Diving in for a taste of the triathlon in Leeds

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It is a gruelling three-point race that only the fittest of professional athletes dare attempt.

But that did not faze more than 200 people who took on the Go Tri Beginners’ triathlon in Roundhay Park today, ahead of tomorrow’s Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds.

Youths start the swim in Roundhay Park. Picture Tony Johnson

Youths start the swim in Roundhay Park. Picture Tony Johnson

Fourth-place Tom Keeber was among dozens of brave competitors who pushed their bodies to the limit to reach the finish line after setting off at Saturday morning.

The race featured a 200-metre swim, 10km bike ride and culminated in a 2.5km run as part of the Roundhay Park sports festival.

Mr Keeber, 35, from Roundhay, said: “I really enjoyed the run and the bike.

“It’s a great event and it’s great to see so many people out taking part, especially younger people.”

Youths start the swim in Roundhay Park. Picture Tony Johnson

Youths start the swim in Roundhay Park. Picture Tony Johnson

Crowds of spectators, including family, friends and fellow athletes, cheered participants on as they dived into the water at the starting point just after 11am.

David Head, 72, whose son Lee finished as runner up in the race after travelling from the North East, said: “We came to cheer Lee on and we were very excited at the start and I’m very proud of him.

“I live in Harrogate but I’d like to see more of this sort of thing in Leeds and I only wish I could have taken part in these events.”

The beginners’ race was organised by British Triathlon and more than 200 people took part in free sessions linked to British Triathlon’s Tri Something New programme in the run up to the race.

Youths cycle in Roundhay Park.  Picture Tony Johnson

Youths cycle in Roundhay Park. Picture Tony Johnson

British Triathlon has been working with Leeds City Council and local triathlon clubs to expand the sport alongside the ITU World Triathlon Series stage, which could become an annual event in the city.

Colin Thomson, a British Triathlon coach who was watching the race in Roundhay, said: “The idea of Go Tri is to give people some idea of what triathlons are like.

“Some people today struggled with the open water swim but that is the nature of the beast.

“Triathlon popularity has exploded recently and it’s really popular now.”

Young triathlon stars of the future also competed in Go Tri Star events ahead of the adult beginners race this morning.

Sandra Allan, from Cookridge, was at the finish line to watch daughter Beverley compete in the race.

Mum-of-two Beverley, 47, had only just recovered after a bout of pneumonia before training for the race.

Mrs Allan said: “I didn’t really want her doing this but she really pushed herself.

“We are really proud of her but we have been worried because she has only just recovered.

“It’s a great thing for Leeds to host triathlons like this, it gets people of all ages moving we need more of these sort of events.”

Information stalls, volunteers and food outlets also lined the park while music was played from speakers across the fields to entertain spectators.

The festival today sets the stage for Sunday’s main event, the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds, when amateurs and the world’s top triathletes take on a 1.5km Waterloo Lake swim, 41.5km bike ride to Leeds and 10km city centre run.

The race is one of nine ITU World Triathlon Series stages.

The main event means roads are due to close en route from Roundhay on Sunday from 3.30am to 5pm, while city centre routes will remain shut until midnight.

Regular shuttle buses have been organised from Eastgate in the city centre via York Road to Oakwood during the event.

Fares will cost £2 per single journey or £4 for a return, with half-priced fares for those under 19-years-old.

For more information about Sunday’s event visit leeds.triathlon.org.