Our M55 team of Alun Evans, Richard Holland, Dave Cox and Tony Pamphilon took the silver medal in the British Masters CC Relay at Long Eaton, Derbyshire, on Saturday. This was another in a long line of honours at regional and national level in vets/masters events which began in the late 1990s. Since then, Holland and Pamphilon have been pretty much ever-presents, while Cox, though missing out on those early years through injury, has been a rock in more recent years. Evans has come in even more recently and has done a fantastic job. (And NB: Cox and Pamphilon are both Life Members of WGEL).
Even on the morning of the race there were still fitness doubts hanging over three of our men, but nobody cried off and everyone was determined to give it a bash, with at least one eye on potential medals.
Cambuslang, the Glasgow club packed with Scottish internationals, were far and away the strongest team, and once they had seen off a strong start on the first two legs from Wolverhampton and Bilston and Salford they were comfortable and deserved winners. By the time Dave Thom had handed over to Colin Donnelly on the last leg he already had a lead of almost 2 minutes. Nonetheless, Donnelly still went on to run the fastest leg of the day of the day by a towering 22 seconds.
Our Alun Evans was succumbing to a cold, but he got the team off to a very useful start on leg one, bringing Woodford home in 7th place and being 18th fastest overall on the day (11:55). Richard Holland, though struggling with a hamstring injury and short on form, used all his relay experience to gain 2 more places (12:30), and he handed over to Dave Cox with the team in fifth position. By now, huge gaps had opened up in the field and Woodford were more than a minute behind those battling for bronze, yet England International Cox was undaunted, despite suffering from a stomach complaint. With his metronomic stride, Cox steadily made ground on those ahead so that by the end of his leg (11:22, 9th fastest overall) he had hauled the team right back into the medal mix.
When Tony Pamphilon took over for Woodford on the final leg, prospects of gold and silver looked to be gone with Cambuslang almost 2 minutes ahead and pulling further away in gold, and 2nd placed Salford had a cushion of almost 80 seconds. Initially, it looked to be a 3-way tussle for the bronze medal between Woodford, Bristol & West and Wolverhampton & Bilston, and the 3 runners set off cagily, sizing one another up.
Within 400 metres, however, Sheffield’s Chris Ireland had caught the group and immediately opened up a significant gap. Pamphilon, sensing Woodford’s chances of a medal were being snatched from them, set off in pursuit some 10 metres behind. Although unable to make ground on the impressive Ireland, Pamphilon was at least able to maintain 4th place. By the halfway mark, Salford’s slower man had come into view, and with a kilometre to go both Ireland and Pamphilon had moved comfortably passed. Still Ireland forged on but by now Pamphilon was slowly starting to gain ground. Sensing the Sheffield man’s struggle, Pamphilon steadily closed in, caught and then quickly passed Ireland with less than 400 metres remaining and brought Woodford home for an unexpected silver medal. Pamphilon's 11:00 was good enough for 3rd fastest of the day, while Ireland ran 2" quicker and Donnelly an outstanding 10:26.