Today was when the ETU Triathlon European Championships really started. In many respects. Today was when the official recce sessions started and when the Opening Ceremony took place and the annual ambivalence of the pasta party. However, it was also a national holiday in Austria which gave us a unique opportunity for some cultural learnings.

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The Wilder Kaiser

The day kicked off with an early swim recce. It was quite inspiring to bump into fellow Team GB team mates who over the past year I’ve met during qualifying races, many of them first timers and still at the beginning of their triathlon journeys. The venue offers stunning views over the Wilder Kaiser massig and the Kitzbüheler Horn looks over us.

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Kitzbüheler Horn

The water is a balmy 22C and has just the right murkiness for my liking. Swimming was great, but I wanted to stop so many times to admire the views around me. During the race, I need to focus and not get distracted. I also tried to draft off two junior elites, and just when I was on their toes, I noticed they gone to breast stroke. Good stuff, Bertram!

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Back home in Brixen, breakfast and lunch done, we indulged in local culture. The annual ‘Antlassritt’ which brings together farmers from 3 villages of the Brixen valley in Brixen, where a parade of 80 horses forms, framing the local priests. It’s colourful and the horses are beautifully decorated with flowers.

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After the parade we mingled with the locals in the town square listening to the local brass band. We were offered some ‘holy water’ which is a lovely, smooth cherry schnapps that was served in tiny chalices.

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'Holy water' from the chalice

From there we whisked off back to Kitzbühel for the organised chaos that is the Parade of Nations. I like the Parade. It’s an opportunity to meet with old Team GB friends, catch up with folk I’ve met at previous champs from other nations, get the scoop of what’s happening in German age group racing and make new friends. It is chaotic, but there’s method to the madness.

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However, Kitzbühel set a new standard. Squeezing just the ca 300 Team GB athletes into the town square was a but too much. Being the only nation who got their national anthem played felt odd, and generally, people just buffered off too quickly because it all took too long, people were hungry and generally it all seemed to stall with no shuttle buses in sight.

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I should have learned my lesson about pasta parties by now. Turkey set a new standard last year and expectations were high. The disappointment was just as great, the queue was long and moved slowly, it was a loveless paper plate with a bowl of pasta. Hardly worth the wait, and thank God we got some spare tickets for family members, rather than having to pay EUR14 for this.

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Yes, it is a circus. A constant up and down, a series of highs and lows. Tomorrow, the Sprint races start off the racing. The weather forecast is doubtful at best. But I’m loving it. Early bike recce on the plate. As in 6.30am.

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