Rachel captures age group gold for Britain - The Evesham Observer

Rachel captures age group gold for Britain

Evesham Editorial 7th May, 2019 Updated: 8th May, 2019   0

FIFTY-year-old NHS worker Rachel Kirkwood is celebrating world championship success after claiming gold at an international triathlon event in Spain.

Kirkwood, who lives in Bidford, finished an incredible three minutes ahead of her 50-54 age group competitors at the 2019 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Pontevedra to secure the gold medal.

Kirkwood, who is Strategic Lead for Allied Health Professions at the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, tackled a kilometre-long swim, followed by a 30km mountain bike ride and a 7km run to secure Great Britain’s only women’s age group gold medal at the championships.

The Evesham Vale Running Club and Evesham Vale Triathletes member said: “It was mind-blowing to learn I had won. It’s hardly something you expect as a 50-year-old with a full-time job in the NHS.

“I didn’t find out where I’d placed immediately after the race. It was only after chatting to a couple of fellow competitors that I learned the news.

“All of the women competitors set off at once, after the men have staggered starts for each age group, so it was impossible to predict where I’d finished.

“It was particularly interesting for me when I started to overtake some of the men competing. Some were less happy than others!

“I knew I had done reasonably well, but to get the gold was completely unexpected and I’m thrilled to have won.”

Kirkwood’s love for endurance challenges came after training for and completing the 874-mile Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle ride soon after turning 40 and going on to win the women’s category at the 2014 Luxembourg Ironman.

She has since picked up a silver medal at XTERRA Belgium in June 2017, allowing her to qualify for the XTERRA World Championships in Hawaii later that year, before preparing for her ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships success in Pontevedra.

She said: “After completing the Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge I discovered I really enjoyed having a physical challenge to work and train towards.

“I try to take part in two or three events each year, but it’s more of a curiosity for me as my family and my job are the most important things.

“I have been training first thing every morning since January in preparation for this race and you can’t let your concentration slip for a second when you’re out on the course. It can be a real challenge to get to the finish line unscathed.

“I’m enormously grateful for the support I’ve had from my family, friends and husband Stuart, as well as my fellow athletes and the UK team, and to the organisers for putting on a fantastic event.”

ALSO in action at the ITU Multisport World Championships was Evesham Vale Triathletes’ Melanie Betts in the aquabike event.

The competitors were chasing glory over a 3km swim and 116km bike route. However, low water temperatures meant the swim was halved in distance.

Betts, who favours the bike, was more than happy about this decision and, after finishing the swim in eighth place, began to make rapid progress towards the front of the field.

After one lap she had moved into third position after some bold riding on a section of downhill when her average was 56 kmh. The hilly course tested all of the athletes but Betts continued to hold her position through the next two laps and crossed the line in the bronze medal position for her age group.

Elsewhere, Linzi Lewis-Painter took ninth position in the sprint duathlon (run, bike, run), Tasha Redman was 14th in the aquabike on her GB debut, while a technical issue meant Alex Doherty was left disappointed with 40th in the duathlon.

Despite this setback, Doherty said he is determined to make amends at the European Championships later in the year.

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