Eneko Llanos, in Abu Dhabi.

Eneko Llanos, in Abu Dhabi.

At the world stage, doing almost everything right is not good enough. We can plan, implement, quantify, measure, assess, test, evaluate, adjust, reassess… but unfortunately for us (and fortunately for sport) we can’t control everything. A puncture, a crash right in front, a last minute viral infection, an equipment malfunction, a missed drink station, are all factors that may severely affect the outcome of a race and that are beyond our control.

A year ago I was writing a post entitled “The keys to Eneko Llanos’ victory at Abu Dhabi Triathlon” (in Spanish), feeling proud and totally satisfied with the outcome of a perfect race by Eneko. In that post, I mentioned that the keys to his win could be found not just on race day, but many weeks earlier, and that the win was the combined result of motivation, planning and execution.

Those factors were also in place in this year’s preparation and race: Eneko was highly motivated to defend his title, the training plan was very similar to last year’s and its implementation could not have been any smoother. However, I am inclined to think that the reason for Eneko’s first DNF in five years is precisely the last of the above mentioned things we can’t control: a couple of missed drink stations (I won’t go into the details here…) resulted in Eneko having to take onboard excessive amounts of whatever was available in the final drink station of the bike leg, resulting in a bloated stomach, malabsorption of the ingested fluid, and dehydration.

Could he have done something differently to avoid that outcome? Maybe, but in the heat of the battle (and the heat of the environment) decissions must be taken in seconds, and Eneko did what he thought was best for his performance. Unfortunately, things went wrong and he could not finish off the fine work of several months. But that’s also the beauty of sport: a failed objective always leads to a profound reflection and the definition of a new objective, which we will embrace with the same level of motivation, if not higher. Go Eneko!

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