On a cold, crisp morning, multiple people woke up around Oxford ready for a day of shoeing.
The first race of the day was the women’s seconds, a competition we expected to be tight but ended up setting the dark blue tone for the day. Turtles captain, Ella Sharrock, reports:
‘Cecilie Anderson led the race from the start on a really tough course to take the win, while Gabrielle Chappell paced her race perfectly, moving up into second on the smaller second lap and fighting off 2 fast finishing tabs on the final straight. A special mention also has to go to Leonie Glasson, who only found out she was running in seconds a week before the race and, despite both this and her dislike of hills, raced excellently to come in as 6th oxford scorer (10th overall). Our women’s seconds were dominant, stacking the top 10 with 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 10th place finishes to thrash the tabs and set the ball rolling for an epic day of tab-shoeing.’
Next up was the Men’s seconds, Aidan Smith, tortoises captain gave us some detailed insight into the race and the team mentality:
“Slow and steady wins the race.” Milan Campion, Tortoise 2019
“There goes Milan, doing exactly what everyone told him not to.” Sam Brown Araujo, Blues 2019
‘In the tightest race of the day, the men’s Tortoises edged the Cambridge Spartans 39-41, with Oxford beating Cambridge man-for-man through the first five scorers, but left with a nervous wait as Cambridge closed their team before Oxford’s last scorer
The race went off at a calm pace, with Tortoise captain Aidan Smith leading out the flat first mile, the whole race tightly packed in behind. As the race completed the out and back, from the supporters’ cheers it became clear that Cambridge had made the immense blunder of selecting a team also containing a Jamie, Aidan and Tom. On home terrain, under those beloved Shoe-tover treetops- our own personal ‘Gabbatoir’- the Tortoises lapped up the extra cheers as the Cambridge supporters unwittingly fired them up further at every corner. A devastated anonymous source confirmed Cambridge will be undertaking a full review of selection strategy before St Neots next year (for unorthodox selection advice, Tim Harrison is available to consult at very reasonable rates- Shotover tripwire, pedal grease and a bubblewrapped Miles Weatherseed sold separately).
As the course narrowed past the bike jumps, the Tortoise presence at the front was strong, and Tom Wood saw this as his moment, surging past on the downhill to the steps and immediately almost doing a Paulin. Up the steps Jacques Maurice and Milan Campion hit the front, and looking around Milan saw 5 Tortoises, and, confident he had done as much ‘slow and steady’ as anyone could possibly ask for, pushed on, splitting the group. A furious Jamie ‘Sit and Kick’ Parkinson just about made it across to the front pack, visibly quivering with rage that our supposed new track fairies had no idea that the only sensible way to race is kick at 5 miles, with Noah’s least favourite OUCCC Runs Chat member Jamie Edgerton (Tab) also making the selection.
Up the final hill of the first lap, the chasing pack split, with Renshaw breaking away, pursued by Jose Gray of Cambridge, leaving the remnants Aidan Smith, Aidan Rigby, and Lawrence Hollom to chase along the Plain. In the lead group, Jacques fell off first as quad cramp saw him drop back through the chasing pack as the second lap started, with Milan falling off the Jamies soon after.
At the front, experience prevailed, and in the words of Jamie Edgerton, “[Jamie] knew exactly what he was doing and left me for dead halfway through the second lap”. Clear by Cowley Club corner, he could ride the rollercoaster solo and cruise home in 1st. Behind him, Renshaw had to share his rollercoaster car with Jose and a struggling Milan, but after enjoying being back in the company of a fresher after the longest break this term, eventually discovered that not slowing down when running up hills appears to be a superior strategy to slowing down when running up hills, and opened up a decisive gap on Jose on the steep climb up Weatherseed Walk, closing hard on Jamie (but not Jamie) on the finishing straight for 3rdand a reserves spot.
Behind, Aidan surged through the flat midsection of the last lap to break away from his two Tabs, and started to close on Milan through the rollercoaster. With Milan in sight ahead and behind Rigby working hard to regain contact up the final hill, Aidan hit the car park in 6th. As the pace ramped up along the Plain both Aidans passed Milan, with Aidan Smith almost catching Jose Gray in the final few meters to finish 5th. Behind, Milan had been working through his Tortoise Workbook and decided maybe mindfulness could prevail upon him to endure another 400m of ‘slow and steady’, a commendable example of self-control which unfortunately coincided with the final 400m of the race. However, he just held off a charging Lawrence Hollom for 7th. Matt D’Aquila, a man famous for his love of the midnight rain (and milk) on his bare skin, and his ability to make Paulin (even on crutches) appear competent downhill, finished just behind for a very impressive 9thon a tough course, showing he is definitely no stereotypical American flat track bully (in any case, he is Italian, which explains his ability to take any quantity of wine into his stomach with ease, albeit temporarily).
Further back, fortunes were more mixed. Once it became clear his quad was going to see him at best hop the last mile to the finish, Jacques, in a last minute attempt to convince Tim he really had been Blues material all along, took the hard decision to drop out. After his very brief trip to the front of the race at the steps, Tom Wood found himself off the back in the second lap, but managed to avoid relaxing to his usual standards of punctuality just enough to pip the Snails’ Earth Science Tom on time, finishing 14th. Dan ‘Ted’ Bundred had a disrupted build up, but successful application of a time honoured stressie symptom treatment technique (repeating `it’s just tendinitis’ whilst sobbing over a photo of last year’s winning mob team) saw him beat his own pre-race prediction by one place (thanks, Jacques!) and round out the finishers.
Post finish, the atmosphere was tense, with nerves equally high from the closeness of the race and the fact that Paulin was involved in calculating the scores. Fortunately, after breaking Tortoise hearts 2 years ago and arousing suspicion that he might have been a Tab sleeper agent (Miles Weatherseed’s 10th best Varsity moment), this year he showed he does in fact know how to count to 8. Oxford 39, Cambridge 41. Oxford win.
39-41. Dan Bundred actually finishes a Varsity match. Aidan continues his transformation from former Blues runner into specialist captain a la Eoin Morgan. Jacques spends Saturday night kneeling on the High Street, staring longingly at a blue visor through the window of Sweaty Betty. Milan realises that if he’d only gone out twice as hard, he’d have had a bigger time cushion when he died. Tequila starts writing his DPhil application a year early. Tom Wood finally discovers a way to avoid Renshaw’s company for half an hour.
The Jamie Parkinson legend comes full circle. New legends begin. The Tortoises rumble on to a 5 year winning streak.
Almost worth paying £310 to fly over from Zurich and kill two polar bears for. #WATAW’
Following this nail-biting race was the Men’s 3rds who approached their race in high spirits, and full of energy thanks to the delicious home cooking of resident sports-academic Alex Betts. Captain, Joseph Grehan-Bradley, reports.
‘Most responsible for the teams enthusiasm, perhaps, was the fact that each team member strongly believed that they had a good chance of winning Saturday’s race. The Cowley Club pre-race prediction board testified to how remarkably evenly balanced each individual’s prospects were. Only dark horse Alex Jackson was not touted to cross the line first before proceedings began.
The dominance of dark blue became evident from the races very early stages. Strong packing from the off, led by Zac Hudd, allowed Oxford to get a stranglehold on the race before we had even hit the trees. As we hoped, Cambridge’s runners suffered up and down the hills. Consequently, the breakaway group of Jackson, Ben Passey and Joseph Grehan-Bradley had established a healthy lead by the beginning of the second lap. Quite fittingly, it was the under-estimated Jackson who transformed that lead into a decisive victory, winning the race for Oxford a full 21 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. Fast finishes from Joel Dungworth and Tom Barrett ensured that 4 of the top 5 were wearing Oxford colours. Tactical manoeuvrings from Hudd and Toby Ralph further down the order prevented Cambridge’s runners from really threatening Oxford’s dominance of the team standings. In the end, our final scorer came through in 10th to set up a convincing team win. A satisfying result, and testament to the hard work all the 3rds put into training over this term.’
Could Oxford have got off to a better start before the mob match races began? 3-0? I think not. It was now the turn of the female mobbers to take to the mud and try to emulate the success of their teammates before them, as Women’s mob captain, Amy, recounts:
‘The 2019 Womens’ Mob match was the 3rd biggest race in the history of the event, with 26 runners from Oxford and 18 from Cambridge. After the first lap, the field was headed by Helena Page alongside 3 other Oxford athletes and 2 tabs. After a conservative first lap, triathlete Kinga Zielinska moved through to win the race in a time that would have placed her mid-pack in the 2nds race. A particularly impressive run given her bike session in the morning and cycle to Shotover… Rebecca Walker had a very strong finish, moving up 3 places in the final few hundred metres, helping Oxford to claim 7 of the top 10 places. The race was successful for Oxford, bringing the 4th victory of the day and was enjoyed by all, even those making their cross country debut!’
Could we get the clean sweep? Spoiler alert – YES! Will Shardlow, our men’s mob captain, summarises the final bit of shoeing (sorry Cambridge):
‘The fear in the eyes of the opposition choppers was evident from the off as they were dwarfed on the line by Oxford’s largest ever mob turnout, the tribal cries of ‘mob mob mob mob mob mob mob’ still ringing in their ears… Oxford dominated from the start, a sea of dark blue washed straight to the front and remained there, stubbornly impenetrable throughout. Confidence was high – a certain runner having enough breath to spare as to start a mid-race chant! Here and there a light blue vest made a plucky attempt to separate the pack at the front – but was to be all in vain. The athletics boys ended up dominating the podium – with Charlie Sneddon coming out on top and Max Buckley in 3rd. Joe Edwards came through in 2nd, a very impressive performance considering his training consists of the odd club run and a trip to spoons (think he’s worried about getting too fast and leaving his chopper mates behind…) The top 8 finishers were all from Oxford, making for another excellent victory to top off a very enjoyable and successful Varsity match.’
So all in all, a very successful day for the dark blues and one we hope to emulate next week at Wimbledon Common for the blues matches. I’d like to say a HUGE thank you to Will and Amy (our mob match captains) for all the time and effort they put into organising such a brilliant day and to all our athletes who volunteered – setting up and taking down the course, marshalling and time keeping. Also, huge thanks to our amazing coach, Kyle, for his continuous support and without whom we would not have achieved such a dominant victory. Alex Betts also deserves a special coaching shout out for stepping up to take the Wednesday lunch time sessions and providing so much support and guidance to all athletes.
Days like Saturday really show what OUCCC is about and what it means to be a dark blue – the incredible team spirit and encouragement of everyone is something to be really proud of and is why we achieved what we did. Congratulations to EVERYONE who raced!