When you think about French nationals, you probably think of a glamorous race in Nice or in Paris, but this year, it was held in Montlucon. If you don’t know where that is, don’t worry, I didn’t know either until last weekend. Montlucon is a charming city in the center of France, where the weather in October is grey, cold and rainy. The ideal conditions for someone born in Britany such as yours truly!
My guide Seb and I had lofty goals for this season, we wanted to go up in international rankings, qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics and show everyone that we could become one of the most competitive team on the circuit. But 2019 was a difficult year for us, we didn’t get to race for the French Team as much as we had hoped, we didn’t get many opportunities to showcase our talent. So before French Nationals, we felt as if we had something to prove to ourselves.
My best result at nationals was 4th , that was 2017. My goal was to at least finish on the podium, as close as possible to Antoine and Olivier, who recently placed 4th at the World Championships in Lausanne and who were the clear favorites for this race. The swim was canceled, the water was polluted. This was good for Seb and I, I still have a lot of work to do to improve in the water. The format of the race became a 2.5K run, a 20K hilly bike ride and a 5K run.
Antoine and Olivier started the run at an aggressive pace, Seb and I decided to try to follow and see what would happen. It was very excited for me to be able to hear their footsteps and to keep them as close as possible. We entered T1 just behind them, but had a bad transition and lost a few precious seconds.
Seb before his triathlon days was a pro cyclist, I always feel very safe behind him. The road was wet and very slippery, on a sharp left turn we went a little wide, we were about to fall, but Seb regained control of the tandem and simply said: “sorry about that Charles”. I later learned that another tandem crashed at that very spot, the stoker broke his femur.
Early in the second run, Seb told me: “this is when you need to think about your family Charles, this is when your hard work pays off”. We quickly realized however that Antoine and Olivier were too far ahead, our goal then became to protect our second place. My first podium at Nationals was just a few steps away! The course was technical, we finished strong with a healthy lead on the third duo (two minutes).
When we crossed the finish line, my mother immediately came to me and said that I looked “unwell”. She asked if I wanted something to eat. I, of course, just needed a few minutes to recover. It was wonderful to be able to share this moment with my family. The podium, the Marseillaise, the silver medal, I will never forget that feeling of joy and pride. The 2019 season ends on a beautiful note, thank you to everyone who supported me this year to pursue my dream, and a special thank you to Seb for pushing me to my limits!