IN the end the dream just remains that as team manager Mike Down watched on in frustration as Bristol & West AC could only finish seventh in the National 12-Stage Road Relay Championships on Saturday.
Dan Studley recorded the ninth fastest time of the day on the long stage
On paper a strong squad looked more than capable of mounting a serious charge on the top spots but once again the event, which stretches over four hours and is the biggest test of a club’s strength in depth, confounded all expectations.
“So what went so tragically wrong to wreck our expected challenge?” asked Down afterwards.
“In particular it was a combination of the foot injury that ended up forcing our team captain Steve Mitchell to limp home on the fifth stage more than three minutes slower than anticipated, together with a much slower run than expected by his own admission by Will Christofi (pictured below during the cross country season) on the previous long leg that left us to play catch-up for the rest of the race.”
In truth the signs looked ominous from the start when the vastly improved Jack Millar finished 22nd on stage one. Admittedly his time was only a minute behind the winner but it was thought that he would be far closer to the front.
That prompted an over-eager Luke Evans to go off too hard as he chased down the pack and he paid the inevitable price on the Sutton Park course though he still managed to haul back seven places.
Sadly the tone had been set and notwithstanding Mitchell’s unfortunate injury and a sterling effort by GB international Dan Studley on stage seven to clock the ninth fastest long stage of the day, the team were always on the back foot.
“It is academic to calculate where we might have finished without the mishaps, but while we certainly would not have beaten Tonbridge, who emerged as worthy champions, we surely would have taken one of the minor medals to maintain our progress of the previous two years,” added Down.
“We may have missed what I felt was our best ever opportunity to win the blue riband of British road running through misfortune.
“The challenge now is to regroup and make sure that next time the Gods are on our side. Never let it be said that the 12-stage was one stage too many!”
It is also worth noting that while Bristol & West’s B squad finished 27th and were easily the leading B team on the day.
Men’s 12-Stage: 1 Tonbridge AC 4hrs 17mins 24secs; 2 Highgate Harriers 4:18.56; 3 Swansea Harriers 4:19.42.
7 Bristol & West AC ‘A’ 4:24:17
Jack Millar (22) 27:21
Luke Evans (16) 16:13
Richard Peters (18) 16:05 (pictured)
Stephen Mitchell (27) 30:05
Harry Allen (21) 15:52
Daniel Studley (14) 26:18
Andrew Chambers (12) 15:56
Owain Jones (11) 28:15
Jack Bancroft (9) 16:03
Jarlath Mckenna (7) 27:48
Michael Wilsmore (7) 15:50
27 Bristol & West AC ‘B’ 4:38:03
Matt Battensby (51) 29:50
Josh Moody (38) 16:38
Andy Watt (36) 28:36
David Awde (34) 16:58
Ben Robinson (33) 28:52
Hugh Sadler (31) 16:37
Miles Chandler (31) 29:56
Adam Wilson (31) 17:25
Andy Salmon (30) 30:22
Robert Stewart (30) 17:01
Kurt Taylor (28) 29:08
Mark Edwards (27) 16:40
Fastest times overall – long stage: 1 Alex Yee (Kent) 24:57; 9th Dan Studley (B&W) 26:18. Short: Kieran Wood (Cambridge) 15:06.