Sunday, 25 January 2015

Southern XC at Stanmer Park - loved all 15k of it

'In pieces' is probably the best way to describe how I felt after 15k around Stanmer Park. Its got to rank fairly high in the tougher races of the year, and great to see such a well contested championship. 

From the gun, a large group of almost 20 runners ran off the front and jostled for positions over the first 1.5 laps, with no one taking the out right lead nor anyone really falling off the back. I started relatively steady and found myself about 50m behind the lead pack. Someway through the first lap, Ben Cole (who had a fantastic run to finish 12th) came flying past me on a downhill, as did Chris Greenwood and, once Darren Deed caught up, a small group had formed which really helped maintain a good pace.

I thought some of the runners in the lead pack may have come back to us, but that wasn't the case at all. By the third lap, Ben and Darren had gained some distance ahead of myself and Chris, and we were effectively competing for 15th and 16th. The final half mile to the finish is a gentle downhill and, despite it probably being the fastest part of my race, I didn't quite have that top end speed to get 15th. Unaware to me, I was being chased down by Daniel Thorne (Reading), and having only realised this close to the finish, I had to sprint for the line for 16th.

It sounded as though the race for first place was akin to that of 3 years ago with 4 being in contention for the win. Apparently John Pepper came off the final climb in the lead, but the positions changed on the final downhill. Ben Tickner was fractionally ahead going into the final run-in and giving him enough for the win, Paskar Ower was 5 yards back for second, and John Pepper another 5 yards back for third, despite having the same time as Alex Bruce-Littlewood who took fourth.

My old club mate Louise Damen took an impressive win in the women's race finishing some distance ahead of second place and leading Winchester to a team victory.

A great event and now I look forward to Parliament Hill and The National for the next instalment of XC.

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