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Gold for Henri, silver for Lauren at African Cup

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By Mark Etheridge

Commonwealth silver medallist Henri Schoeman has got his triathlon year off to a golden start with victory at the ATU African Cup sprint event on Cape Town’s West Coast at the weekend.
Schoeman, who was part of the four-strong team that were only beaten by England in the team-event in Glasgow, raced to victory over an international field with the podium being rounded off by athletes from Austria and Germany.
Distances involved were 750-metre for the swim, 20 kilometres for the cycle and 5km for the run.
Schoeman dipped under the 60-minute barrier with a winning time of 59min 42sec to beat Austria’s Lukas Hollaus into silver by eight seconds with German competitor Franz Loeschke third 10 seconds later.
An indication of the international flavour of the event is that Basson Engelbrecht (10th) was the only other South African in the top 10 finishers.
‘I’ve been looking forward to this race for a couple of weeks now,’ Schoeman told Road to Rio 2016. ‘I’m really excited to get this season started as the last two months has gone really well with training. I’m in very good shape and I wanted to see what I can do.
‘It was a cold start in the Blouberg waters but I swam better than previous years with the new Huub suit (Archimedes 2) that came out this year. I managed to create a gap and attempted to ride solo on the bike but with a 10m-an chase pack working well behind me, and with the wind, it would’ve taken a lot out of me to stay away so we came together after 7km. ‘
Out of T2 (second transition point), Loeschke had a great start to the final running leg. ‘But I slowly reeled him in and caught him by the 1km mark. Lukas was the only one who could stick with me and the three of us ran together with nothing in it. With a kilometre to go I decided to give it a go and created a small gap and I had to keep pushing to be able to win.
‘It’s great finally being able to win this race. The international guys made for some fast racing which is a good setup for Abu Dhabi coming up in three weeks. Congratulations to Franz and Lukas on the podium.’
Abu Dhabi sees the first leg of the ITU World Triathlon Series which once again includes Cape Town (April 25-26) on its global schedule of 10 fixtures.
In the women’s race it was 2011 All Africa Games team member Lauren Dance who was best South African finisher as she took silver behind visiting Bermudian athlete Flora Duffy.
Twenty-seven-year-old Duffy ran a combined time of 68:49 which saw her posting a 34-second victory margin over Dance.
There were also top 10 finishes for South African’s Vicky van der Merwe (fourth), Carlyn Fischer (fifth), Celeste Renaud (seventh), Jodie Berry (ninth) and Jayme-Sue Vermaas (10th). The last-mentioned was part of Team South Africa at the Youth Olympics in Cina last year while Fischer is the reigning All Africa Games women’s triathlon champion.
Dance was delighted with her first ‘proper’ race of the season. ‘My December’s off-season training went really well so I was pretty happy going into this race. I haven’t done any speedwork yet so I knew it was going to hurt a lot,’ she related to Road To Rio 2016.
‘I’ve been putting in plenty miles and hours in the pool so when I exited the water in the front pack I was giving myself a chance in the race. I still have a lot of work to do in the swim but am really happy it’s going in the right direction.
‘On the bike we were a group of about 7. My original plan was to try break away but Flora Duffy a very strong cyclist and two time olympian tried but couldn’t get away, so I decided to just relax and leave it to the run.
Heading out of T2 we were a group of five and I had no idea what my legs would do. I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly this group was whittling down which gave me some confidence. Flora broke away early and I was left running for second with Aoi [Kuamoto] from Japan. In the last 400m I made a surge and was able to get away and take silver.  All in all I was very happy with the overall performance. It was needed from a confidence perspective as well as a coaching perspective, that now we know we on the right track so can continue working on the same plan.’
Dance also pointed out the difference in her season’s preparations compared to previous years.
‘I was able to have a full base season, so was able to put in massive miles with lots of recovery. Usually I’m injured or sick so December was just ticking over and not proper training. My coach, Mike Moriarty, has also adjusted the load so that I do bigger, more intense, sessions now but with more recovery.’
Next up for Dance will be the national championships (and Africa Cup) in East London on 1 March.


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