Natalie Van Coevorden is an Australian representative in Triathlon, having competed on the world stage since she left high school in 2010. The 24-year-old was born in Campbelltown, NSW and now splits her residence between Wollongong, NSW and Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain for training purposes. Van Coevorden has set her sights on representing Australia in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games and is training and competing relentlessly to achieve her goal.
Since Yokohama I’ve settled into my ‘Winter’ home in Vitoria Gasteiz in the Basque Country of Spain. It always feels like home and we have been spoiled with perfect weather since we have arrived. Vitoria is ideal for training and coming back every year I realise just how fortunate we are to have it as our training base overseas.
Last weekend I travelled to France to compete in the first GP of the season in Dunkerque with my French team Poissy Triathlon. I was unsure how I would go after a long week of travelling. My swim was not the best and I had to play catch up on the bike to get on the first pack. I felt really strong when I started running and ended up in a group of five girls with four girls up the road. The pace was fast with our group sprint finishing for top 10 places. I finished in 8th place with only nine seconds separating 3rd to me.
We had a solid week of training in Vitoria before driving to what feels like a home race in Madrid with it only three hours away. I haven’t been to Madrid since the WTS in 2013 so it was nice to get my bearings again and explore this year’s course. Riding the course on the day before was essential as the bike course was complex. It involved a 1.2km climb, tight downhill sections, a dark curvy tunnel with speed bumps and cobble stones everywhere which had to be negotiated on each of the six laps. I knew the course would be perfect for a small group to get away and I had to get comfortable with a lot of uncomfortables.
We were lucky on race day that the weather gods were kind to us and we got a cooler day then the previous days. We were getting highs of 37/38 degrees which made sleeping at night awful. I dove in with the intention of a fast first lap and by the second lap having an idea of who was around me. I was placed about 5th out of the first lap with three girls in pretty close range in front of me. I have a lot of confidence in my threshold swimming and by the first buoy I had latched onto the back of two
of them. The run to transition was a long way and I knew this was a critical moment to making or not making a group. By the time we got to the exit of the park to join the actual course to start our six laps, we had a good little group of eight up the first climb. I really enjoyed this course and after the first lap I got a good concept of what lines to ride especially through the tunnel. The long climb was definitely something I took advantage of to set a good tempo as it had straight and switchback sections. The course never really allows you to stop working physically or mentally. We worked really well together and every lap we gained time, having a 1:45 minute advantage by the end of the bike.
The run was described as flat but it was far from it. It doubled back on the ride course and it was undulating out and back. Thankfully the clouds gave us some relief from the blazing sun. For the first two laps I was chopping and changing out of 3/4/5 position. It took some time to get into a good rhythm and I found this towards the end of the second lap where I moved into 4th place. Third place was just ahead of me but I think after racing the past two weekends, you lose some of that top end speed. I finishing in 4th place about 17 seconds off the podium. I am pretty happy with how the race turned out and the course played into my strengths well.
It has been a consistent three weekends of racing with lots of processes executed. I know I have plenty more to work on and I am excited to keep progressing into the season. Next up is WTS Leeds in two weeks’ time.