Duels and Delights in the Deva City

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The month of June began with the city of Liverpool celebrating and most of Merseyside nursing some pretty sore heads but for St Helens Tri members making the trip down the M56 to Chester there was no such lie-in as 12 of them faced either the standard or middle distance Deva Triathlons hosted by Chester Tri Club. In the standard distance the stars of the show were Michael Forber and Patrick Neill. We are fairly used to seeing positions set in stone between club members nowadays, but it is a long time since such a back-and-forth duel in an open water race (as in decided on the finish line) has eventuated, yet here Michael and Patrick put on a thrilling show with Michael’s much improved swim pace seeing him out of the water nearly two minutes ahead only for Patrick to use his TT bike to ease away on two wheels, not easy given the strong winds and changeable conditions. However, you can never write Michael off and a searing 43:25 for the 10k run saw him edge it at the line by just 17 seconds after nearly two and a half hours of racing. This result also left him second in his age group, in which he overtook many tiring runners over the final few kilometres. Ian Wright and James Nairn were similarly well matched on overall time, however in this case it was more that James’ late rally fell short as despite making up over 90 seconds on the run and having superior transition times, Ian held on to be third club member home by only 28 seconds, with the pair having enough in hand to hold off Patrick Lee, racing for the first time in open water since the Birmingham Triathlon last June. He managed to hang onto his two teammates for much of the race before dropping back on the run to finish around five minutes in arrears. However, Bethany Forber once again stole the show and scored a podium as her much improved speed on the bike lifted her to third in the F20-24 category and 280th overall in a time of 3:10:13, huge encouragement for one of the club’s top young talents.

Mark Glynn led the way once again in the half Ironman distance as he absolutely crushed the swim, exiting the water in well under half an hour. His 2:25 bike also caught the eye and although Adam O’Shea’s trademark speedy legs pulled back a little on the run stage it was too little too late to catch Mark who finished in 4:37:23 and made the top ten in his age group. Behind Adam came Will Bardin and Robert O’Shea, with Will finishing around half an hour to the good after a rapid swim that had him well up the field straight from the off, while rounding out the club counters in Chester were the ever-improving Chris Dyson and Azzam Taktak, whose recent Rock n Roll Half Marathon experience paid dividends as they completed the course in under six hours. A particularly heartening result for Chris who had not experienced open water swimming until a month ago! In keeping with the Noah’s Ark “two by two” theme, Mike Gregory and Kevin Dudley were closely matched throughout much of the Epicman Windermere triathlon with Kevin establishing an early lead in the water but Mike working his way back on the bike as the pair exited T2 split by little more than a handful of seconds. In the end Mike’s superior run speed proved to be the difference as he finished around fifteen minutes ahead, completing the hilly course in just under six hours 50 minutes. Over in Shropshire Ben Mason, the club’s star of YouTube for his appearance in a Wiggle commercial, was tackling his first middle distance race at the UK Ultimate Half organised by UK Triathlon. In a world where seemingly everyone is a social media “influencer” it is easy to overlook “yet another account” but Ben’s columns are some of the most uplifting you will find and as such his result in Whitchurch, while not being the fastest of the day, was surely the most popular. He was out of the water in under 42 minutes and despite having to battle the thoughts of the unknown on the bike and run he still completed his first 70.3 in well under seven hours. A true credit not only to St Helens Tri but also the local sporting community.

Over in Weert, Holland Steve Williams was flying the flag for team GB in a little “showdown before the showdown”, namely England’s impending Europa Nations League semi final against the Netherlands. He was racing in the ETU triathlon championships and clocked just over 30 minutes for the swim before his trademark blistering bike split put him into contention for the podium. In the end he didn’t quite have the pace to outrun his rivals but a fifth place finish and second GB athlete home was a fine reward.

Meanwhile, Gary Birch took part in the Blenheim Palace Triathlon in aid of Bloodwise. The Blenheim race incorporates various distances including sprint, super sprint and Gary’s choice, the weekend warrior. Results for this race are not yet available at the time of writing but will be included in next week’s round-up when the main focus is on Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire, featuring a rolling bike course which has already been frequented by several club members in preparation. In addition the Leeds ITU weekend offers a sprint and standard distance race in the morning, plus the opportunity to watch the elites race in the afternoon. With two major races plus the first game for the England ladies team at the World Cup and a possible Europa Nations League final appearance for the men’s team, it promises to be yet another action-packed weekend for all.

Bethany and Michael at the Deva Triathlon

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