Marathon Nationals Report

So I was wrong about a few things in my race preamble.....for a start there were no Dutch in the men's races and a few people who I had down for keeping an eye out for raced in classes other than the one I assumed they would be in. Otherwise pretty much everything went reasonably to plan over the Bank Holiday weekend.

The event seemed well organised from the outside at least and it was good to see so many trade stands. Ours was one of the best as can be judged by the fact that other retailers are starting to copy our layout almost to the letter! Imitation they say is a form of flattery so we will take it as such.

So down to the racing. All the races were on a lap basis with each lap being about 7.5km, a nice wide river made racing very fair even if the weeds and reeds did make you a bit paranoid coming upstream. I swear it was only my rudder they were sticking to!

Saturday saw the K1 races. The men's K1 field was very strong with all 5 members of the Worlds team turning out along with the Belgian Pannecoucke who by all accounts was supposed to be a top 5 Worlds contender, adding in Andy Daniels from the sprint side and a few of the marathon regulars completed the line up. The first lap of four saw 8 guys mixing it in the front group which only split slightly coming in to the first portage, the people who were comfortable were Ben Brown, John Sawyers, Tom Daniels and Andy Daniels the four who were fighting for the leftovers were Pannecoucke, Simmons, Pendle and myself .(I am sure it used to be easier than this) Luckily in true Daniels form Andy managed to damage his rudder at the portage leaving the fourth place for me and the other three to tag along. Tim Pendle didn't make it through the next lap and over the next two laps Simmons and Pannecoucke alternately struggled to stay connected to the group. Eventually it was Pannecoucke who cracked and lost touch with the leaders. Jon Simmons on the other hand, despite being dropped several times refused to give it up and impressed/irritated everyone by fighting on and catching the leaders each time (and there were several). Finally on the last lap he was unable to catch again and so the remaining four were left to fight it out for the places. Ben Brown had raced the most efficiently/lazily, Tom Daniels had done the most damage and looked strong, John Sawyers had also worked efficiently throughout, me, well I was knackered and beginning to realise that giving away 20 years to these guys was beginning to hurt, so much so that when passing the club with about a mile to go the call of the food was too great and I had to pull in for a feed. In truth I was spent anyway and fourth was the best I could have done. The finishing sprint saw a repeat of last weekend's result Brown, Sawyers, Daniels which I guess kept everybody happy.

The women's race was always going to be a procession with the best two being so far clear of the others. Therefore it was decided that in order to test Belcher and Sawyers they would be entered in the men's under 23 class. I don't really understand the whole under 23 things as most of the good guys are around that age anyway so essentially it ends up being a race for those who can't cope with the real men's race; however it is an ideal opportunity for the women to step up the level of competition they are exposed to. It was Lani Belcher who came out on top with a third place beating some guys who really need to take a long hard look at themselves! Louisa didn't make the course which was disappointing though not totally surprising, I can't help feeling at the Worlds Louisa will only be a contender if everything goes right for her, Lani on the other hand will cope with setbacks much better and to be fair anyone who bets against her winning I think will lose their stake.

The junior men's race again came down to a race between Dean Terry and Mark Childerstone and again it was Mark who took the honours. Two out of two in two weeks and Mark seems to be going from strength to strength. If he can gain a bit more confidence from this and take that to the Worlds I would hope a medal was a realistic option. Dean is faster though so if the early stages are full on it could still be him who comes back smiling.

The junior women's event saw a predictable collapse from Katie Williams who blows hot and cold at best. Following her fantastic win last weekend the expectation was too much to live up to and she pulled out pretty early on. I hope whoever looks after her at the Worlds can keep her calm enough and confident enough to race well as we have seen she can.

Sunday saw the turn of the K2s. The men's race on paper looked extremely tough, Pendle/Simmons are the selected Worlds crew but I would not have given them a shot at anything better than fourth in this race. Favourites had to be Ben Farrell and Ed Rutherford, neither had raced the day before and both were reasonably impressive last weekend until they pulled out. Ben Brown was taking Jon Boyton round, a good brain and a good engine but doubts had to be voiced about Boytons ability to cope with a busy race. Tom Daniels and John Sawyers were doubling up as it is hoped they will do in Portugal and both are in good form. It was a surprise then that after just one lap there were only really three boats in contention. Pendle/Simmons were taking the race on and doing damage to all the others with some real quality paddling, Brown/Boyton now had a simple task of hanging on and waiting for a finish in three laps time and the third boat was Andy Daniels and Danny Seaford who nobody would have taken seriously before the race. Farrell/Rutherford were trailing embarrassingly with Aaron Jordan and Paul Yates who had only just held off Lani Belcher in their K1s yesterday. Daniels/Sawyers had discomfort issues and had pulled out which probably spells the end of their hopes of doubling up in Portugal. The finish saw another clinically efficient win for Ben Brown and Jon Boyton but in reality it was Simmons/ Pendle who impressed most on the day which looks pretty good for a repeat of their Europeans result at the Worlds in a couple of weeks. Overall the weekend was a real step up for Jon Simmons who has to get “man of the match”, I for one will now include him in the group of guys at the top end and not just as another hopeful, sport is a tough judge and this event saw him move up a league, well done Jon.

The women's race as predicted was dull. Not enough women at a sufficient standard were always going to prove hard to watch and they did not disappoint. The seniors combined with the juniors who to be fair did extremely well to get to the first portage with Belcher/Sawyers who must have had their eye on a Worlds medal before this event. The first portage however pretty much brought the hammer down on that dream. Sawyers/Belcher first in, only to be squeezed out by the inexperienced junior crews leaving Belcher stood on dry land while Sawyers, embarrassingly, was still in the boat unable to reach the pontoon. It was a kind of Laurel and Hardy moment that you didn't know if you were really comfortable watching. This compounded with the lacklustre performance on the water must throw doubt over their compatibility and whether doubling up in Portugal is a realistic option.

Alongside the senior and junior racing run all the age group events which are always hotly contested and often more aggressive than the bigger races, it seems being competitive is a disease that you can never really shake off! There are few people who protest as much or argue as loudly as the masters over 50's!

Overall a well run event that saw some very good performances in the top end classes, a real return to form for the GB Marathon team who have been weak for a few years now. Jon Simmons was for me the star of the weekend but Ben Brown showed all the composure of someone who, if all goes well could bring home the first men's medal since 1999. Fingers crossed.

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