This year has seen Kerri-Ann Upham of Exeter Triathlon Club win world and European gold in both cross triathlon and cross duathlon for the Great Britain Age-Group Team.
Upham, who lives in Devon and trains with Exeter Triathlon Club, has competed seven times for the Age-Group Team since first qualifying to race in 2018.
Since then, she’s won the World Cross Triathlon Championships, World Cross Duathlon Championships, European Cross Triathlon Championships three times and the European Cross Duathlon Championships, including the double double this year to end 2022 as the world and European cross duathlon and cross triathlon reigning champion.
“It was amazing, I couldn’t have asked for any more,” Upham said. “This season’s just been incredible for me, not only for the Age-Group racing but the Xterra races I’ve done I’ve also won my age group.
“I started doing triathlon back in 2010, I did a bit of club swimming, and my uncle did an IRONMAN in Switzerland which encouraged me to give triathlon a go. It wasn’t until 2018 that I dabbled in the cross triathlon events.
“I’d done a few local road triathlon races and 70.3s [half IRONMAN races] but fancied a bit of a change. My first off-road event was a duathlon down in Plympton in Devon, and I remember going to the event on my own and being really nervous, not knowing what to expect. I went round the course to do a practice look and it was really daunting as a first time.
“I stuck it out and got through it and probably spent more time pushing my bike then riding it through all the thick mud and technical sections.”
For the cross events, the bike leg is done off-road using mountain bikes, whilst the run also takes place off-road. Upham trains with Exeter Triathlon Club and also Trimoore Coaching and the David Lloyd Exeter Triathlon Club, with those set ups helping her to improve her strength, fitness and technique to overcome the demands of cross triathlon and duathlon racing.
“One of the key things I’ve found is strength and conditioning,” Upham said when asked about training for cross triathlon and duathlon.
“A lot of the cross races are brutal, it’s really tough climbing and lots of steps on the run for trail running, and I find that the strength and conditioning work that we do gives you the resilience to be able to cope with the demands of those kinds of courses.
“I’d done a few 70.3 events and I had good results but never quite made the podium. I’d had multiple fourth place finishes and I just fancied doing something a bit different so had a go at a few off-road events and got drawn in because it’s something you want to work on to get better.”
The Age-Group Team provide British Triathlon members with the opportunity to represent Great Britain internationally at World and European Championships in a variety of swim, bike, run disciplines and distances.
Championship racing opportunities are available in triathlon (swim, bike, run), duathlon (run, bike, run), aquathlon (swim, run), aquabike (swim, bike), cross duathlon and triathlon like Upham, and winter triathlon (cross country ski, mountain bike, run)
“It’s just great to be able to wear the GB kit and represent your country, and visit different places, do different races and meet different people,” Upham said of her experience of the Age-Group Team.
“I’d encourage anyone to just go and give it a go and just to be patient. If you do your first race and you’re not quite where you want to be or you’re a bit disappointed with how you’ve done, just stick with it.
“It’s not something that comes overnight and just push yourself to enter races because that’s when you get experience of different courses and different terrains. There are a lot of people that are doing it for the first time, so you won’t be alone, there’s always someone there to offer you advice, offer you a hand and show you the way.”
Upham is also seeking to turn professional in 2023, taking her cross racing to another level following the successes of 2022.
“It’s always been a dream to compete against the best and be world-class in your sport,” she added. “It’s not a step I wanted to take until I’d proven myself that I could be competitive, and this year I’ve been able to demonstrate that I can be dominant within the amateur ranks of the Age-Group racing.
“Within the Xterra races, they have a points system, and you have to accumulate a certain number of points before you’re able to apply for an elite licence and that was also something I achieved this year.”
The 2023 calendar of Age-Group Championships and Qualifiers has already been announced, and you can find out more about the Great Britain Age-Group Team and how to qualify, as well as the various swim, bike, run disciplines on the British Triathlon website.