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Interview: Elliot Smales, conqueror of 2016 Castle Triathlon Gauntlet Series
Elliot Smales is a name that may be unfamiliar to some of you, but that will not last for long. He has burst onto the triathlon long course scene with a very successful first year of racing at the middle distance, with the Castle Triathlon Gauntlet Series his main focus.
Smales, who had formerly targeted the British Super Series, has made a fruitful decision and been rewarded with wins at every event on the series so far, including: Lough Cutra Triathlon, Cholmondeley Triathlon, Castle Howard and Chateau de Chantilly. We caught up with Elliot to find out more.
Hi Elliot, congratulations on your recent win in France, tell us a bit about the race and how it panned out for you?
Thanks Richard. This race panned out a little different for me. It started off familiar with a solo swim trying to stay within myself. I started out my sporting career as a swimmer before transitioning to triathlon, so it’s been a pretty relaxing start to each middle distance race I’ve done this year.
There was a little hiccup when the lead kayak tried to take me around the Olympic distance course, but after a shout of ‘1900!’ i think he realised his mistake. The rest of the swim and long uphill run to transition was very uneventful.
I got a chance early on the bike to check the time split to other competitors on a small out and back section. I saw Tom Higgins moving well about 2 minutes back. 20km later he had caught me and was flying. This was where I was thankful I kept my head. It’s still only my first year over this distance and so I’m still relatively inexperienced. I decided to stay at my pace, which has been pretty steady on the bike, saving as much as possible for the run.
I then got caught by William Mennesson. I held him for the remainder of the cycles before overtaking him just before transition in order to have a clean run through. This is when I got a time gap of 3:30 to Tom. On the bike I’d thought he would have around 4 minutes so I was mentally prepared for trying to run that kind of gap down.
The plan was to run within myself for the first 10.5km lap then open the taps for the next if I had to. I probably put a little too much into the first lap but fortunately I could see Tom and moved into 1st at Around halfway of the 21km run. I knew from now it was just making sure no one was running up from behind. I started to ease off a bit but the increasing temperature and sunny skies would of made it harder to go any faster.
You are on a run of great form at the moment, particularly in the CTS. What is it about these races and this competition that brings you back for more again and again, and why do you have the edge so consistently?
As I mentioned, it’s my first year of racing middle distance so I didn’t want to jump straight into the deep end and travel too far afield, but I did still want a strong level of competition. The Castle series is perfect for this, it attracts strong fields, on challenging courses, with great organisation which ultimately leads to no extra stress to take away from the race experience.
I think the nature of the courses have helped me to my wins. I love cross country running and the hilly bike courses suit my riding style well. It’s all strength stuff really, and that’s what I like.
Tell us a bit about you and your career in triathlon, your achievements and your current set up?
This year has been a breakthrough year for me taking some wins on the Castle series, 5150 Warsaw, and a 5th place overall finish on the Mgen FitDays Irontour against some strong competition.
I’m heading into my final year of university and have already spent 3 within the triathlon program in Leeds on the development squad. It’s a great set up and perfect environment for training.
Before this year I was regularly competing in the British super series and European cups. I struggled and steadily improved but made the jump into longer distance this year which seems to be paying off. I’m enjoying the racing much more and the style seems to suit my abilities better, shown in the success I’m having.
Hever Castle is coming up, will you be racing and any tips for first timers?
I’ve decided to not race Hever castle, as much as the hilly bike would suit me, I can feel my body needs a rest and it’s been a long season. For anyone racing there for the first time I’d advise not to go too deep on the bike. It’s a tough course and will take it’s toll.
The first bit of the run is also uphill so settling in slowly before cranking up the pace would be my advise. If you feel good on the run there’s no better experience, if you go too hard on the bike and feel terrible i’ts not that fun. As I found out at the first Castle race in Ireland in May.
Whats your dreams and goals in the sport and what will you hope to show in the next 6-24 months?
My first aim is to have another great injury free winter. I ran a lot last year which has paid off. I know now thought my weakness over middle distance will be the bike, so a lot of bike miles will need to be done. probably mixed in with more specific time trial work than I’ve done before.
I’ve really struggled with position and fit on the bike this year, somewhere I’m probably losing some free time to the competition so I’d like to get that sorted sooner rather than later so I can train in the position instead of just racing in it.
I’ll do some of the major cross country races to keep the speed up and maybe some sun over the new year to get a good couple of bike mile weeks in. Next year I’d like to see how I stack up against the big boys on the Ironman and Challenge circuit. My swim should be up there and hopefully I can hold on during the bike. After that I think it’ll be interesting to see how fast I can run if really pushed.
I’ll probably keep my hand in some of the shorter elite drafting races domestically as the speed is really useful. My main goal for the next 2 years is to start becoming competitive in professional middle distance racing.
I’d also like to thank Pedalcover insurance for the support they’ve provided me this year. I’ve joined the new founded team with hopefully some exciting things to come next season, so watch this space!
"Interview: Elliot Smales, conqueror of 2016 Castle Triathlon Gauntlet Series",