Bedford & County’s senior men’s team were in action on Saturday April 9 in the 12-leg National Road Relay Championship, being held at Sutton Park, Birmingham.
Entry to the race is by invitation only, with all teams having to qualify in either the English regions or the Scottish or Welsh Championships. The 12-stage relay includes alternating long and short legs of 5.4 and 3.2 miles respectively, starting with a long leg.
With the arrival of former UK international Dan Jarvis to the team that won bronze in the South Relay 2 weeks ago, hopes were high of a podium finish. But disaster struck because barely 10 minutes before the start of the race, the rider of the 2nd stage Alex Alston was injured during the warm-up. With no travel reserves, team manager Tony Forrest and coach Simon Goodwin wasted no time trying to resolve the situation. After a number of frantic phone calls, Joe Strange, who had just finished a hill training session in Bedford, agreed to hop in his car and drive to Birmingham to run the final stage so the team can at least finish. The order of the teams was then revised with all riders from the short stage advancing to a previous stage.
Meanwhile, Jack Goodwin was already in the middle of his leg, setting the tone at the head of the 64-man field. Jack ran superbly coming home in 2nd place in Bedford’s best time of 25:44 for the very hilly 5.4 mile lap. Stage 2 substitute athlete Alfie Yabsley, who had only had 15 minutes to warm up when he initially did stage 4, rode very well, finishing 3rd in 15:39 for the short lap of 3.2 miles. Dan Jarvis wasted no time in turning an 11-second deficit into a 30-second lead by bringing Bedford home first with a time of 26:07. With a fine time of 15:57, James Minter on leg 4 increased Bedford’s lead to 24 seconds. Ben Davies on Stage 5 had the unenviable task of defending the lead with one of the fastest riders in the country hot on his heels. Ben fought hard, clocking an excellent 26:55, but falling back to 2nd place a minute behind leaders Highgate Harriers. This set the tone for the next 5 stages with Bedford hanging on to 2nd place with a gap of around a minute. On Stage 6 the gap widened slightly as Craig Emmerson battled for a time of 16:06 for the short stage, only for Ben Alcock to close it with a superb long stage of 26 :05.
The gap widened slightly again in Stage 8 as Sam Winters clocked a solid 15:58. The team’s 43-year-old Darren Deed showed the youngsters that he was still capable of running a super 26:45 to close the gap again to 43 seconds.
A great run from Matt Bray on Stage 10 was not enough to prevent the gap from increasing slightly to 51 seconds as he ran 15:39. As Southern Relay champions Tonbridge AC fielded their best athlete on Stage 11, Bedford was pushed back to 3rd despite a fine 26:52 from Harry Brodie. As the 12th and final stage approached, all thoughts turned to the size of the gap that would be needed on the 4th-placed team if Joe Strange was to retain the bronze medal. Bearing in mind that 800m specialist Joe would not normally have made the team, the fact that he had trained hard that morning and a persistent shoulder problem, the general consensus was 3 minutes would probably be enough.
However, on the changeover with Joe starting just 1:56 ahead of Bristol, it was going to be tight. But Joe, running scared, surprised everyone, including himself, losing just 50 seconds to the chasers and running a stunning 16:38 over a minute faster than expected. Thus, the hoped-for bronze medals went to Bedford.
It was both the English Road Running Association Championship and the British Athletics Championship so each athlete won 2 medals. Although he has won numerous national team medals in cross country and road racing over the past 20 years, this was the first time Bedford had won a medal in this particular championship.
In the younger age groups there were also strong performances from Milly Dunger and Lyla Danobrega at the Young Athletes National 5K Road Championships. Milly won the Girls Under 15 race in 17:59 and Lyla was third in 20:14. Milly and Lyla are ranked top 7 nationally for 5k in their age group.
What a fitting end to the first full winter season since 2019-20.
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This notice was published: 2022-04-15 14:18:45