JACK BANCROFT continued his fine recent run of form to lead a strong Bristol and West line-up to the overall team title in the Speedway 10K road race held from the Army Apprentices College in Chepstow, which is rapidly establishing a reputation as the premier event over the distance in the area.
While he was also rewarded by clipping a precious second off his personal best as well as taking the bragging rites in what could have justifiably been described as the club`s unofficial championship from his training colleagues KURT TAYLOR and FELIX MCGRATH who followed him home closely, there was frustration and disappointment among all of them that breaking the 30 minute barrier had once again proved elusive.
On a near perfect spring day, spoiled only marginally by a freshening morning breeze, the pace was razor sharp from the start headed by Ethiopian and Midland champion OMAR AHMED, who led through the opening mile in around 4:35 trailed by top Scottish triathlete GRANT SHELDON and went on to win the race in 29:18, with Sheldon second in 29:26 and JOSH GRACE third in 29:34.
Such was the high class of the field that none of our leading quartet, who included JACK MILLAR fresh from his fine half marathon in Cheshire, were able to make the dozen strong chasing group who were running at well inside 30 minute pace. Instead they formed part of a third group on the road, though Felix was a few seconds in front of them in what ultimately proved a vain effort to bridge the gap. As they passed through halfway he was still some five seconds in front of his team mates in only a fraction outside the 15 minute benchmark, with Kurt and Jack B running together just behind though now without Jack M who had pulled out at the 4K mark having clearly not fully recovered from his half marathon effort the previous weekend.
Felix admitted to hitting a bad patch after the next kilometre and was shortly passed by his two training partners, with Kurt, who is now beginning to show his true racing form after his long enforced injury last year, actually a few seconds ahead of Jack as they passed the 9K mark and approached the run down to the finish, with Felix in turn about the same distance down on Jack. Few however finish faster than Jack and not only did he catch and pass Kurt but stormed through to finish 14th in 30:16. Kurt, whose only fear was whether he might not last the distance, hung on to cross the line 17th in his second best ever time of 30:22, with Felix a similar distance immediately behind Kurt in 30:27. Disappointed as all three were in not getting closer to the magic 30 min landmark they had several top runners behind them including JACK GRAY and TOM MERSON.
Meanwhile with Jack Millar dropping out, it was left to OWAIN JONES and JOSH MOODY, who had both started in the second wave of 30 runners, to supply the final time for the team total. Both of them ran at an even pace tempo to pass through halfway only just outside their joint 31 minute target, and though not quite able to sustain it in the second half still finished well satisfied with their times on the day, with Josh just pipping Owain on the final run-in. In one of the quirks when using chip timing Owain actually posted the faster time due presumably to crossing the mat significantly behind Josh at the start. It resulted in the bizarre situation of Owain`s time of 31:17 counting as the team`s fourth scorer rather than Josh`s better finishing position, his 30:19 being only a couple of seconds shy of his pb.
What`s more in posting times only just outside the top 30, they must have been near the front of the second wave.
Our star vet GRAHAM BREEN was unlucky to be seeded out of the second wave and ended up frustrated by leading the third wave virtually from start to finish, though to his credit he still managed to break 32mins for the 48th best time of 31:56 and in so doing proved he deserved a place in the top 60. Behind him there were several other B&W runners under 35mins led by MARCUS DUNSFORD 68th in 33:16, NEIL KENNEDY 34:12, MATT BATTERSBY 34:18 and CHRIS HARVEY 34:40, though unfortunately JAMIE HINTON and BEN MALLIPHANT both had problems and failed to finish.
There may have been a much smaller women`s field headed by Welsh international JENNY NESBITT, but PHILLIPA WILLIAMS certainly underlined what an asset she is going to be to our ladies team by finishing an eye-catching 3rd overall in a time only just over half a minute off her best of 35:30, while ROSIE HATTERSLEY improved her pb by more than half a minute to take a very creditable 7th place in 37:02. What a pity there was no back-up for the team award, but to be fair none of us had budgeted for there being any team prizes.