This is an excellent race because of the variety it offers. Even those who do the hills much better than I, need to give careful thought has to how much energy they are going to burn on the hard 2.3 mile climb. The compensation is that it is followed by two miles that are largely downhill but, as this is mainly on rough, uneven ground, it is not to everyone's liking. Next comes a flat, fast section for a mile along the canal tow-path, at the end of which a girl holds out the sign 'only 2 miles to go'. I'm not sure whether this is to encourage or depress. The hill that follows slowly gets steeper, nothing that would be taxing in the early part of the race, where you would hardly notice it, but when you are tired it feels like a real hill. Finally, onto the road for a fast, furious, mainly downhill three-quarters of a mile leading to the 'wall of death' descent to the finish.
Damian won, 45 seconds off his own course record. Malcolm was second and Trevor third. Then Graham Screawn, 11th., Mike Hill, 14th., and Barry Archbold,17th., adding a quality in depth we have not had in the club in previous years to Rob Gilbert, 21st.
In this race last year Kate was down the field but, in many ways, it signalled the end of over a year plagued by injury. Steadily she has recovered full fitness and was first Wilmslow lady. Nicky, who was 1st. L50, challenged her until the final couple of miles. Just behind there was a second interesting ladies' battle which finally finished Louisa, Janine, Sally.
Group 3 was won by Graham Taylor. Graham is back in the fold as the knee injury he thought had brought his running career to an end slowly mends. Paul Garnett was second from Paul Norris, Jarrod, Tony, who was 1st. M60, and Aron.
Group 4 was won by Jon, next was Kate. Two runners who have stepped-up a class this year, Andrew and John, sandwiched Nicky . Next came the Louisa, Janine and Sally cluster followed by Angela. We bunched together up the hill for comfort; Alan, Huma, Carolyn. Chris moved ahead, he does hills well for a big man. Then Jamie, not seen much of him this year, broke away. The top of the first hill, 1.5 miles, gives some respite, but the sight of the string of the better runners winding their way up the second makes the joy short-lived. Owen started too fast and came back to us. Simon was running when we were walking and pulled away. Topping the second hill is not quite like Langley, when you know thereafter that it is all downhill, but is nevertheless a great relief. In previous years I have looked to overtake Janine and Angela on the descent but both are currently too good and today they weren't even in sight. I set my targets, instead, on Sue and Simon and, together with Huma and Owen, we past them. That, I thought, was that until, on the tow-path, we were overtaken, in quick succession, by both of them. Simon led this all-Wilmslow group as we started up the third hill but he and I knew that, if I could stay on his back-wheel, the advantage would be mine on the downhill finish. Not a good time, not a lot of points but, for me, the most enjoyable race of this year's Series.
Carolyn was third in Group 5 after Chris and Simon. Last year she got the biggest applause of the day as the gutsy, but last, Wilmslow runner. It has been a productive 12 month . Catriona defied a lack of training for an excellent fourth. Alan must be yearning for a flat race. Peter was rewarded for venturing into territory that a track-record of accidents means he normally avoids. Trevor has always been better on the tougher rather than sprinters' courses and they also seem to suit Nina. Roy's under doctor's orders not to run these type of races, the doctor was right again. The shin splints mean that PB Gail is no more, but she'll be back.
Our appreciation for support from Richard, Martin and Nick, and to Dave and Christine for officiating. And ..... not forgetting, Don, Javed (officiating), Mike and Sally with Elliott, Mike with Robbie and Mollie, and other spouses.
Another change of leadership as Damian goes to the top of the Main Table. It's changed four times in four races, but you suspect that it's all over now. Malcolm slips to second but strengthens his hold on that place. Third is Andrew Whittingham.
Graham Screawn (now in 4th. position), wins his first T-shirt and mug, which will also sport the names Kate Sutton (12th.), Owen Ashcroft (16th.) and Nina Birch (23rd.). 24 qualifiers so far this year.
Paul Norris moves ahead of Gareth, Andrew draws level with Janine.
Janine retains leadership of the Ladies. Kate jumps up to second with Angela now third. They are followed by Carolyn, Gail, Nina and Sarah.
Tony, the Pauls and Gareth are unchanged at the top of League 3. Aron moves up to 5th.
Geoff remains at the head of League 4. Andrew moves above Janine into second. Kate jumps up to 4th. She is followed by John and Angela with Owen jumping to 7th. and Don at 8th.
Don's having technical problems with League 5 but Chris will have edged another point ahead of Alan. Carolyn, Roy and Gail, will hold-on to their previous positions but Nina will jump in at 6th. ahead of Trevor and Sarah.
A two week gap now to Moonraker, which will bring a change of scenery, and with no less than 15 runners having the potential to complete the qualifying seventh races there, then we could see a major upheaval of the tables.
(click on image & wait!)