Paris pointer but still room for improvement: Buckingham on Beaugrand

Elite coach Mark Buckingham was part of our live coverage of the Arena Games in London at the weekend and he joins us again to give his detailed insights and analysis on a women’s race which was won in stunning style by Cassandre Beaugrand

I think Cassandre’s raised the bar again. We thought Beth [Potter] had already raised it high enough with her dominant performance in Munich, but now it’s been taken to a new level. 

It was all about that second stage for me when she not only ran away from the field with a 2:45, but then got on the bike and put down a phenomenal amount of power and then swam really well too. She just put it out of everyone’s reach.

I thought that was the best single stage I’ve seen in the Arena Games format. I think that’s where she made the race her own.

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Still room for improvement

Some people might take this next point as more of a criticism, but I truly believe that if she can improve her technical riding skills then she can win an individual Olympic medal in Paris.

I genuinely believe that if she commits to cycling like we saw Gwen Jorgensen do in the run up to 2016, she’s another Gwen – 100%. 

Cassandre Beaugrand Arena Games London photo credit SLT
Photo credit Super League Triathlon

I think Beth was really similar to how she performed in Munich. So she didn’t put a foot wrong herself. She just met her match and then some. She was faultless. Her transitions were impeccable, and she battled right to the end as well. 

I think Beth will be really pleased with the performance because she’ll be comparing herself to the other British athletes, especially on the swim, where she was very well matched to the likes of Jess Learmonth, Georgia Taylor Brown and Sian Rainsley who all know how to swim in the front pack.

All about learning from mistakes

For Jess that bike / run transition on stage 1 was costly. I was counting in my head, and she lost around seven seconds just trying to get that shoe on – that’s about the time the whole transition should take.

I think she was a bit flustered initially, but being the professional that she is as soon as that stage had finished, you could see her practising getting that shoe on properly so that she wouldn’t make that same mistake.

Even the best athletes in the world do make mistakes from time to time, but the best learn from the mistakes. And I think that’s what Jess did really well. And then she got back on it, and I think that she made a really good showing on the stage after that. I think she pulled quite a bit of time back on Beth, but then Beth was able to outrun her at the end. 

GTB a ‘real’ bike racer

I know from speaking to Georgia in the past about the Arena Games, she just really struggles with riding on the turbo and doesn’t particularly enjoy that format. She’s a real bike racer and you can just tell – those girls that you normally see at the front of the race, they don’t look as comfortable on turbo trainers as they do out on the road with all the elements around. 

They’re a bit taller on the bike. Their heads are a little bit higher. They’re not able to get down low and lean into corners and get out. The saddle is comfortable. All those little things that craft an all-around triathlete on the bike. You just don’t get to see that sometimes when they’re on the turbo. 

Georgia Taylor-Brown - Arena Games London 2022 - bike, Heats
Photo Credit: Darren Wheeler – That Cameraman / Super League Triathlon

And I think Georgia will hold her hand up to that. She much prefers riding a bike outside. It’s a good job the Olympic distance is still outdoors!

And to bring things back to the start, I think that’s the main point with Cassandre going forward and why her team will take this performance with a pinch of salt. 

They’ll know it’s a really good display by Cassandre but ultimately her cornering and explosiveness out of corners in WTCS racing is still behind those girls. It’s still a great marker for Cassandre to put down, but she needs to bring that technical element to be the complete triathlete. 

All to play for

Looking ahead to Singapore, obviously we’ve got Beth and Cassandre at the top of the standings which sets it up perfectly. 

They’re going to be swimming in open water in the Marina Bay Reservoir, a pretty simple out-and-back type of course. That will bring a new dynamic – there will be no tumble turns and the really strong pool swimmers are not going to have as much of an advantage.

I think it really brings Cassandre, Beth and Jess close together as well. I genuinely think Jess is a much better open water swimmer than she is a pool swimmer, so that could catapult her from third in London to the top spot just on the swimming alone.

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