ryder.



ends



buckfield tri Olympic pole vaulter Nick Buckfield (please credit tri247.com)

1309172 Ladies runner-up Yvette Grice

1309173 L1309174 Ladies winner Bella Bayliss

1309175 A competitor cycles along Northfield End

1309176 A competitor cycles along Northfield End

1309177 Last year’s winner Stephen Bayliss, who finished second

1309179 Winner Tom Lowe (left) with race director Alan Rose

1309179 1309180 Winner Tom Lowe

1309181 Winner Tom Lowe

1309182 Winner Tom Lowe

1309183 Just Racing UK’s race director Alan Rose

1309184 Peter McNaughton, of Vicarage Road, who completed the Henley Half, and Carrie Hoskins, of Watermans Road, who completed the run leg of Henley Half as part of a relay team

1309185 Peter McNaughton, of Vicarage Road, crosses the finish line after completing the Henley Half

1308186 Carrie Hoskins, of Watermans Road, who completed the run leg of Henley Half as part of a relay team

1309188 Olympic swimmer Steve Parry with double Olympic gold medal winner James Cracknell

1309189 A competitor crosses the finished line with his children

1309190 Olympic swimmer Steve Parry with his Henley Half medal

1309191 Olympic swimmer Steve Parry crosses the finish line

1309192 Crowds line the finish

1309187 Bella Bayliss on the run leg

1309171 Olympic skier Graham Bell, who lives in New Street

1309167 Bella Bayliss begins the cycle leg

1309166 Ladies runner up Yvette Grice begins the cycle leg

1309165 Ladies runner up Yvette Grice exits the water

1309163 Mens runner up Stephen Bayliss exits the water

1309162 Competitors begin the 4.8km swim

1309161 Heavy mist delayed the start of the swim section of the race

text FORMER Olympic skier Graham Bell was among the local athletes who took part in the Henley half triathlon.

Bell, who lives in New Street, Henley completed the full Challenge event last year but chose to attempt the shorter race this time.

After finishing in five hours, 30 minutes and 59 seconds, he said had made the right decision.

“You don’t dig as deep but you kind of push harder because you know it is not as far,” he said. “It was killer last year, a completely different ball game.”

However, Bell said he wouldn’t rule out returning to compete in the iron-distance race next year.

He added: “It is a beautiful place to do something like this. So many people come into Henley, see the town and enjoy it. I think it is brilliant and it would be a real shame if we lost it.”

Peter McNaughton, of Vicarage Road,Henley, also completed the half triathlon, finishing second in the 60-64 age category in a time of six hours, 40 minutes and 22 seconds.

The 60-year-old was inspired to take part after learning the crawl in order to take part in the Henley Classic swim event in the summer.

He said: “I have always been a runner so once my swimming was up to speed it seemed like a logical progression to do a triathlon.”

Mr McNaughton, who completed the running leg of Challenge Henley as part of a relay two years ago, said the cycle section was the hardest part.

“It just seemed to go on forever,” he said. “It was quite a tough course as we were always going up and down and there was not much flat but you could see all the pros racing around at the speed of light.”

He said crossing the finish line was an overwhelming experience.

“I felt tried and elated,” he said. “I was never really that sure I could do it so to have finished and be second in my age category is fantastic.”

He added: “We are so privileged in Henley to have this iron distance event. There was such a good atmosphere and it really puts Henley in the map for a different reason other than rowing or the music festival.”

Mr McNaughton, who works in leadership and management development, now plans to compete in the Olympic sprint triathlon at Shiplake College.

Carrie Hoskins, 45, of Watermans Road, Henley, completed the running leg of the half triathlon as part of a relay team after a friend dropped out.

Mrs Hoskins, who also completed the running leg as part of a relay team in 2011, said: “I’ve gone from marathon running to small triathlons this year and it is just brilliant. It is such a great sport and it involves people of all ages.”

Mrs Hoskins said she hoped the event would return, adding: “It would be really sad if Henley was to lose it.

“Even if you are not sporty, if you come down and see the event you will see that it is amazing. There is a lovely atmosphere and that is what Henley is all about.”

Dentist Paul Stewart-Bennett, 61, and his son Christopher, 35, crossed the finish line together after completing the iron-distance event.

Mr Stewart-Bennett, of St Andrew’s Road, Henley, said: “I couldn’t have done it without Christopher and he wouldn’t have done it without me.

“We lost each other on the swim but apart from that we were always together. We crossed the line literally arm in arm at exactly the same time.”

They finished in 14 hours, 57 minutes and 33 seconds.

Mr Stuart-Bennett, who competed in the world rowing masters in Italy last week, said: “The whole thing is hard and you have to pace yourself.

“The swim was very straightforward, although it was quite difficult to see because it was misty. I was very wobbly getting out of the water.

“Cycling up Howe Hill first time round was no problem but it became harder as our legs tired. We had a walk-run strategy for the marathon, which worked pretty well.”

The father and son celebrated with a glass of champagne and a slice of pizza.

Mr Stuart-Bennett said he hoped the event would continue.

“I have been to world championships and I was a Games-Maker at the Olympics and the organisation for Challenge Henley matched anything I have done before,” he said.

“I know that the organisers have upset some people in the setting-up but when it came down to the day of the race it went very well.”

Mr Stuart-Bennett, who works at the Courtrai House dental practice in Reading Road, was raising money for Sue Ryder.

James Thompson to follow

More News:

POLL: Have your say