The first post-Southport Super Sunday arrived on the first weekend of June with the flagship race being the Deva Triathlon hosted by Chester Triathlon Club. Set in one of England’s most historic cities famous for its Roman architecture and horse racing, the 2018 event offered both an Olympic and half ironman distance to choose from while also being the second round of the St Helens Tri club championship. With so many having excelled a fortnight earlier in Southport, would they repeat the dose in the Deva City?
In the standard distance 19 club members took part including many who qualified for Team GB last month and some taking part in their first Olympic race. Che Heard and Peter Fairclough were kept apart on Marine Drive two weeks ago in separate races but here they were locked in a battle for supremacy and what a duel it was as Che was out of the water nearly two minutes ahead and set about clocking an amazingly fast bike split. Peter made a thrilling late comeback bid to catch him but Che held on to be first club member home by just 15 seconds. After that it was a wait of around twelve minutes for Terry Bates, whose battle with David Gaskell was almost a carbon copy of the Che-Peter duel as Terry got away on the bike and held off his rival over the 10k to not only place third in the interclub standings, but also finish second overall in the M60-64 group. Two quick swimmers Mal Balmer and Steve Elliot also showed their diverse strengths as they finished less than two minutes apart while also being split by Mark Ashton, who recovered from being a few minutes behind the dynamic duo out of the water to clock an excellent sub-47 10k run and split the pair at the finish. Other highlights further down the field included the continuing improvement of Myka Heard, Helen Broderick and relative newcomer Christine Forber on the bike and Shirley Fox placing in the top ten for her age group thanks to a particularly impressive run split under 50 minutes, while Wendy Webb and Robert Wilson were delighted to complete their first Olympic distance race in under four hours and with such a relatively short history of competition compared to her teammates, so they deserved it, as they immediately pondered afterwards where her next such race might be!
For such inspiration, Wendy and Robert might have wanted to look no further than the half ironman distance. In last weekend’s Southport Team GB round-up, Emma Austin was mentioned as the most exciting athlete the club has at the present moment. And that statement certainly rings true – for short distances. For longer distances, look no further than Sarah Taktak, who has quietly gone about building up an outstanding record of age group successes as she looks to emulate Che Heard as someone who reached Ironman level at a young age. On the strength of Sunday’s performance on the shores of the River Dee you certainly wouldn’t bet against her, as she matched and even beat the swim times of many club members with years of experience, and she added a much-improved bike performance and some very gritty running to win her age group in just over 6 hours 10 minutes, a fine reward for a 2018 already filled with more highlights than most athletes can pack into ten years. Meanwhile it was a case of “2017 here we go again” as Charlie Stirrup, perhaps the club’s most improved long-distance athlete last year, continued his upward trajectory into the new season in his first major race in quite a while. Here, he was out of the water over two minutes ahead of anyone else in the club and a sub-2:30 bike split, averaging well over 20mph, simply confirmed his status as the club’s leading long distance athlete with his final time not only being well under five hours) but also place him sixth in his age category However, he was nearly caught in the final stages by Michael Forber, who has hit the headlines many times already this year for his amazing performances at the Manchester and London Marathons, and here he was on top form as he recorded a stunning half marathon time of 1:31:28 (on a day when no-one else from the club broke the 1:40 mark) to finish eighth in his division and less than five minutes behind his much more experienced teammate. Patrick Neill also made up a little time on Charlie on the run course but not quite enough to dip under the 5-hour mark, however his solid run plus two very quick transitions ensured he was next club member home while also in the top 80 overall. Behind Patrick a fascinating battle was developing between Andrew Gaskell and Dean Golba. Andrew matched Sarah’s swim time and looked to be well ahead but Dean put in an inspired performance on the bike to really put the cat amongst the pigeons. However, Andrew would make up enough time on the run course to re-pass Dean for position and finish ahead by just 52 seconds. Other standout performances included a rapid bike time from 10k specialist Dave O’Connell to dip under the 5:30 mark overall, an encouraging run from Mike Gregory as he overcame a couple of sticky transitions and a much-improved run from Azzam Taktak as he shrewdly saved his energy for when it mattered most. All in all a terrific day out and a perfect advert for the club on yet another scorching Sunday (full results including details of all members who took part are here: https://chestertri.niftyentries.com/Results/Deva-Triathlon-2018) and not just for those who made the trip to Chester either, as Lee Stinch took on yet another marathon, this one being in Huddersfield. It was so hot in West Yorkshire that even the local press alluded to it being “the ultimate challenge” but Lee was more than up to the task, finishing in well under four and a half hours, a good performance in any situation but an excellent one on a hilly course in very un-British conditions. Also “going long” were Richard Seville and John Baden who took on the UK Ultimate Half Ironman in Shropshire hosted by UK Triathlon Events. Richard put in a stunning performance particularly on the run where was whole minutes quicker than many of the top 10, indeed he almost caught the second man in his age group but just fell short by les than a minute while John Baden’s power on the bike enabled him to beat the eight hour mark before driving for almost as long down to Cornwall for a well-deserved holiday after two half Ironman distance races in the space of a fortnight.
Other events over the weekend included Robert and Adam O’Shea taking part in the Montrose Sprint Triathlon. It’s nothing new for our two intrepid travellers to find a race that few would know exists in sunny St Helens but unusually it was a pool based triathlon including 30 lengths indoors instead of the usual 16. Robert managed a quicker swim and bike time on this occasion and while Adam’s trademark speed on the run gave his brother a real hurry-up to the line, Robert held on to finish ahead by just 33 seconds. Epic Events took over most of the northwest once again and those club members who were not at the Roman Road cycle sportive in Ormskirk were making the long trip north to Ullswater for the first of the Epic Lakes Swims in 2018. Cory Sandys has been in fine form ever since his breakout performance at last year’s Ironman UK and was prolific here as well as he took on the 1 mile swim and beat the 30 minute mark by 12 seconds. while Cheryl Pace, another member who has recently joined from a long running history at Penny Lane Striders, was not too far behind as she finished her first Epic Lakes event well inside the top 200, rounding off a weekend full of star performances. Next weekend’s flagship special is in Leeds City Centre as several club members make the trip to the latest round of the ITU World Championships where the public race in either a super-sprint, sprint or standard distance race on the Saturday or Sunday morning before the best in the world take to the streets in the afternoon to effectively turn the proud Yorkshire city into the world’s biggest stadium for the weekend.