The first blast of the ref’s whistle, the ceremonial first pitch, the first spreadsheet; they all share the same mixed emotion of excitement and hope for the season ahead, that will no doubt be doused with a cold shower of reality at some point (such is the life of a Preston fan..). However, despite the less than pleasant weather on Sunday, the spirits of the travelling band of Striders were not dampened, as they descended (or should that be ascended?!) on Huddersfield 10K for the first race of this year’s Road Race Championship. With a pretty tough course on offer, as well as challenging conditions, it soon became clear that some were still feeling effects of a very festive break since the end of least season. There were more than a few utterances of foul language between gasping breaths as the hills took the toll. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience of course.
The Premiership could very well be a very tasty affair again, as last season’s runner up Joe not only took 20 points, but also was the first runner home overall. He wasn’t the only Strider to have a good day at the office as Liam Walker finished 2nd overall, a slim 13 seconds behind Joe. It looks like Phil (not present on the day due to post-Brexit Dronfield border control issues), will have a real challenge on his hands to repeat last year’s success. Elsewhere, the Cooper twins Jonathan & Phil, managed to avoid doing barrel rolls down the slippy descents to score solidly on their first efforts, while the trio of the newly promoted Dave, Jordan and Ade also gave a good account of themselves.
In Division 2 Rob Betts justified my decision to multiply promote him as an act of mercy for other runners, finishing not far behind Chris Bannister and Todd Thornback to pick up 18 points. If his improvement trajectory this year matches last… watch out Division 2. Yours truly, once again showed his natural affinity and love for climbing hills by narrowly avoiding decorating Lucy Broom’s new Vaporflys with a psychedelic yawn at the finishing line.
Darren Barnett finished slightly more than a hair’s breadth ahead of Warren Brown in Division 3, with not much separating the chasing pack either, suggesting the division could be a multi-way scrap this season.
Gareth Hague translated his performances on the pitch to the road, taking 20 points in Division 4, after managing to hold off Kevin Firth. Crowd favourite Al Dalton had a great run on his debut in Division 4 to to pick 17 points, while a surprisingly taciturn Stuart Jones (saving his breath for the hills?) also banked early points.
Division 5 also looks like it could be a tight contest with Luke Prest sneaking in ahead of Keith Bell and Maz Kazcmarczyk Kajagoogoo Kaczmarczyk. The rest of a bumper turn out for the division were not far behind, and with plenty of runners no doubt improving as the season pans out, this could be the division to watch:
Harriet Davis showed she’s inherited her father’s hill climbing ability (and sandbagging?!), if not his propensity for falling down them, as she finished 3 minutes clear of Caitlin Robertson who was closely followed by Gemma Thorpe and Stephen Slater.
In Division 7 Izzy Carter got a bit whizzy to bring home 20 points from West Yorkshire, with Mark Davies behind splitting the Sheffield Half pacing dream team of Nicola Ross and Richard Pegg to pick up 17 points.
Pre-season favourite Charlotte Civico lived up to the tag on day, sweeping home to take maximum points ahead of Steven Lewis who must also be pretty pleased with his performance. It was good too, to see Steven Millar after a series of long term injuries that derailed his season last year.
Division 9 saw John Liddle directing proceedings as he came home first ahead of Muhammed Khan. It was pleasing too to see Graham Hague back in the Green & Gold after injury issues.
Luke Hilton had a handle on things, as he held off Gill Turton to finish first in Division 10. Elsewhere Jane Wilson may have rebelled against the hills but still picked up a very useful 15 points.
Finally, but by no means least, in Division 11 Maggie Vickers gunned it to take the 20 points. Slightly behind her was Megan Ohri, one of the hot tips for the division, while Sara, Sally and Gill also had a good showing.
Full standings can be found here.