BRISTOL & West AC team manager Mike Down has been dreaming of winning the National 12-Stage Road Relay title for as long as I can remember and tomorrow he has put together a squad that has a real chance of glory.
The event, which takes place over four hours around the iconic Sutton Park circuit in Birmingham, is far too unpredictable to call with any certainty.
Key runner British international Dan Studley
The fact that the only time that Bristol – then operating as Bristol AC- has ever won this title, widely regarded as the Blue Riband of the club road running world, was back in 1980 when Olympians like Nick Rose and ‘Tony Staynings were in their prime, reflects just how hard it is to make the podium.
Some seriously good Bristol teams have tried and failed to get among the medals over the following thirty years but it is only recently that the team have emerged as genuine contenders.
Third two years ago Bristol & West improved to the silver medals twelve months ago when they also finished top English club behind the powerful Swansea outfit.
They are unlikely to retain their title as their leading lights are on international duty for Wales in the Commonwealth Games but as ever with this race nothing can be taken for granted as Down rightly outlines in his prediction for the event.
Loyal club man Steve Mitchell
“No-one should underestimate the opposition that confronts us, headed by the high-flying Tonbridge squad who scored such an overwhelming victory in the recent English cross-country championships,” said Down.
“According to the grapevine they are confident of repeating this success, and admittedly they will start as worthy favourites.
“There are other leading Southern clubs, notably Aldershot and Highgate, who could feature too if they get all their top runners out.
“The Northern challenge will be headed by their new champions Lincoln, who are a rising and close-knit force with a growing reputation, while the same as applies to Aldershot does to the North’s other leading challengers Salford, Sale, Stockport, Leeds, Morpeth and Liverpool, with whom we have had many a ding-dong struggle in the past.
“As regards our Midland opponents, Notts do not seem to be the force they were, while though top Birmingham club Birchfield ran us so close in the area 12-stage we are set to field a much stronger line-up, so it would be a major surprise if they trouble us this time.”
Bristol & West will be hoping international 1500m runner Rich Peters can deliver a big performance
So can Bristol & West do it? Traditionally cautious Down won’t be caught making any bold predictions of victory but he knows more than anyone else that everyone in the squad will have to run to their best form and a few others will need to have absolute blinders if they are to be in the mix.
“But a final message to you all: bear in mind that opportunities are never missed, they are simply taken instead by your rivals!” added Down.
“Do you want that to happen? We think not, so it’s over to you all now to fulfil our destiny as UK champions.”
A: JACK MILLAR, LUKE EVANS, WILL CHRISTOFI, RICH PETERS, STEVE
MITCHELL, HARRY ALLEN, DAN STUDLEY, ANDY CHAMBERS, OWAIN JONES,
JACK BANCROFT, JARLATH MCKENNA, MIKE WILSMORE. Res: JOSH MOODY.
B: MATT BATENSBY, JOSH MOODY, MACIEJ BIALOGONSKI, DAVID AWDE, BEN
ROBINSON, HUGH SADLER, ANDY SALMON, ADAM WILSON, KURT TAYLOR, MILES
CHANDLER, MARTIN PALMER, MARK EDWARDS. Res: ROBBIE STEWART.