ROAD AND ROCKS IN THE SUN
These annual champs were held this year in the Alps at Susa, Piedmont some 30 miles west of Turin, close to the French border. You could call the course a curate’s egg if you like but I prefer to characterise it as half wren’s egg and half ostrich’s…….Why? Because the first 2.5 K was mainly flat and on the road through the lovely little town, while the final 4 K had 2,500 feet of climb up rocky paths sometimes not runnable.
The old boys (65 and over) started at 10.30 am, half an hour after the women, when the temperature was around 30 degrees in the town. We were sent on our way down a steep tarmac road from the imposing Arch of Augustus dating from the 8th Century BC. I went pretty hard at the start having convinced myself that an early road race would not interfere with the climbing capacity needed later. After all, certainf fell runners warm up with a nice little Parkrun before heading for the hills.
In a field of 56, quite a bit bigger than last year’s race, there were 5 Brits, two unknown quantities to me plus the 2015 winner Ben Grant from Harrogate and Dic Evans of Cardiff, a frequent guest in the Herefordshire League. We’d won the team race back in 2013 but knew it would be a much stiffer challenge this time round given a) the strength in depth of Italy on home soil and b) our own advancing years, all of us being in the penultimate year of our category so up against some lively young whippersnappers.
The climb certainly proved tough and I was frustrated at having to walk in places. I pretty much held my position from the road, at one point needing a bump-up from behind from a fellow competitor (not GB naturally) as I overtook a flagging woman only to find I’d lost traction and stalled scaling a lump of rock.
But most memorable for me was overtaking someone in the finishing straight. That doesn’t happen often. I was hoping for top 20 but ended with 22nd, a good way behind Ben who was a fine 4th, with Dic in 33rd. This was good enough for bronze team medals behind Italy, who dominated, and Germany but clear of Slovakia in 4th.
I managed to beat all the V70’s, including Martin Ford, who was a frustrating close up 4th in the category but at least had the satisfaction of taking team silver along with fellow Cheltenham Harrier, Ken Buckle.