Chester is a fantastic Tri location combining city centre for spectators/ weekend visitors with easy access into countryside for the bike leg. You can tell this event is run by Tri Club rather than a commercial organisation, representing good value at £70 Std, £120 Middle for well thought out goodies – quality t-shirt, gym towel, race belt, gels, free photos, water bottle and hoodie for those doing the half.
River Dee makes for a tough swim being further upstream than down, with some rumours (post event) of a sewage spill in the days before. Never-the-less navigation was straight forward with massive buoys. When watching you can pick out individual swimmers from the bank and run alongside to track progress if keen. Running up hill into T1 while trying to undo wetsuit catches out the un-prepared.
Middle distance option is a fairly recent, but welcome addition, already popular as a challenge in itself or practice for full Iron later in the year. Rolling start made sense given the numbers taking part, but some clearly weren’t expecting to jump in at the start – queue belly flop instead of intended dive. Early start for Middle made for a leisurely 9 to 10 off for Standard. Banding by age for Standard distance qualification race led to usual fast start.
Transition is in a park alongside the river, with racking well spaced for size of the event (900 Std, 400 Middle) and named spots easily found. One middle competitor was sufficiently relaxed to queue for the portaloos during T1 until someone suggested he should jump the queue, even then he came back out with his wetsuit back on!
Bike route uses closed roads to get out of the city before an enjoyable back road route through Cheshire and Welsh countryside. Only one real hill to speak of, followed by slightly sketchy descent on singletrack lane with potholes; these were well marked but one person did come off on a corner. Both Standard and Middle distance share the same course tacking on an extra 5k loop and second lap to get the middle up to 90k.
Returning to T2, the run exits the city for two laps via iconic suspension bridge over the river before following a largely riverside route through open fields. It was an incredibly warm day (by UK standards) so occasional shade was welcome as was water hand-outs. Again the middle largely shares the same course with those on the Standard taking an earlier dead-turn which led to some congestion.
Having run the event for 20 years there are significant numbers supporting and some nice touches like parking arranged with local school and pre-paid at registration. Temporary tattoo race numbers are liked by some for the pro race feel or just a pain to remove, leaving your corespondent looking an idiot at Todmorden pool two days later with them still firmly in place. Chester is a massive Tri club and it shows in the number of volunteers. Their spotlight member of the moment must be Louise Minchin from BBC Breakfast and now fully fledged Tri commentator, racing rather then helping, guess she was after a qualification spot.
Overall an excellent event with strong Calderdale turnout: myself, Simon and Caroline Fox completed the Standard distance along with our Chairman’s expected, but no less deserved, win on a far from perfect ankle. Fiona took on the Middle and in many ways put us all to shame battling through hottest part of the day while we stood and chatted. A number of Halifax Harriers also competing made for many familiar faces. Ever year Chester ask for feedback and i honestly don’t think theres anything that needs to change. Take a look for yourself at Channel 4 coverage https://youtu.be/kEDaOawh02o of 2015 or the organisers clips from 2018 https://www.facebook.com/DevaTriathlon/posts/2093522370662151.