Welsh Castles Relay: 2018
Look up the verb ‘defend’ in the SHM dictionary and this is what you will see:
Defend: verb – to destroy the opposition whilst amassing an army of yellow jerseys
Or so it seemed this weekend as the SHM Male Dragons roared their way down the length of Wales, winning an impressive 10 stages, 4 Vet stage wins and the prestigious crown ‘King of the Mountains.’
If you want to win Welsh Castles, you have to match us man for man…and woman! The SHM Women’s team performed brilliantly this weekend and believed (still believe!) they had done enough to secure their first ever WCR victory, earning SHM an historic double.
This is how it all unfolded…
Day One: Saturday 9th June 2018
The day started under blue skies and glorious sunshine with the entire SHM contingent leading the race field around Caenarfon Castle to the start of Leg 1. They had invited us to do this as defending champions and it really set the tone for the weekend – all other teams chasing Sale.
Gary Rowlinson and Jo Street were up first and both put in strong performances on Leg 1. Leg 2 saw a welcome return to the women’s WCR team for Rachel Rozhdestvenskaya, who worked her way through the field to finish as second lady. Ken Hunt stormed his way to victory for the men’s team, bringing home our first yellow jersey and defending Criccieth Castle.
In the first of the mountain stages, Phil Robertson (Leg 3) powered his way to victory and began the domino effect of accumulating yellow jerseys. Emma Finney had a great run to finish in 3rd and the women’s team momentum was gathering. Legs 4 and 5 brought more yellow jerseys for the men with Men’s Manager Chris ‘Donners’ Donnelly on 4 and Ben McIntyre on 5, both leading from the front. Between them, Harlech Castle had been successfully defended! Suzanne Smith (Leg 4) and Jackie ‘where’s the hills?’ Cordingley, (Leg 5), powered through to gain valuable time over the other women’s teams.
Nathan Harrison continued the men’s winning streak on Leg 6, beating Serpentine into second place by over 4 minutes, with Sian Rowley returning to the women’s WCR team and putting in a great run. The second of the day’s mountain stages saw Dave Marsh have a brilliant run to finish strongly in 5th place on Leg 7, firmly keeping Sale in the hunt for the coveted King of the Mountains. Jane Thomas, who ran smiling throughout this tough leg, added valuable minutes for the ladies’ team.
Leg 8 saw an impressive debut from Harriet Hamilton who finished as second female overall but first lady in the ladies category, whilst Nick Barry braved the scorching heat to claim another Sale victory. Lee Kaufmann, who finished fourth and Julia Reynolds took Sale from Foel to Llanfair Caereinion on Leg 9, both securing vital minutes with excellent runs.
The final leg of the day saw Callum Rowlinson and Katherine Wood step up to race a brutal, hilly half-marathon finishing in Newtown. Callum finished in an impressive second after an epic battle with Abedare Valley. Katherine Wood destroyed the female opposition to win the stage by some distance in 1:26:28, and a sense of belief started to build amongst the women’s ranks. The men were obviously streaks ahead of the opposition at the close of play on Day 1, but were nonetheless gearing up to attack Day 2.
Day 2: Sunday 10th June 2018
The first race of the day begins at a punishing 7am on the fourth mountain stage, Leg 11. This did little to deter Dan Kashi from storming home for the victory and SHM’s seventh yellow jersey. Anne Chinoy had a superb run for the women’s team and finished as second lady, putting a significant time difference over our rivals.
Carla Ousey and Andy Carlin were next on Leg 12, both having strong runs. Leg 12 is a long, steady run before finishing with 3 hills in the last 3 miles. At the foot of the first hill Andy was running in a pack of 4. He looked up at Eddie, who was supporting at the side of the road, and asked, ‘is this the first of 3?’ When he heard a ‘yes,’ he switched on the afterburners and left the competition for dust to take the next SHM yellow jersey. Impressive stuff! Sinead Roche ran an impressive 13 minutes quicker than the previous year on Leg 13, with Paul ‘Greeny’ Green winning our first Vet yellow stage on the same.
Drovers is a daunting drive, let alone run, and few in the club relish the ‘opportunity’ to try and defeat it. Not so the case for Gaz Raven and Luisa Candioli! Gaz finished second overall but was crowned Monarch of the Mountain, gaining our second Vet yellow jersey; Luisa’s performance for the women’s team was absolutely sublime with other teams at the top in awe of how strong she was, pushing to the finish in 1:14:30. This resulted in a second yellow jersey for the women and a lead of 35 minutes over second place with 6 stages left to go. By now, the women really did believe they could do it!
Steve McCarron led strongly on Leg 15 narrowly missing out on the overall victory, but securing our third consecutive yellow Vet jersey. Jenny Fox ran brilliantly to finish as second lady on 15. The sun was particularly punishing as we headed for midday, with Nigel Martin and Clare McCarron tackling the final mountain stage. Nigel ran a course record of 1:14:57 securing the ninth yellow jersey for the SHM men and Clare McCarron put in a sterling shift for the women, ensuring we were edging closer to the double victory.
Richard ‘Eddie’ Edwards (Women’s Team Manager) and Helen Carter ran Leg 17, with Eddie adding to the collection of yellow Vet jerseys. Mark Fox and Tracey Taylor (Leg 18) and Nick Tynan and Sarah Goulden (Leg 19) battled the intense heat and set both teams up for the final Leg into Cardiff Castle. Lydia Briggs had a storming WCR debut run for the women’s team, bringing us home as third lady. It was only fitting that the men ended with a victory and Tim Kennedy did not disappoint. He defended Cardiff castle in majestic fashion, breaking the course record by 4 seconds to record an impressive 55.52 and win the men’s 10th yellow jersey of the weekend.
Both teams performed brilliantly throughout the weekend and should be immensely proud.
The men defended their title by dominating the Welsh Castles Relay like never before. They finished in an awe-inspiring 20:07:51, defeating second place, Les Croupiers, by a staggering 51:57. Such a display of confidence and determination evidences the strength in depth throughout the men’s squad.
Despite battling hard on each stage, and thinking we had done enough to win, the women’s team was announced as third place. This was a mystery to everyone and an enquiry into results was underway on Monday. By Monday evening it looked like any errors had been ironed out and…WE HAD WON THE DOUBLE! The women’s team charged home in an impressive 26:08:09, with a 12:17 margin over second place Les Croupiers.
A huge thanks to Eddie and Chris for all of their hard work and dedication in organising the teams and coordinating the weekend. We had a huge support following us this year and for this we are very grateful. Thanks to Olly Gaillemin for driving the bus, Dave Rodgers, Glenn and Bernie Savage, Lesley Green, Mike and Hayley Ashby, Brian Goulden and family and all our other supporters throughout the weekend. You were all fantastic!
We would also like to say a massive thanks to Chorlton Runners for their amazing support throughout the weekend and their kindness in transporting some of our runners when they were stranded in south Wales!
Here’s to the 2019 SHM Dragons…amddiffynwyr y cestyll 2019!
DOUBLE WCR TEAM VICTORS…TAKE A BOW LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
Posted 12/06/2018 16:35