The Bristol and West men’s team turned back the clock almost 30 years toscore only the club’s second ever victory in the Midland 6-stage road relaychampionship at Sutton Park in Birmingham. So commanding was their triumphon the day, leading virtually all the way to beat the holders Notts AC bythe best part of two minutes, that it is hard to credit that they had notwon it since their lone success at Melton Mowbray back in 1979. But onething is for sure they will have given their rivals for next month’sNational title race a warning shot that they are going to be a force toreckon with.
From the moment Cornish farmer Kevin Heywood hit the front atthe top end of the 6K lap, they never looked back. Heywood gave Craig Peters a 25m start over the 104 other teams, and though brieflysurrendering the lead the Welsh and Midland junior champion soon reassertedhis authority to give Jon Wills a near half minute advantage at the secondchangeover.
The race was virtually over by halfway as Wills extended thelead another ten seconds before new recruit GB U23 international TomRussell put the issue beyond all doubt with the third fastest time of theday. This left National Duathlon champion Phil Wylie, who was using therace as a warm-up for next weekend’s World championship in Italy, and team captain Rob Whalley with an armchair ride to the finish. Russell’s timeapart, only 11 seconds covered the other five runners’ times that were allamong the top 20 fastest of the day. and confirms the strength of theirchallenge for the National.
Almost as encouragingly their separate U20 junior team , headed by Harry Webb and Richard Peters, achieved another first for the event, exceeding all expectations by finishing in the top tenin 8th place. Of the other Avon clubs in the race Clevedon, led inspiringly by Julian Emery, did particularly well to finish in their best ever position of 11th and easily qualify for the National final, but none of the others apart from the Bristol and West Vets and B teams could make the required top 25 places.
To complete what was arguably their best ever performance in the regional championships, the Bristol and West women’s team, despite being without all of their star senior runners, still repeated last year’s silver medal effort behind defending champions Charnwood, and, Helen Fines apart, they did it with a very young team. Their top junior Katie Knowles gave them a fine start in 4th place before Kate Goodhead took them into an unexpected lead with one of her best ever relay performances – the sixth fastest of the event. Although Fines was passed by the Charnwood and Telford runners, she held on well enough for Steph Barnes to make sure of the silver medals on the anchor leg. Like the men the second team made the top ten in 8th place, while the third quartettoo did well to finish 15thin just ahead of neighbours Westbury, with Bitton and GWR also in the first 25 of the 70 starters.
Midland 6-Stage Men's Road Relay results Teams: 1 Bristol and West 1:46:51; 2Notts 1:48:21; 3 Coventry Godiva 1:49:35; 4 Owls 1:49:57; 5 Tipton 1:51:13;6 Birchfield 1:54:23; 7 Severn 1:55;28; 8 B&W U20 Juniors 1:55:40; 9Cheltenham 1:56:54; 10 Owls B 1:57:34; 11 Clevedon 1:58:16; 12 StaffsMoorlands 1:58:27;..24 B&W Vets 2:01:12; 25 B&W B 2:01:29; 28 Stroud2:02:32; 35 Team Bath 2:05:14; 37 Clevedon B 2:06:24; 47 Bitton 2:08:58. Fastest times: T Humphries (Cannock& Stafford) 17:16; I Boneham (Notts)17:29; T Russell (B&W) 17:32; T Dalton (Severn) 17:34; K Heywood (B&W)17:46; J Lilley (Severn) 17:47; P Wylie (B&W), R Kenny (Coventry) 17:49. Bristol & West AC (in running order): K Heywood 17:46; C Peters 17:57; JWills 17:53; T Russell 17:32; P Wylie 17:49; R Whalley 17:54. U20 Juniors:H Webb 18:34; S Hazell 19:57; S Gallienne 19:05; D Woolford 19:40; D Layton19:47; R Peters 18:37. Vets: D Moore 19:05; J Hogan 21:03; M O'Doherty19:22; A Harrison 20:01; K Brackstone 22:44; P Parry 18:57. B: D Lincoln19:39; T Elson 19:34; S McGuigan 19:23; M Vella 20:16; D Austin 22:12; DNoad 20:25. Clevedon: J Emery 18:21; A Baker 19:59; B Sheppard 19:40; VGraffagnino 19:06; N Page 20:20; J Williams 20:50. B M Cooper 20:18; P Bird21:03; C Richards 21:06; A Heyes 21:19; A Shaw 21:35; S Hollier 21:03.Team Bath: P Synott 19:47; I Cade 21:50; O Bower 20:43; D Coales 20:55; CBridges 21:39; S Rose 20:20. Bitton: P Westlake 20:43; R Kingdon 23:16; MBlackmore 19:09; S Laraway 22:10; M Stalley 23:00; P Sperrin 20:40. Women - Teams: 1 Charnwood 59:55; 2 Bristol & West 61:16; 3 Telford 61:29;4 Coventry 63:54; 5 Birchfield 63:57; 6 Charnwood B 64:43; 7 Notts 65:23;B&W B 65:24; 9 Trentham 66:30; 10 Kettering 66:58...14 Stroud 68:13; 15B&W C 68:22; 17 Westbury 68:28; 23 Bitton 70;42; 24 GWR 71:17; 29 Wetbury B74:33; 35 Bitton B 76:17; 36 Clevedon 76:32; 48 GWR B 81:24. Fastesttimes: S Johnson (C&S) 14:25; W Nicholls (Cirencester) 14:33; H Whitmore(Charnwood) 14:40; J Potter (Charnwood) 14:41; K Fawke (Telford) 14:55; CMartin (Telford), K Goodhead (B&W) 14:57. Bristol & West: K Knowles 15:05;K Goodhead 14:57; H Fines 15:56; S Barnes 15:18. B: S Richards 16:22; IAinsworth 15:48; K Mehere 16:24; C Stevinson 16:50. C: V Tester 16:38; CConway 17:16; S Harding 17:20; J Belyavin 11117:08. Westbury: R Golding17:25; C Dulla 16:14; J Khan 17:40; S Voller 17:09. B: S Thorne 18:52; PGallagher 18:58; T Chick 18:33; E Smith 18:10. Bitton: S Curnow 17:53; FCramp 17:42; L Porter 17:24; M Kerfoot 17:43. B: F White 18:36; C Spick20:20; B Hayward 119:11; V Hawkins 18:10. GWR: H Brew 111117:09; L Ellis18:54; C McNeilly 18:01; A Culp 17:13. B: C Barclay 19:45; S Passey 21:02;L Ottley 21:02; V Ford 19:35. Clevedon: H Marriott 18:08; L Rockett 19:33;D Barcham 19:35; P Hall 19:16.