Matthew Stratford raced only four times in 2022 – but still managed to battle his way to success on both the British and European stage.
The 41-year-old from Nottingham did not race after July due to a suspected stress fracture in his leg, but in early summer was crowned both British and European champion in the 40-44 age group.
He was also victorious at the Dambuster Triathlon at Rutland Water towards the start of 2022, and triumphed in a local race in the Peak District.
His favourite race of the year came at the British Standard Distance Triathlon Championships in Leeds, which were held alongside the World Triathlon Championship Series event in June.
And the size of the event made Stratford’s triumph extra special – especially considering it was a late decision to take part.
“It was such a good event, it felt like a proper meet,” he said. “It was great, it was good to cycle on the closed roads and it was quite an undulating course both on the bike and the run, I always like a few hills so that suited me as well.
“It was all really well organised. It felt like a proper big event, and all the stuff surrounding it was good. I was pleased I did it as I only entered at the last minute to do that, and it was probably my favourite event of the year.
“Sometimes, it’s slightly hard to know where you are in the field, when everyone sets off you get set off in different waves. When you’re actually racing, you can’t always tell where you are in the field. Then you have to wait at the end to find out where you have come.
“I gave my medal to my Dad who hasn’t been very well, he liked that. It was nice to win, to get up on stage and collect my trophy.”
Stratford’s triumph in Leeds was preceded by becoming European age-group champion less than a month earlier, claiming victory in Polish city of Olsztyn.
It was a race that Stratford won by over four minutes, but it certainly wasn’t a result that he had predicted.
He added: “That was definitely a surprise. It was great to win that. To say to people you’ve done that, it’s quite a good achievement - I kept it fairly low key as you don’t want to say too much in case it all goes a bit wrong.
“It was really nice to go out to Poland as well, it was somewhere you wouldn’t normally go to. It was a really nice place, the people were really friendly.
“The actual race itself, it poured down with rain during the cycle which was slightly tricky as I’d never cycled my TT bike in the rain before, which was a bit hairy. It was a great experience.
“I’m looking to try and go to Madrid and see if I can defend my title, but as you get older it gets harder, as you get older in your age group.”
There are a variety of triathlon, paratriathlon and multisport opportunities for British Triathlon Home Nation members to become national champion in 2023, as well as English, Scottish and Welsh Championship titles and medals on offer.
Championship racing opportunities are available in triathlon (swim, bike, run), duathlon (run, bike, run), aquathlon (swim, run), aquabike (swim, bike), cross duathlon, triathlon and winter triathlon (cross country ski, mountain bike, run).
This year’s race in Madrid is certainly a target, with Stratford now back to full fitness after the leg injury that meant he could not run properly for almost half a year, and at times had to limit his swimming and cycling.
And there are also two other targets he has set as he looks to build on his 2022 success.
He added: “I’m hoping to do the Europeans in Madrid, and if that goes to plan the age-group World Championships in Spain in September. I’ll probably try to do the British Championships in Sunderland as well.
“That’s the plan, to try and do all of them again, but it’s just about trying to fit them all in and stay injury free.”
Find out more about representing the Great Britain Age-Group Team and competing in British Age Group Championships here.