Triathletes from Redhill are preparing to see their chosen sport on the Olympic stage by competing in world class championships themselves.

The Redhill Cycling Club extended its reach to include a triathlon club last year and now three of its members have qualified to represent Great Britain at a national competition.

Neil Candler, Simon Baldwin and Dave Willsher will all be competing at the ITU Age Group World Championships in Beijing in September.

To do so, they had to place in the top five of qualifying races held across the country.

Candler and Willsher will also be on the start line representing Great Britain at the European
Championships held in Israel next year.

Candler, who is a 33-year-old with a strong swimming background said: “Triathlon seems to be the next big thing, it is exciting and cool. It’s something everyone can improve in, and you get to practice three different sports, there is more variety.”

The three athletes will all be sporting GBR triathlon suits and admit to planning on framing them once they’ve completed the race in Beijing.

Willsher, 40, who shares the same swimming background said: “It has always been my dream to race for my country, ever since I was little I wanted to compete in Great British colours.”

The honour doesn’t come easily and there are only 20 places available in each male and female age group.

“To compete at this level, the battle is 50-percent mental. You train for nine months of a year to race for three of them, and there are always going to be times you just don’t feel like it, but you just have to just do it,” said Candler.

He is a project manager and currently commutes to London for work, and said: “To fit the hours in, I basically just I get up really early and train in the evening, too, when my son is asleep.”

“It is a struggle, and there really is no such thing as guilt free training. You just have to make the hours you have got count.”

Until last year Redhill and Reigate had no specific triathlon club. Willsher said: “Locally, we’ve got a swimming club, a running club and a cycling club, we didn’t have a triathlon club before and having that now is a real bonus.”

He added: “Last year I just had a plain black tri suit. Racing for a club feels special,
you feel like you belong to something bigger, triathlon is a very solo sport and it adds a team aspect.”

As well as the camaraderie of a club, preparations for the Olympics have provided a spotlight on sport and given the men inspiration.

Candler said: “The Olympics will make provision and breed excitement for sport in general, and it will carry a legacy for children.”

Willsher added: “You can already feel the excitement bubbling and I just hope that it has a genuine impact upon future generations.”

They hoped that the appearance on TV would give triathlon even more or a boost in the public eye.

Candler said: “The Hyde Park course may not be the most challenging for the athletes but it will certainly give people a great view of London and its sights.”

All three have their sights set on the athletes competing. With some promising athletes in the British circuit, they hope to see the country shine.

Under the light of the inaugural torch, however, hidden cracks can show and Baldwin said:
“The Olympics often produces surprise winners where the favourite folds under the pressure.”
Candler added: “You never know who might choke, or what is going to happen. Whatever does happen though, it’s going to be exciting.”

The Age Group championships are held annually and last year, Redhill cycling club member Jill Parker also qualified and scooped the Gold medal in her 30-34 years age group.

She also raced professionally against elite athletes and said: “To race for your country is just so amazing. When racing as an elite though, everything becomes much more serious. I found with age group racing, there was more banter between athletes. To race at an elite that level it really has to be your life, you have to be completely devoted.”

Jill was competing when the Redhill club chose to delve into triathlon and she said: “I joined the club as a cycling club so I could get used to riding in a group. They supported me so much, and improved my cycling. Adrian Webb (chairman) later decided to create the triathlon side, at first I almost was the triathlon club, but Neil and Dave put a lot of work in to make it what it is.”

She now coaches part time and works as a lawyer and said: “I love coaching. At first I thought I might be jealous of my athletes, but I’m not at all – I feel so proud watching them, almost like a mother.”

Going Long

The Redhill athletes will all be competing at Sprint (750m/20k/5k) and Standard distance (1.5k/40k/10k), but these races have a longer, more arduous cousin in ‘Ironman’, or ‘full distance’.

Baldwin, who is 43 and began his adventures into triathlon in 2003 has raced around 50 triathlon events including two Ironman races, consisting of a 2.4mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26mile run.

He said: “I would say I completed rather than competed at that distance. I think the Ironman distance is the pinnacle of Triathlon in difficulty, not only do you have to complete very long training sessions to be ready, it is very mentally challenging before you even start the race, and then physically it takes a lot longer to recover.”

Of the coming games, he said: “I think Olympics is always inspiring particularly to young people, but I would like to see Ironman distance in the Olympics.

“I believe that is where some of the most incredible athletes are in Triathlon such and it would inspire and amaze many people.

“The likes of lady British Triathelete Chrissie Wellington, 3 times Ironman World Champion and World record holder are truly amazing.”

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