F1 Star Promises Event Will Return Next Year

He may have finished only eleventh in his own race, but Jenson Button crossed the finishing line in triumph after bringing his Jenson Button Trust Triathlon event to the City of Derby, with proceeds going to support Cancer Research.

Cheering crowds lined the home straight as Jenson completed the triathlon course at Markeaton Park, an event which combines swimming, cycling and running. The event attracted over 500 competitors from GB international athletes to complete novices having their first taste of triathlon.

Derby entrepreneur Dean Jackson, of HUUB wetsuits, was instrumental in persuading Jenson to bring the event to Derby, after it had outgrown its original venue in Luton, and Jenson was clearly delighted with the turn-out of competitors and spectator support. Speaking after the race, Jenson confirmed the event would return next year. “Hopefully this will grow into something bigger,” Jenson said, “become more of a festival, maybe become a weekend thing with a criterium bike race around the town as well. It’s going to be something special so this is a good starting point. There are some things that we can tweak for next year – because we will be back!”

With that the onlookers broke into spontaneous cheering in the late afternoon sunshine, quite different from the conditions the competitors faced for the morning heats.

It was grey, overcast and drizzling when the ladies entered the lake for the first of the qualifying heats at 9am. A 200metre swim preceded a 10km cycle ride to the city centre, around the Cathedral Quarter and back to Markeaton where the race was completed with a 2.5km run.

To make the event even more special Derby City Council allowed the cycle stage to take place on closed roads. For Dean Jackson, this was the city working together to raise the city’s sporting profile.

“For me the whole reason for bringing this event to Derby is because I’m Derby born and bred and I’m so proud of this city,” said Dean. “We are sometimes portrayed as little brother to that other one down the A52 and this really puts Derby on the map. This is Derby at its absolute best, not only from the businesses supporting the council, but also the facilities that we have. This is a closed road triathlon. There are only three in the country The World Series, the National Championships and the Jenson Button Triathlon. This proves it can happen when the common goal, everyone coming together to make something happen in the city.”

Jenson Button agreed. “The bike course is great, it’s so much fun. There are some technical bits, also going through a bit of the town is pretty cool and to have closed roads is fantastic.”

Many local businesses worked hard to support the event, including the city’s Cathedral Quarter Hotel who provided food for the competitors throughout the day.

The event attracted a number of experienced triathletes with the morning heats qualifying competitors for the afternoon’s sprint distance (half of Olympic distance, twice the distance of the morning heats) finals for men and women. Non-qualifiers also had the chance of a second race in a series of ‘Wooden Spoon’ races at the same distance as the morning heats.

The ladies final began the afternoon event with Emma Pallant repeating her success from last year’s event in Luton. Emma has set her sights firmly on qualification for next year’s Rio Olympics, after switching from athletics because of injury. Former mentor Dame Kelly Holmes reckons this is the right move for the 27 year-old Pallant, as she has the right mentality and tenacity to succeed as an Olympian and will achieve more in triathlon than she would have as an athlete.

Pallant recorded a time of 58 minutes 35 seconds with Sophie Coldwell coming home in second place (1.01.03) just ahead of Hannah Drewett  (1.01.40).

A strong run from Adam Bowden gave him victory in the men’s race. Bowden returned to Markeaton Park, at the end of the cycling leg, around 42 seconds behind leader Carl Shaw, but passed Shaw on the 10km run to cross the line in 49 minutes 00 seconds. Matthew Wright (49.46) also caught and passed Shaw who finished third in a time of 50.21.

32 year-old Bowden is based in Loughborough and has concentrated on triathlon since 2008. He has recorded several top ten finishes in ITU World Triathlon events and, in May, came second in the Antalya ETU European Cup.

For Dean Jackson, though, it is the local people who made the event special. “They are the real superstars, the people of Derby who have never done a triathlon before, coming down to Markeaton having a swim and giving it a go –  and raising all that money for cancer research. For me they’re the heroes.”

Jenson Button echoed those sentiments in saying: “We’re all here to have a great time, a lot of fun here in Derby, and to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Hopefully we’ve done that and had a lot of fun in doing it. It grows every year and hopefully we’ve earned even more money for such a worthy cause this season.

“The council have been very, very, helpful in closing the roads for us,” he added. “I know there are some people who maybe don’t like the roads being closed on a Sunday, but it’s made this event very, very, special.”

Council leader, Cllr Ranjit Banwait said he was delighted that Jenson had brought the event to the city. “When we were first approached by the Jenson Button Trust, to hold this event in the city, I said ‘Yes, brilliant, and frankly it was dream come true when they agreed to it. To have that commitment, now, from Jenson that they’re coming back, it shows that Derby’s sporting excellence is now a national phenomenon.