A Duel in the Deva City and an Epic at Ellesmere

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Myka Heard has long been one of the most inspirational members of St Helens Tri and added to her roll of honour on Bank Holiday Monday at the Chester Tri Club Aquathlon. Having starred in a pilot event the week before she was third in her age group upon exiting the water, made a quick pit stop to get her shoes on and overtook the local celebrity and television presenter Louise Minchin to record a sub-25 minute 5k and take second in her age group. Her remarkable result set the tone for a brilliant performance by Eddie Hirst the following Sunday. It’s not often you have a “champions league” of triathlon at a public event especially on the treacherous slopes of Helvellyn, but this iconic venue had long been a favourite for those who like their courses tricky and technical, and Eddie was right into the swing of things in the North Lakes. In a race which featured international standard racers such as Alistair Brownlee and Lucy Gossage Eddie was out of the water in a little over half an hour and, after just over two hours on the bike (which he rode with no hydration after both bottles fell off!) he was up and down the mountain in a time good enough to place him just outside the top 50 as well as a handy 13th in his category.

However, the greatest sporting story of the day was elsewhere – and with due respect, it wasn’t Pierre Gasly’s shock win in the Italian Grand Prix. Rachael Fairclough has been a perfect sporting ambassador not only for St Helens Tri but also the wider community for the last 10 years including being an Olympic torch bearer in the run up to London 2012. Over the last couple of years she has predominantly remained a runner, but when she gets an opportunity to race triathlon, there are few better at taking their chances than her. At the Shropshire Triathlon in Ellesmere she was racing in the sprint distance (750m/25km/5k) and was embroiled in a thrilling battle for age group honours throughout. With a small lead exiting the water, she edged further ahead as the bike leg began and then her closest rival tried to snatch the initiative back heading onto the run course. Rachael promptly took control back with an epic final run to not only win her age group by 81 seconds, but also make the overall podium! A remarkable result for someone who stands alongside Myka as a perfect leader for the St Helens Tri ladies and an example to those who are looking to join the club in preparation for next season.

Rachael wasn’t the only one in the West Midlands; David Mellor was also in the sprint distance and was out of the water in just over 15 minutes. His immense power served him well on the bike and despite a stitch on the run he still placed in the top 30 overall and fifth in his category. In the standard distance Chris Hayes, Kevin Dunbar and Azzam Taktak took their long distance strength around the Shropshire lanes and all went home happy, Chris overcoming an early deficit in the water to pass Kevin on the bike course with a noteworthy sub-67 minute time for the 40k stage. Although Kevin set a quicker 10k time on the run course it was not enough to catch Chris who duly held on to be first club member home and inside the top 50 overall to boot. Meanwhile Azzam Taktak put his regular attendance at the Tuesday night bike sessions to good use as he finished the event in under three hours and ten minutes.

So a truly memorable week of results with star performances coming from Myka Heard, Rachael Fairclough and Eddie Hirst; three contrasting yet equally remarkable stories to tell. Next weekend is another relatively sparse schedule but the North West Classic triathlon follows at Alderford Lake in a fortnight’s time while the Oulton Park and Carlisle duathlons are still on and open for entries at the time of writing.

David Mellor and Chris Hayes at the Shropshire Triathlon

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