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Rain fails to dampen spirits at Virgin Active London Triathlon

Excel Virgin Active Triathlon. Winners of the female Elite race, Lucy Hall, Gillian Saunders and Danielle Reef Excel Virgin Active Triathlon. Winners of the female Elite race, Lucy Hall, Gillian Saunders and Danielle Reef

Monday, September 24, 2012
1:37 PM

Elite athletes joined the likes of Alexandra Burke and Sir Richard Branson at the first major London sporting event since the Olympics.

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Swimmers dive in at the Royal DocksSwimmers dive in at the Royal Docks

WARNING - Video contains a loud horn sound from the start

More than 13,500 people descended on Custom House in east London this weekend for the London Triathlon.

Elite athletes joined the likes of Alexandra Burke and Sir Richard Branson to run, cycle and swim the first major London sporting event since the Olympics, which started at the former Games venue, the ExCeL centre.

Organisers said about half of those who took part were new to the sport.

The ExCeL centre was packed with runnersThe ExCeL centre was packed with runners

Some raced to win their age-group but most said they took part for fitness or to raise money for their chosen charity.

In the women’s race yesterday, Daniela Ryf, from Switzerland, crossed the finish line in two minutes and one second, beating tough competition from 2012 Olympian Lucy Hall, and the south African Gillian Sanders.

She was a last minute entry.

Speaking after her win, she said: “I am really happy with that, I didn’t expect it to go that well.

Sir Richard Branson and his daughter Holly (left) at the Virgin Active London Triathlon. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA WireSir Richard Branson and his daughter Holly (left) at the Virgin Active London Triathlon. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

“I pushed it hard on the bike and the run felt good with good rhythm.

“At the start my legs were a bit cold and frozen but I managed to get them going and ran well.”

The men’s race saw eventual British winner Adam Bowden exit the water in second place - but he took the lead while on the bike.

At the 400 metre point, he flew up the hill into the ExCeL Centre to win by just four seconds and take the first major win of his triathlon career.

Sir Richard Branson, Alexandra Burke and David Hasselhoff at the Virgin Active London Triathlon at the Excel Conference Centre, London. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA WireSir Richard Branson, Alexandra Burke and David Hasselhoff at the Virgin Active London Triathlon at the Excel Conference Centre, London. Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

Mr Bowden said: “On the bike I stayed towards the front, a few drop-offs in the run and then fought on the attack to hold up the tape. It was a great feeling.”

Notable participants included Jack Perscjhke, who completed the event’s bike leg on a Penny Farthing cycle, and wheelchair user Nicole Evans.

She captured the hearts of the nation when she walked this year’s London Marathon in a record four days.

Speaking before he took part in the event on Saturday, Sir Richard said: “You can have everything you possibly want but if you don’t have health and fitness you don’t have anything,” he said.

“I’m an enormous believer in setting yourself a challenge every year and trying to accomplish that challenge.

“I’m lucky my kids are of an age when we can do wonderful challenges together.”

The 62-year-old Virgin chairman joined other famous faces including Alexandra Burke, Mark Ramprakash, Gareth Gates, and Louie Spence on the challenging route.

And 100m and 200m Paralympian Sophia Warner also competed with the celebrities in a relay team - completing the 5km run of the sprint triathlon distance.

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