The canvas was grey and water-stained but we painted it a vibrant red and brought cheer on a dismal day in mid-Wales. The measure of our domination of the men’s race will become clear, but let me first congratulate our three debutants who all performed way beyond expectation on a demanding course made all the more testing by the recent deluges. In the women’s event, Andrea Omar gutsily took the 1st V50 spot in 22nd [69.44] while Jon Griffiths excelled in 13th [44.51] in the men’s event with Dima Fircks less than a minute behind in 18th [45.47]. This latter effort was all the more remarkable in that Dima was wearing road shoes! Just wait till he’s bought some studs! It was great to welcome these three new additions to the team and already they have acted like a blood transfusion [to pursue the ‘red’ theme] on the old guard.

It was wonderful to see Eliot taking command of the race, gradually applying the pressure on an uphill section and easing away to a comfortable victory [40.08] over Tim Iveson and Jon Pullen who had surprisingly beaten him in last week’s Beacon Race. No doubt Eliot intends to retain his Series title! Supporting him in the victorious ‘A’ Team were Matt [41.42] in 5th, Mike [42.47] a superb 8th [2nd V40] and the man who loathes X-C, Rich Hughes [43.40] an equally fine 10th [2nd V45]. But, as impressive as these runs were, so too was the packing of Couriers in the top half of the field enabling us to take 1st 4th and 5th Team positions. So, if we look at the stats, not only did we have 4 in the first 10, but 9 in the top 18 and 13 in the first 29. Technically, this is known as ‘swamping the opposition’. But we shouldn’t be complacent; we have to acknowledge that both Wye Valley and Croft were understrength ……and they certainly paid for it!

I have talked of new blood, but there is also re-cycled blood, by which I do not mean nefarious doings at Dr Herington’s clinic in the hills, but the return of Couriers to the fold after a sojourn, for various reasons, in the wilderness. So not only did we have Rich at the sharp end but former multiple race winners, Tim Taylor, a magnificent 12th [44.45] and 1st V50 and Russ [45.40] 17th [3rd V45]. So be warned, neophyte Couriers…Courierdom is an addiction you can’t escape!

Also, as ever, right up there was Luke James 11th [44.25] gamely turning out for the Club with yet another arduous off-road marathon in his legs. Just as dependable, V50 title holder, Dave Williams [46.49] was a strong 21st [2nd V50] with Neil [48.09] easing his way back into competition after lying fallow over the summer, in 24th. Close behind, sporting a tan from his stint at one of his warm weather training camps [“kinda sets off the red vest, don’t you think?”] was Geoff [49.12] dominating the V60’s in 26th, 3 places clear of the Herring [49.41], 1st V65. These two were twice led down a false trail by Mick Ligema but in no way did they believe that this was a ruse by the Croft hierarchy to take them out in order to benefit their own pensioners.

Behind these two a bloody battle was waged between powerhouse Kev [55.19] in 52nd and Bev Bishop [56.16] a brilliant 8th and 1st V40 in the women’s field. After holding Kev off in the Big Dipper, Bev was miffed to be swept aside by his rampaging downhill charge which he claimed was made possible by having rolled in stinging nettles before the start. “That usually works,” he said before flopping down in a patch of dock near the finish. Shame we didn’t have a women’s team but great that our two representatives lead their categories.

So on to Croft on November 10th. Valley and the host club will be out for, well, blood. But we are prepared, very prepared!
Fancy some hill work on the Sugarloaf this Saturday at 2.0 pm? Phone Clive or me for more race details.

Steve Herington