BOLTON triathlete Leah Peploe secured a worthy ninth-placed finish in the opening round of the Junior European Cup traithlon series.

The 17-year-old was in action in Vierzon, France, in a testing event that included an 800m swim, 20k bike ride and 5k run.

The swim, which was in a straight line across a lake, meaning the second half was with the tide, offered testing conditions but Peploe enjoyed it. “I’ve never had a swim like that before, but it made it a lot easier without having to sight for buoys,” she said.

“The bike was a four-lap course, and there was a hill at the beginning of each lap which was around 300 metres long.

“The run was a two-lap course, with a steep climb halfway into each lap, so it was challenging for everybody.”

She added: “I was quite nervous for this race, I wanted to get the swim out of the way and to make sure I made the front pack going on to the bike.”

All the competitors were warned before the race about strict penalties for false starts, which Peploe admitted affected her start.

She said: “As I got on to the pontoon and chose where to stand, when the starting horn had been sounded, I heard a referee behind shout false start.

“Immediately my reaction was to stay put on the pontoon, however, the race carried on and I was left there on my own and I started to panic.

“I dived in around two to three seconds behind everyone and found myself chasing for around 100 metres, but I somehow managed to get to the front and I finished the swim in first place.”

For a time, she was part of a leading group of three riders on the bike.

“I was riding with two French girls and we had a 12-second lead after the first lap. We were then caught by the chasers and we stayed together for the rest of the ride. I put a bit of pace in on the hills and on the descents, but no-one came with me so the breaks didn’t stick.

“During the run I was in fifth position and I didn’t expect much because that is one aspect of my racing I am still working on, but with a strong finish I managed to stay in the top 10. I enjoyed it and I’m glad the first race is done and out of the way.”