‘Unbeatable’ Whitty defends her crown

THE real race is almost always the one for second when Steve Dawes and Nat Whitty are in form.

The golden couple of Guernsey distance running continued their winning ways at Saturday’s FNB Cross-Country League race at Bordeaux, but two unpredictable duels – Thierry Le Cheminant versus James Priest, and veteran birthday girl Ulrike Maisch against Nix Petit – resulted in a couple hard-earned runner-up places.

These competitors and many more were greeted by crisp sunshine and clear skies for round three of the series, but the ground was worse off for the heavy rain earlier in the week.

Triathlete Le Cheminant had taken on the pace for the first two of six one-mile laps in the senior men’s race.

Thierry Le Cheminant held the lead in front of Steve Dawes for the first couple of laps before Dawes took control. (Picture by Andrew Le Poidevin, 31706891)

But Dawes sensed a potential moment of weakness when his 17-year-old rival stumbled going through a wooded section in the middle of the lap, so he responded by surging.

He hit halfway 5sec. ahead and pulled further clear from there.

Dawes won in 35min. 2sec. for a 45sec. margin on Le Cheminant, who had to stride out on the final lap to hold off Priest.

‘I followed him round and when we got to the forest, he stumbled,’ the winner said.

‘I thought he had just done something – or was it a sign he is fatiguing? I thought I would have a little stride-out and see which it was. I went and he could not go with me.

‘It wasn’t a massive gap, but a win is a win.’

Priest clocked 35-54, while U20 Jack Le Tissier finished fourth in 38-18, just ahead of a well-paced run from Mike Batiste.

Dawes took encouragement from the result, adding: ‘The last couple of months, I’d gone off the boil a bit, with a nagging hamstring and illness over Christmas.

‘Hampshire was solid and now I have managed to string together a few good weeks.’

Petit set a hot pace initially in the four-lap women’s race.

However, the following laps became a show of leadership from Whitty, with Maisch also moving past the early leader.

Whitty headed the women before going on to complete another two laps, placing ninth overall in Division One.

Maisch finished top Division Two woman in 26-29, edging Petit by 10sec.

She called Whitty ‘unbeatable at the moment’ and said the first half-lap felt like a sprint, but she tried not to let Petit get too far ahead.

‘It worked out well in the end and I’m happy with the race,’ the 2006 European marathon champion said.

Maisch has found renewed focus for the Guernsey 2023 NatWest International Island Games, where she is currently in line to run the half marathon.

‘Training is going very well and shape is good. I told myself to really give as much as I can for the Island Games, so I’m putting more time and effort into it than the years before because that’s something I’d really like to compete in.

‘It’s a fine balance with work and kids and all the commitments, and very often I’m feeling tired. But I know that in the summer I can say I’ve given my best and tried hard, if I make it into the team or not – but then I need a break from competitive running.’

Thomas Merrien won the three-mile junior and lower division option in 18-51, followed more distantly by top girl Darcey Hodgson.

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