Over 1300 competitors enjoyed exhilarating racing and a festival atmosphere on a glorious summers day at Lough Cutra Castle Triathlon, Gort, Co. Galway recently.
The private Castle hit the headlines last year when it hosted Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. This year it was the record crowds and the triathlon that had people talking at the venue. Eight races were on offer with competitors from 7 years old right up to 70, from half a dozen different countries and nearly 70 triathlon clubs. Charity partners ISPCC Childline were well represented with 16 competitors in the field.
Bailey Matthews, the inspirational 9 year old from Doncaster who has cerebral palsy, stole the show at the finish line. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd as the plucky young boy made his way unaided across the line. Bailey swims unaided and although he finds staying on his feet difficult, he determinedly runs into transition to get his adapted bike for the second leg. He completes the run section on an adapted walker but likes to challenge himself by finishing without it. A winner at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards last December, Bailey completed his first-ever triathlon last summer at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. At Lough Cutra Castle he did the children’s Widgeon event involving a 100m lake swim, 4km cycle and 800m run, all accompanied by his proud Dad Jonathan. Bailey’s Mum Julie was waiting on the finish line and his brother Finlay placed the finishing medal around his neck.
Kieran Jackson (Waterford Tri Club), last year’s Super Sprint winner, had a mighty tussle in the Men’s Standard triathlon with the title holder Aichlinn O’Reilly from Westport Tri Club. Kieran was first out of the water, bagging the Speedo prize for fastest 1500m swim on the day (18.33 minutes), but Aichlinn put in a great 40k bike leg so they went through transition together. Kieran established a lead over the final 10k run and finished strongly in a time of 1:59:44 setting a new course record. “I had a great swim”, said a visibly exhausted Kieran after the finish, “The cycle was tough, it got very hot out there and the run was really challenging in that heat. I’m thrilled with the win”. Aichlinn bettered his 2015 time by more than two minutes. Bernard McCullagh from Omagh was third in 2:03:34.
The Women’s Standard distance saw GB elite challenger Catherine Jameson win comfortably in a time of 2:16:28, beating her own course record, set two years ago, by just 16 seconds. Marie Boyle of Team Hurt Locker/Tri Sport finished second in 2:28:56 followed by Jessica Bruton from Cobh Tri Club in 2:36:33. “What a lovely swim that was, perfect water temperature and a calm flat lake”, smiled Catherine, “The cycle was deceptively difficult, it had some very fast sections, but with the rolling landscape, it was tough keeping a rhythm going. I enjoyed the off road run – but it was very hot out there”. Catherine won the women’s fastest swim prize from Speedo in 19.47 minutes.
The longest race, The Gauntlet, is a challenging half iron distance and was a Triathlon Ireland National Series race.
Unfortunately, early morning dense fog failed to clear and despite several delays of the start, officials deemed it unsafe to allow competitors in the lake for the planned 1.9k swim. Instead the event was reorganised into a duathlon – a 7k run followed by 96k cycle and finishing with a 14k run. A record 420 competitors took part and although clearly disappointed not to swim, took on the alternative challenge with enthusiasm. Elliot Smales of Sheffield Tri Club crossed the line in first place (3:47:07) followed by Alan Kenny of 3D Tri Club (3:49:29) and Donegalman Aidan Callaghan (3:53:40) in third. The women’s Gauntlet was won by Jenna Henning of Lisburn Tri Club (4:24:08)
Johnny Rowland from Ballina won the Sprint Plus race (800m/44km/8km) in 2:02:28 just pipping Rob Lennon from Galway by 23 seconds. The women’s race winner was Mairead Elliot from GoTri in 2:14:20. The Super Sprint was won by Cathal Browne from Ennis Tri Club (1:06:42), with Maeva Geyer Carles – CRV Lyon Triathlon coming all the way from France to win the women’s race in 1:12:53. Josh Rayner won the Starter Sprint in 45:40, with Laura Darby of Galway Tri Club victorious in the women’s race in 56:22.
The event village buzzed with a festival atmosphere all day long with happy children taking full advantage of the bouncy castle inflatables and climbing wall. Warm sunshine encouraged picnics and al fresco dining for all.
The Lough Cutra Castle Triathlon is the first of the five Castle Triathlon Series weekend events for summer 2016. Each Castle offers a high quality, competitive and safe race set in beautiful grounds and truly spectacular surroundings, testament to the 15,000 competitors who are set to take part in the Series in Ireland, England and France this year. They are already getting bookings for next year’s race which takes place on Sunday 28th May 2017. Bookings for 2017 are already open with an attractive early bird 30% discount.