Report by Charlie Dickinson
With the men’s team taken out of action by several hard-hitting dropouts in the week leading up to the race, just one team of brave Belles made the journey to Birmingham for the 4 stage road relays. This is one of the main events of the road and XC calendar, so it is no surprise Sutton Coldfield has seen itself become an iconic course over the past thirty years.
Fortunately, the early heavy rain ceased well before our team arrived which only left a gusty and fairly warm day to contend with – nothing we can’t handle.
New recruit Orna McGinley took the first leg out for the claret and gold. She has been a great addition to the squad since arriving from Ireland earlier in the year. After putting down some very promising times over 800m and 1500m on the track, we couldn’t wait to see how she’d fair on the tarmac. The first leg of these relays is always a chaotic whirlwind of tactical, strong, ambitious, brave, and suicidal runs with many of the teams opting for a front-loading strategy. However, Orna kept a cool head and ran very sensibly to bring the Belles across the line well within the first half of the field. We can’t honestly say she enjoyed the hills though…
Fiona Maddocks was a late addition to the team when she kindly agreed to fill in. She was another one who had smashed her 800m records over the summer, so we were hoping for a successful translation to the roads. It is fair to say the long, gradual grind of the Sutton hills suited her better than the sharp teeth kickers in Crystal Palace – she took five scalps for her teammates, leaving only two legs to be contended…
Co-captain Mhairi Hall had just returned from her holiday at home in the Western Isles looking healthy and fit. Mhairi had had an ‘up-and-down’ summer marked both by injury and an international appearance in the Island Games half marathon in Gibraltar for the Western Isles. It could have gone either way in Birmingham… By the time Fi tagged her in the gaps in the field were starting to noticeably stretch out, but that didn’t stop Mhairi from pulling out another solid outing for her team and putting us another five places ahead.
Finally, it was time for the anchor leg. This was left to Rachel Brown who surely must be used to taking the glory leg for the Belles by now. Having to balance a demanding triathlon schedule with track, road and XC racing is not easy, but Rachel has supported the team wonderfully since she joined the club last winter. Here she produced the team’s fastest leg by 25s and claimed another seven places.
Overall, the Belles did us proud on the national stage. Out of 70 teams, we ended a very respectable 25th (especially when one considers the absolute weapons Cardiff and a few others had fielded on the day…). The season has only just started and there is much more to come from these ladies. Up next is the first fixture of the Surrey XC League at Reigate Priory. We know a few of the gals are already ruing the day, but we genuinely can’t wait!
- O. McGinley 16:38 (42), 2. F. Maddocks 17:01 (37), 3. M. Hall 16:52 (32), 4. R. Brown 16:13 (25).