Gruelling exploit awaits Hopgood
VINCE Hopgood has spent two years preparing for next month's Belfort ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, but in truth he was born to do this.
The Hervey Bay adventurer will soon jet off to Europe to compete in four gruelling events in five weeks, including the world titles in France where he will swim 4km, cycle 110km and run 30km.
While most people his age are slowing down, Hopgood, who turns 55 while overseas, prefers to push his body to the limits, to achieve his personal goals and inspire his students.
His itinerary also includes three rigorous high-altitude races, the Black Forest Ultra (mountain) Bike Marathon, the Aletsch Glacier Half Marathon and the 42.2km Zermatt Ultra Marathon, which has a remarkable elevation of more than 1900m.
And yet, Hopgood is excited by the challenge.
"I love the adventure and I love racing," the leading vocational teacher in the Wide Bay TAFE sport and fitness department said.
"I teach all about training, racing performance and nutrition, but I love travelling and I love racing.
"It's really a great challenge for me to race overseas and to be a positive role model for all my students and to show my children you can still do some good things even when you're not in the first flush of youth."
Hopgood tackled his first triathlon in 1985 and last competed in Europe in 2006, when he raced in the Jung Frau Marathon in Switzerland and the Berlin Marathon.
Seeing how he attacks every race with such gusto, it's staggering to think for six months in 2010 he couldn't run after partially tearing his achilles tendon after competing in the world championships on the Gold Coast.
"It was tough," he said about the injury.
"I still swam and still cycled, it wasn't a good time for me being not able to run.
"But thanks to my physio Paul Ryan, he got me from not being able to run at all to being ready for this triathlon and world championship."
The Belfort ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, which starts on June 1, will be his biggest challenge since recovering from the injury.
Having trained six days a week for two years, Hopgood, who will be the only Australian in the 55-59 men's age group, said he was prepared for whatever awaited him, but admitted he would have his work cut out for him.
"I don't expect to medal as it is a world championship and many of the world's best long distance athletes will be there," he said.
"I will just be racing my hardest and seeing what happens."
If that's not enough, Hopgood is also going to cruise around the French Alps for three weeks with nothing but a bike and a tent in an attempt to conquer as many mountain passes as the riders do in the Tour de France.
While he loves the pressure of competing and experiencing new adventures, Hopgood said none of it would be possible if it wasn't for the support of his wife Lisa, his family and friends who have provided him with the inspiration to take on this journey.
Vince Hopgood's European adventure
June 1: Belfort ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in France (4km swim, 110km cycle and 30km run)
June 22-23: Black Forest Ultra Bike Marathon in Germany (117km)
June 30: Aletsch Glacier Half Marathon in Switzerland (21.1 km)
July 6: Zermatt Ultra Marathon in Switzerland (42.2km)