Windsor Ont.’s Brooke Brown has been on a roll since relocating to Europe to race and train. She claimed another consecutive win in the full-distance event at Triathlon Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain on July 12 and TMC had the chance to check in with her on one of her favourite races. The city of Vitoria-Gasteiz has become a triathlon hub in the hilly Basque Country. It hosted the 2012 ITU Long Distance World Championships and is quickly becoming a home for many professional triathletes who take advantage of the ideal climate and rolling terrain for their yearly training.
The race used to be part of the popular Challenge series but for the last two years has stood independently and as been successful with 2000 registered athletes. The full and half distance races take place at the same time. The swim takes place in the beautiful waters of the Embalse de Ullíbarri-Gamboa and precedes a ride through the ancient, picturesque towns of Basque. The last few kilometres of the run finish in Vitoria-Gasteiz with cheering crowds who create an atmosphere much like Kona, according to Brown. When asked why she loves the race so much, Brown acknowledges the Latin hospitality of the city who welcomes her into there hearts and homes each time she races.
During this year’s race, Brown took the lead in the full distance just before the halfway point of the bike and says she surprised herself with the win. Spain’s Pedro Gomez was expected to win the men’s race despite local hero Alejandro Santamaria winning the previous year. The men’s race ended in an all-Spanish podium with Santamaria’s training partner Diego Parades finishing before him and Gomez coming in third.
Brown told TMC she is loving the European circuit. “Right now, I’m in Holland. It is the ideal location for travelling to races as it is centred quite nicely in Europe. I have the advantage that my training partner travels to many races with challenging bike profiles, so when convenient I can accompany him to events. Holland is rather flat like Southwestern Ontario, so I do several bike rides each week, even longer ones. The Dutch also have great infrastructure for sport and physical activity.” Training in Europe does come with some challenges. “I miss speaking English or even just a language I can communicate in, like Spanish or French. Dutch is difficult to learn,” says Brown.
When asked about her training, Brown told TMC she is really happy about where things are going. “I left Brett Sutten at the beginning of May for logistical reasons. Since then, I have been training with Jesse Van Nieuwenhuyse. I was introduced to him through a mutual friend, Sam Gyde (three-time Ironman Hawaii Age-Group Champion). I am beginning to run again like I did pre-injury and feel like I’m building some good fitness.”
Besides racing as a professional, Brown’s involvement in triathlon has included coaching and product development. She used to coach athletes with Barrie Shepley’s Ontario-based C3, but is no longer affiliated with them despite remaining an almuni athlete and looking back fondly on her time with them. Her fiancé, Alex de Boer, is the CEO of up-and-coming wetsuit company Dare2Tri for whom she is a sponsored athlete. To date, she has raced IronMedoc, Deauville International Triathlon, and Gerardmer XL Triathlon to help further promote the brand.
Despite lots keeping her busy, Brown tells us she is always homesick for her Canada. “I’m more left-wing than they are in Holland. I used to live in Mexico, which was more comfortable for me in that regard. I would probably fit in better in a Mediterranean Country.”