Joe Skipper and Lucy Gossage take the inaugural Vachery Triathlon titles

Joe Skipper wins Vachery 2013

Surrey festival of triathlon hailed a big success

The Vachery Estate in Cranleigh, Surrey, provided the stunning backdrop to what was a great day of racing at the Vachery Triathlon Festival 2013. Over 800 competitors took on the challenge of either the Middle, Standard or Sprint distance races on offer on what was one of the hottest race weekends of the year.

With the lake temperature measured at just under 23 degrees, and the sun due to break through the cloud during the early part of the morning, racers were treated to conditions more akin to those seen on the continent than in South-East England and the weather would prove to be a further challenge that the participants would have to overcome in addition to the tough course.

The marquee Middle Distance race, covering a 1.9km swim, 80km bike and 21km run attracted one of the strongest domestic fields in this country this year. Toeing the line in the men’s race was some of the most promising triathletes in the country, in the form of Joe Skipper, Rhys Davey, Doug Hall and Harry Springall. The more experienced racers in the field included the countries most successful off-road triathlete Sam Gardner, Mark Livesey and Craig Twigg. The ladies race was also very strong, led by the 2x European Long Distance Duathlon champion Lucy Gossage, who had to contend with a strong threat from the in-form Holly Lawrence, the fast running Susie Hignett and former European champion Amy Forshaw.

With the water temperature rising, the swim was wetsuit optional and most chose to swim in their suits. At 7am, the race was underway and in the men’s race it was Rhys Davey, training partner of the Brownlee brothers, who made short work of the swim and covered the 1.9km in a time of 23:52. A big pack would follow him out 90 seconds behind, consisting of Joe Skipper, Mark Livesey, Craig Twigg and most of the field. Sam Gardner had work to do and was in some arrears back in 28:53 and wasn’t looking too comfortable heading into T1. Was his race over already?

The ladies swim was a similar story. Holly Lawrence blasted the rest of the field and opened up a 4-minute lead in 25:05. Claire Shea-Simmonds was next out the water and had a great swim of 29:22, but such was the swim dominance of Lawrence out the water, Shea-Simmonds and the rest of the field including Lucy Gossage, Amy Forshaw and Susie Hignett would have a lot of work to do over the tough bike course.

The bike was a thrilling race, with the 2-lap affair going up Leith Hill twice. This climb being the highest point in the South-East of England would serve to certainly stretch out the field and would play a big part in the overall results. Davey continued to push the pace and force the rest of the field to chase him. Showing a clean pair of wheels, he managed to open up even more of a lead and came into T2 after just 2:04:49 minutes – an incredible time given this is a tough and technical course. His pace caused a lot of race action behind as the rest of the field struggled to stay in touch. Harry Springall missed a turning and went off the course and also punctured – his race was finished. Craig Twigg punctured early on and couldn’t rejoin the race, he was also a DNF. Mark Livesey was the closest to Davey on the first lap of the race, but he was caught by Joe Skipper and the fast-moving Sam Gardner (who had made up so much time on the bike) and by the 2nd ascent of Leith Hill and just couldn’t hold onto those two. Skipper and Gardner went past Livesey and would enter T2 virtually together before embarking on the run.

In the ladies race, Lucy Gossage caught Holly Lawrence on the bike and the pair had a real duel over the course. Coming into T2 together, most would have had their money on Gossage to assert her dominance over Lawrence early on and claim a clear victory….most would be proved wrong. Susie Hignett was next into T2 after the bike and despite having 90 seconds to make up, she is a marvellous runner and was capable of catching – we had a race!

The elite men headed onto the run course, with Skipper, Gardner and Livesey chasing Rhys Davey who must have been feeling the effects of setting the early pace. After the 1st of 2 laps through the Surrey countryside it was clear Skipper was having a marvellous run. He had dropped Sam Gardner and was just a few seconds behind Davey. The catch was coming soon and in reality, Skipper’s run speed and leg turnover was at another level to the rest of the field. He soon caught Davey and opened up a 3 ½ minute lead of his own over the 2nd lap of the run before crossing the line to take the inaugural Vachery Middle Distance 2013 title and the £1,500 prize money. A tired looking Davey crossed the line in 2nd, fully deserving of the podium position after his brave efforts over the swim and bike, whilst Gardner was losing time to the fast-running Mark Livesey, but there just wasn’t enough road left for the catch and it was the XTERRA specialist who would hold on for the final podium position.

The ladies race was also turning into a thrilling finale as after the 1st lap it became obvious that Holly Lawrence wouldn’t be cracking under the relentless pressure from Lucy Gossage and the pair were running neck and neck together through the course. Susie Hignett was running well, but not well enough for the catch to come and it looked to be a battle between the aforementioned pair for the title. The close race continued until the final 800m and it wasn’t until they reached the long finishing straight that Lawrence gave some ground to Gossage and the Cambridge-based pre-race favourite moved past her and took the win by just a small 8-second margin. Susie Hignett crossed the line soon after for 3rd place.

Joe Skipper said after the race:

I am really pleased with 1st place today. It’s great to finally get a win! What a great event and I hope to be back next year.

Lucy Gossage said after her win:

The Vachery Triathlon is a superb addition to the UK triathlon calendar for both professionals and age groupers. It was great racing in quintessential England and I loved it! I was very pleased with the win and thought Holly might crack earlier but it was head-to-head racing. Well done to all who completed the course.

There was also action in the Standard distance triathlon and those races were won by Charles Pennington (Team Freespeed Virgin Active) in a time of 2:05:20 and Louise Fox (Thames Valley Triathletes) in 2:23:15.

The sprint ‘Try-a-Tri’ was won by Lee Cook in 1:02:00, whilst the ladies race was won by top para-triathlete and Paralympic gold medallist, Claire Cunningham, who completed the course in 1:10:01.

Over 800 triathletes competed at the Vachery Triathlon Festival, held within the stunning grounds of the Vachery Estate in Cranleigh, Surrey. More than just a series of races, over 3,000 people enjoyed the race action in the 160 acre land that also had a camp site, lots of garden games for the children, on-site restaurant and bar, pasta party and athletes village. Competitors commented at how welcome the people of Cranleigh made them feel, with support from residents lining the course and a special mention to the family that helped keep racers cool by spraying them with their hose and sprinkler!

On-course race nutrition was supplied by High-5, whilst the organisers would also like to thank the support from media partners 220 magazine, Original Source shower gels sponsored the on-site hot showers ans Surrey Gourmet supplied the onsite catering. A special mention to the races charity partners, the Children’s Air Ambulance fund. A total of £1,300 was raised for the local charity by competitors via their race entries and a raffle.

The full race results were:

Vachery Middle Distance

1. Joe Skipper (3:48:20) Lucy Gossage (4:04:22)
2. Rhys Davey (3:52:07) Holly Lawrence (4:04:30)
3. Sam Gardner (3:53:28) Susie Hignett (4:07:24)

Vachery Standard Distance

1. Charles Pennington (2:05:20) Louise Fox (2:23:15)
2. Colin Dixon (2:08:42) Nicole Walters (2:28:36)
3. Anthony Baker (2:15:30) Faith Cripps (2:33:22)

Vachery Sprint Distance

1. Lee Cook (1:02:00) Claire Cunningham (1:10:01)
2. Ben Osborn (1:04:25) Georgina Hellier (1:11:00)
3. Andrew Hailey (1:04:52) Colette Kitterhing (1:15:49)

Race action will return to the Vachery Estate in Cranleigh, Surrey on the 7-8th September with the much anticipated return of XTERRA England. More information here: http://xterra-england.co.uk/

The Vachery Triathlon Festival will return in 2014. Registration will open soon and you can find out more at the website http://www.vacherytriathlon.co.uk/ or on Facebook www.facebook.com/vacherytriathlon

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