St Helens Tri have achieved much in European competition over the past few months but they have rarely enjoyed success on the world stage. This would all change however, as four members made the long trip to the Gold Coast Australia for the ITU World Finals, a part of the world where many top triathletes have emerged from ever since the Commonwealth Games 12 years ago. Team GB always feature prominently in these events and thanks to our own Fab Four of Myka and Che Heard plus Steve Williams and Mark Turner, 2018 would be no different with Myka and Steve racing in the sprint distance events on the Thursday. Myka was straight into the thick of the action as she was out of the water in under 14 minutes, finally getting the swim she has always hoped for, howvwer it was her bike strength that really caught the eye as she completed the 20km course in a time of 35:35. Her eventual overall time of 1:18:31 placed her 31st overall and third GB lady home in the F50-54 race thus setting the tone for another remarkable performance from Steve Williams. He also got off to a good start in the water but his bike speed was such that he actually set a faster 20km split than the person who finished second overall! He had to give best on the run to a fellow competitor gunning for a top-10 finish but he was still 11th in the world and 2nd GB athlete home at M65-69 level capping an outstanding season for St Helens Tri and Team GB.
Three days alter it was the turn of Mark Turner and Che Heard to race in the standard distance events. Mark Turner had a little ground to make up after a 24:05 swim but he was soon into his stride on the bike clocking an excellent 1:02:11, and a 37:22 10k comparable with his recent performance at the Aintree 10k lifted him into the top 50 in the world at the line. Che Heard has enjoyed a brilliant 12 months since his INUK 2017 performance and here he was again, straight into the action as he exited the water well up the field. A sub-21 minute swim was followed by a 1:04:34 bike split which did drop him a little way down the field, but an outstanding 10k run where he clocked 37:39 assured him of 27th place overall and third British M20-24 home, to round off an epic trip Down Under for St Helens Tri.
There was also plenty of interest closer to home with the two main events being the Kendal Triathlon and the Warrington Half Marathon and 10k. Garry Banks and Paul Austin have been regularly swimming in the upper lanes at recent training sessions and up in the South Lakes there was little to choose between them in the pool, Garry exiting the water just 12 seconds ahead. On the bike, however, Garry opened up a gap of just over a minute and a good final stage saw him take the honours of first club member home, in 1:10:49, 27th overall and second in his age group. Paul managed to finish within two minutes of Garry and his 35th position overall saw him secure fourth in his division. Emma Austin led a relay team to an outstanding sub-6 minute swim and on the bike they held firm before dropping back on the run, to finish just inside the top 100 in 1:23:11. Also racing at the home of Mint Cake were Laura and Karen Banks, with Laura making an early move to get herself over four minutes clear in the water, and she drew further ahead on the bike, her new-found form after the Ormskirk event proving to be no one-off as she rode confidently throughout. The run was somewhat tougher – she later described the climb to Kendal Castle as “a killer” – but her time of 1:38:00 saw her finish 179th overall and in the top 20 for the female open category, while Karen made up a little time on the run, however it was too late to catch Laura as she placed 214th in a time of 1:51:35.
Meanwhile, in Cheshire the ever-popular Warrington Half Marathon and 10k featured Mark Eccleston, Neil Hunter, Lynette Houghton and Diane Taktak. Diane Taktak competed in the 10k and her sub-56 time gave her a season’s best time by over two minutes, while in the half marathon Mark was suitably delighted with his 1:45:26 being over 12 minutes quicker than his previous best, and he credited Terry bates and BeURBest Coaching for the improvements in strength and conditioning to tackle the 13.1 mile distance at race pace (apparently far easier than running a full marathon after 2.4 miles of swimming and over 100 miles on a bike). He was just 90 seconds behind Neil Hunter who seemed more at ease here than at the recent South Cheshire 20, and Lynette Houghton was happy with her time of 2:01:50 as the Warrington quartet off another amazing week on home soil and the world stage with the standout performances coming from the Fab Four in Australia plus Mark in Warrington and Garry in Kendal. Next week sees the Southport and Ormskirk 10k races take place, the latter offering free entry to the Food and Drink Festival later in the day, and the month of September concludes the following Sunday with the North West Triathlon in Nantwich and the Oulton Park Duathlon, while the BeUrBest Rainford 10k takes place on October 7, with entries still available at the time of writing.