By Danika Dent
KORUMBURRA’S Alex Welsh is the new Paraduathlon World Champion after working around the course breaking his one hour record in a blistering meet in Adelaide last weekend.
Welsh completed the 5km wheelchair run, 20km handbike cycle, and 3km wheelchair run in 59 minutes and 19 seconds.
In his typical modest manner, Welsh said he was pleased with his results but was absolutely exhausted after the race.
“I finished uni on the Thursday, drove to Adelaide, did some training with guy who I’m usually racing against, and raced in the duathlon on the Sunday,” Welsh said.
He also trained around the Adelaide hills after the gruelling duathlon.
“I became interested in hand cycling through wheelchair racing so I thought I would enter [the world championships] as I thought I might do OK in it.”
Welsh did better than “OK” – he finished well ahead in trying conditions; temperatures peaked at 36 degrees.
“I’d raced the main competitor Scott Crowley once before in a triathlon – triathlon’s not my strongest, but I thought I’d have a good chance in the duathlon.
“I was leading at the first transition by about 20 seconds.
“But he had some help during the transition and so was really quick, whereas I did it on my own, as I’d done in the previous state meets.
“So out of the transition I had to chase after him.
“The recumbent bike’s my strongest run and I was able to pass him on the first lap.
“On the other three laps I was able to pull away and was about 20 minutes ahead.
“Then it was into the transition, again on my own into the racing wheelchair and he was unable to catch me.
“I was absolutely exhausted afterwards, from the heat and training sessions before the race.”
Despite being crowned the PT1 World Champion, Welsh is determined to keep improving.
He said competition at the Duathlon World Championships was down on previous years, thanks to the World Triathlon Championships just a few weeks earlier.
“We didn’t have the stiffest of competition,” Welsh said, “but I believe I would’ve been very competitive.
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“For me it was more of a competition against myself and the clock; I’d competed in four duathlons over winter and I really wanted to break the hour.
“I was pumped with my time and in that I’m showing improvement.”
The Duathlon World Championships is the last competition for Welsh this year.
He will concentrate on his handcycling over the Christmas break to prepare for international races in 2016.
“This year has really gone well; I’ve improved a bit, but there’s still a long way to go.
“I’ll be working towards a series of national cycling races in January to put myself into the best position to race overseas.
“Next year I hope it goes as well, if not better.
“The 2016 Paralympics are out of contention for me, just my times haven’t been where they need to be, but my coaches aren’t too concerned – handcyclists tend to reach their peak in their late 30s or early 40s.
“I’m not sure exactly why that is, perhaps it’s just a case of building up endurance and strength in their arms, but hopefully I can buck that trend.
“At 24, there’s still a long future ahead of me in the sport.”
While he is working up his endurance and strength, Welsh will continue to be involved in the sport, and has returned to Korumburra for hill training.
“The competition has really developed over the years so course designers are putting in more difficult sections – they’re even putting in cobblestones sections to really challenge the riders.
“Just because we’re using our arms doesn’t mean we get it easy!
“The hills are really beneficial for me to build up the strength that I’ll need.
“The roads around here are a bit quieter, the drivers friendlier, and there’s more support from family and the cycling club.
“If you see me out on the road, feel free to wave – and there’s no need to be intimidated, I have mirrors on the bike and so can see anyone coming from behind – just treat me like a regular cyclist.”
Welsh’s next competition will be the National Paracycling Series at Casey Fields on January 9 and 10.