It was a bright, glorious day with little or no wind on the Pimbo oval for the first St. Helens Tri winter (spring?) duathlon last Sunday. Twenty-one members faced a course altered at the last minute due to roadworks and a milk tanker of all things at Pit Hey Place. As such the two run legs were shortened to around 2.7 miles, exactly the same as is featured at the Oulton Park Duathlon. The bike course would be the usual five laps of Pimbo as used multiple times throughout the year by road racers. Such conditions were always going to favour those with plenty of bike speed and good preparation behind them (in particular the February heatwave proving an unexpected hurdle in terms of perfect hydration) and as such it was little surprise that the leaders set off at a frenetic pace on the first run with Mark Turner reaching T1 well clear of the rest of the field, indeed Eddie Hirst pitched up in the pit lane over a minute in arrears. Both were chased down by fifth-ranked runner Dean Golba who used his Giant Trinity to best effect and went from 5th to the lead by the end of the bike stage with easily the fastest cycle split of the day. However, Mark was not to be denied and his final, epic effort on the run saw his breeze past Dean and take a resounding victory in a time of 1:05:54. Eddie Hirst might have challenged for the win had he not been out for 90 miles on the bike two days earlier to rehearse the 2019 Ironman bike route but once passed by Dean he was set in a comfortable third place, briefly looking like catching Dean towards the end but ultimately running out of time to make the decisive move. Nevertheless it was a supreme performance by the club’s top three athletes of the moment with more to come from all of them in the months ahead.
Behind Eddie there was a great battle for best of the rest honours between Gez Roberts and Mark Ashton which was only resolved once Gez had put sufficient time into his rival on the bike course, the pair finishing just over two minutes apart. Patrick Neill might have joined them with a more efficient opening stanza but a top six finish was still a good way to back up a solid winter of cross country. The best performance from the “newcomers” came from James Nairn who looked right at home running with the upper midfield. His bike leg was not quite so hot but he ran so well on the final stage he almost caught first veteran Paul Austin, the pair rounding out the top ten overall. There was only ever going to be one winner of the super-vet competition and sure enough, Steve Williams came up with the goods once again as he rebounded from near the back on the first run to record a bike split only 17 seconds slower than that of Mark Turner. A top-10 overall looked on the cards only for quicker runners to pass him late on but 12th place and another super-vet title just added to his overcrowded trophy cabinet. Meanwhile Carole James and Lynette Houghton were enjoying a cracking race for the ladies title which eventually went Carole’s way, a fine reward for her commitment to the Friday morning swim sessions and her double winter of cross country with both St Helens Tri and Southport Waterloo, well done Carole.
A special thank you to Terry Bates for organising the event and to those who might also have taken part but instead offered their help marshalling and setting up the race venue. Also thank you to the Pimbo truck stop for the well received breakfast and allowing the club to use their building as the race HQ. The second and final club duathlon for the 2019 winter season is on 24 March, with entries still available at the time of writing.