Gillian jumps for joy | SASCOC - SASCOC

Gillian jumps for joy

By Mark Etheridge

Even with it being a “pre-season” race Olympic hopeful Gillian Sanders couldn’t hide her excitement at winning Sunday’s ITU Premium African Cup triathlon championships in Port Elizabeth.

The race incorporated the elite SA Olympic Distance championships and involved a 1500-metre swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.
Sanders, came home in 2hr 12min 08sec, 19 seconds ahead of All Africa Games champion Carlyn Fischer.

“I’m super-duper happy,” Sanders told Road to London 2012 on Tuesday from her parents’ home in Pietermaritzburg where she was resting up.

“I’ve got a lot of races coming up but given this result I’m extremely happy with my form and just as pleased to have taken the SA champs title.”

The swim leg involved a surf-swim as opposed to the usual inland swims used for most of the BSG-Energade series. “There were quite big waves and slow times for us which makes me think it was a little on the long side but I was still pleased with my swim.”

But then, memories of 2011 returned when she was plagued with bike problems. “I got a puncture in my back wheel just 200m into the ride. Luckily I had some sealant in the tube and it stopped the wheel from going totally flat. The girls in the pack kept telling me I had a flat but I just kept on riding,” she said.

“It seemed to just have enough air to still be able to ride on. I was on tenterhooks the whole ride hoping it didn’t go totally flat.”

Clearly the uncalled for extra resistance didn’t hold her back too much and she rode into T2 (second transition) as part of a large pack of about 10 cyclists.

In that pack were our top ranked triathlete from 2010 (as high as seventh in the world), Fischer, BSG-Energade Series winner Andrea Steyn, Mari Rabie and international entrant Katrien Verstuft of Belgium.

“We all came in together and soon a lead pack formed with me Kate, Carlyn, Katrien and Andrea. On the last of the running laps there were just me Carlyn and Katrien left in the group.”

The medals were going to come from this talented trio and it was Sanders who upped the pace. “With 1.25km to go I managed to make a move and took my first ITU Continental Cup win.”

She was quick to pay credit to her fellow podium finishers. “Credit must go to Carly and Katrien who both had great runs in very warm conditions.”

And she’s no doubt happy at her early season form. “Happy, I’m ecstatic with my form at this time of the year. I’ve just come off my base training block and not tapped into much speedwork at all… hopefully this bodes well for the rest of the year.”

Despite the puncture problems, London based Sanders still had the quickest bike and running legs, at 70:20 and 35:51 respectively and her dream of representing Team SA in London remains very much in her thoughts.