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Grant Sheldon gritted his teeth to get around a gruelling AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds as he prepares for the “best part of being an athlete”, representing Team Scotland.
Hamilton hero Sheldon took 40th in a scrappy men’s race on Saturday with compatriots Alex Yee, last year’s winner, and local hero Jonny Brownlee crashing out after a collision which eventual race winner Hayden Wilde apologised for and left Brownlee with a broken elbow.
Despite this year’s race at Roundhay Park taking place over the shortened sprint distance to accommodate Sunday’s mixed relay which is being held in Leeds for the first time, Sheldon admitted there was no shortage of aggression in the swim.
“This one was pretty physical, quite a lot of fighting but it’s to be expected,” said Sheldon, 27, who pulled out of the 2022 World Triathlon Cup Arzachena last month with a knee injury he sustained in training on the bike.
“It was pretty full-on the first lap. I made contact and the rest of it was just damage limitation.
“Everybody knew that going into it with the style of the course and being Leeds. Everybody has that kind of feeling that it is going to be balls to the wall from the start.
“It was really hard and lacking in physiology at that real top end. I struggled sprinting out of corners and got popped but that’s the way it goes.
“It’s a bit of a stepping stone, a bit of a rust-buster [for the Commonwealth Games]. My first few races have been a bit mixed but I know what I need to work on.
“Representing Scotland is the best thing about being an athlete. Us Scots are definitely patriotic and love wearing that saltire on the chest. It will be a special Games, I’m really looking forward to it.”
Bellshill-born Sheldon is heading for his third straight Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer and although it’s virtually another home event, he doubts it will match his special debut at Glasgow 2014, where he finished 14th as a fresh-faced 19-year-old.
However, having felt the love of a jubilant Leeds crowd on Saturday, Sheldon is confident there will still be plenty of supporters shouting for him in the Midlands come July.
He said: “I don’t think it will live up to Glasgow but that’s just me being a Scotsman! Hopefully I’ll have lots of friends and family down there. I think it will be a really good day in Birmingham with lots of supporters out.
“If you look at today, all the British support around triathlon nowadays is really quite special. It definitely is the best on the circuit. Leeds is such a knowledgeable triathlon city.
“It’s amazing how everybody gets around it. Even last year with lockdown, it was a really good atmosphere and this year has really brought it on again.”
Sheldon finished 17th in the individual event on the Gold Coast in 2018 but believes if things go his way, then he could find himself on the Commonwealth podium despite the strength in depth in the men’s field.
He explained: “The sport has definitely changed. It’s a lot faster and a lot more aggressive with it being a sprint distance it’s really going to be on.
“The good thing is it’s a really small field. Although I think the depth this year is probably the best it ever has been.
“It will be a true race, a true swim bike run ability rather than a fight bike run, which will play to my strengths a little bit. "And if I’m on some good run form then I don’t see why I can’t mix it with the top boys.”
The AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Leeds made its return to the city for the sixth time and if you’ve been inspired to take part visit https://www.britishtriathlon.org/get-involved/what-is-triathlon