A FORMER Olympic rower survived a puncture on his bicycle to win a new triathlon event near Henley, writes Jamie Presland.
Toby Garbett, a former Leander athlete, won the Conquer the Chilterns event, which was hosted by the Culden Faw estate on Sunday.
More than 100 people took part in the 1.9km swim, 86km cycle and 20km run, which was organised by F3 Events and took place both on the estate and nearby roads. There were also shorter courses for less experienced athletes.
Mr Garbett’s bid for victory was nearly derailed when a piece of flint pierced one of his tyres during the cycle section.
The 39-year-old, of Park Road, Henley, has represented Great Britain in triathlons and last year won the first Henley Highwayman event.
He said: “Because I’ve rowed at Leander and lived in Henley for such a long time I really wanted to win here.
“I went off hard as I was expecting it to be quite hard on the road and wanted to get ahead early and stay there.
“Because of the storms there was a lot of flint which washed off the fields and on to the road. I tried to avoid it but in the last few kilometres of the cycle I got a puncture. I couldn’t believe it — I’d worked so hard for the lead. I had to fix it on the side of the road and then managed to overtake a couple of people who had gone past me while I was stopped.
“I had some reservations about this event because some of the roads are quite tough but it was really well organised. It’s a great location and we had some fantastic weather on the day. I definitely want to see it come back and go from strength to strength.”
Kate Kelland was the first female to finish after taking part with Simon Kearns, who came third. They were cheered on by their children, Isabel Kelland and Amber Kearns.
Mr Kearns said: “It was a fantastic race with perfect conditions as the weather was phenomenal. We will definitely come back next year.”
Fellow competitor Tom Arnold, from Windsor, said: “The hardest bit was the run and I found I got worse and worse with each lap. I would do it again though.”
Steve Bonsell, from Milton Keynes, said: “I loved it. The swim was nice, the cycle was tricky in places and the run separated the men from the boys.
“Some people don’t like running up hills like that but my nickname among my friends is ‘Mountain Goat’ and I was flying!
“I think it’s a great event. It was organised well and it’s in a really nice location. It’s very friendly and just needs a few more supporters.”
The event is sponsored by fitness company Meglio and uses a similar route to the old Challenge Henley triathlon, which left the town in 2013 after three years following controversy over the need for 12-hour road closures and rows with local councillors.
The swim took place around Temple Island while the competitors travelled around Hambleden, Turville and Fair Mile in Henley for the cycle section.