St Helens Tri members were racing at four different venues on Sunday, with the focus mainly being at historic Oulton Park in Cheshire. Predominantly a motorsports venue, in recent years it has become a popular racetrack for holding multisport races with occasional running events being something of the spring and autumn duathlons. It’s a while since Mark Ashton has been spotted leading the club home but he has a very good past record in the Endurance Store winter training events, and all that practice of running off the bike proved useful as he followed up a solid first run and a blistering sub-34 minute bike with a dogged effort to take 72th overall in a time of 1:10:41. Given a little more time to practice on his Giant Propel Michael Forber may well challenge Mark for the honour next time as he made up nearly 90 seconds on the final stage, eventually finishing just under a minute adrift but placing in the top ten in his age category. In doing so he extricated himself from the clutches of Garry Banks whose 1:13:02 put him the top 100 overall and 5th in the M55-59 category, after which it was a little wait for Chris Murphy to be fourth club member home in 194th overall having run in a race of his own throughout. Behind him a cracking battle was on between Azzam Taktak and Helen Broderick which was only resolved on the final run as Azzam pulled away to get the nod at the line, to the tune of just 23 seconds. Shirley Fox has improved immeasurably with her weekly long rides and while unable to catch her teammates ahead, her time of 1:30:37 put her in the top 250 and 4th in her age group. A great story was developing in Shirley’s rear-view mirror as Bethany Forber and Sarah Taktak, who have raced many long-distance events together this year were side by side for much of the race, and as such it was fitting that they crossed the line together in 1:36:15, Sarah finishing second in her age group only a week after wrapping up the adventure series title in Anglesey. For some time it looked as though Christine Forber would stay with them, especially after a much-improved bike split, however she eventually came home a couple of minutes adrift having still done more than enough to beat the 1:40 mark. The remaining club entrants were Laura and Karen Banks with the pair separated by five minutes at the finish, Laura placing eighth in the F30-34 category and Karen sixth in her age group.
That was it for the sprint distance but in the afternoon five club members were off at 1pm for the longer standard race. While the sprint distance was five bike laps sandwiched by single lap runs, the standard length comprised a two-lap run to start, nine laps on the bike and a single lap to finish off. Mark Turner has steadily worked his way into being a specialist at races lasting around two hours and here he was again, leading the quintet home as his blistering sub-32 minute run at the beginning gave him a lead he would never lose, finishing over eleven minutes clear of his teammates, 41st overall and third in the M25-29 group. Terry Bates also had a day to remember as he threw everything at his division leader to catch him, only to fall short by just eight seconds, however his 2:07:25 and second place in his category was still an outstanding result. Neil Jackson was next up having actually run ahead of Terry early doors, however Terry’s experience on the bike eventually proved to be the difference with around two and a half minutes separating the pair at the line. Also racing was long distance specialist Mark Eccleston who was probably feeling the effects of many hard running events over the course of the season yet commendably rode faster than both Terry and Neil en route to a 2:10:50 finish. One more long-time servant of St Helens Tri, stretching back to the days of Ashurst Bike Club, also raced in the classic black and white colours of 2004 vintage. Ashurst Bike Club ran from 2004 to 2014 and one of the upcoming stars around the turn of the decade was Richard Kettle who had many fine outings at Oulton Park. Tragically he died of a heart attack a couple of years ago. So in his memory Derek Ireland, who had not raced in nearly a decade, decided to compete at the Cheshire circuit to honour his great friend. He did Richard proud, too, giving a particularly determined performance on the bike with his final time of 2:50:29 giving him a top-six placing in his age group. A fine example to club members new and old.
The juniors were out in force at the Blackpool end of season triathlon, the final round in the Triathlon England North West league. Holly and Grace Hirst competed for St Helens Tri alongside Hollie and Thomas Saile. Results are not yet in at the time of writing but while the grand St Helens Tri outing was in full swing in Little Budworth, Dean Golba scored the club’s best result at the Nantwich Triathlon since 2016 as he finished fifth overall and won his age group; undoubtedly a contender for the most improved triathlete of the year for 2018. Meanwhile Lee Stinch travelled a little further, to say the least, as he tackled the Monster Ultra Trail race in Ely, Cambridgeshire. On a tough, windy day he performed brilliantly to place in the top 20 with a time of 6 hours 55 minutes to round off a terrific Sunday of racing. Next week’s big event needs no introduction as BeUrBest host the Rainford 10k, with the kids fun run beginning at 9:45am and the main event starting 45 minutes later. Entries are still available but online entry closes in the next 24 hours for the 10k, which regularly sells out in advance of race day.