A whole host of questions were present in everyone’s minds as we congregated at Iffley at 5am on Sunday 15th May. Would Renee Haver, Laura Fenwick and Lucy Farqhuar be able to consolidate their performance at BUCS Sprint and earn themselves individual Blues? Would the duel between Tom Lewin and David Pearson be settled once and for all? Would people enjoy Tomek Dobrzycki’s new CD for the minibus? Only time would tell…
With an excellent showing at BUCS still fresh in the memory, OUTriC went into this year’s Varsity Sprint with great confidence. An unprecedented 39 OUTriathletes took part in the race, with all levels of experience. First-time triathlete Lizzie Sandham went into the race “hoping not to drown”, while elusive Men’s Captain and 2015 Half Blue Charlton Bannister was aiming for much the same after his interesting approach to swimming this year. Meanwhile, as injury cruelly denied him a final shot at Varsity, George Edwards took out his frustrations on the OUTriC Twitter with an eclectic mix of humour and downright hostility towards the Tabs.
The swim started in chaos with some people facing the wrong way when the whistle went, and as a result the real battles took place in the middle of the pack. A post-race realisation by Tom Stewart that 2015 President Mike Hirst was the one who had him in a headlock will surely prolong their feud into next year. Mike also gave Alice Gerlach a tow around the lake, and she repaid him with a cheerful shout of “thanks!” as she galloped past on the way into T1. At the business end of the race, Tom Lewin cruised into T1 a solid 30 seconds ahead of the rest of the pack. Pietro Benetti, Laura and Oli Crossley all came in ahead of the first Tab, who was then closely followed by Tomek, James Walker and Lucy. All was looking good for Oxford.
T1 was as eventful as ever, with least one person taking the more scenic route to find their bike, although surprisingly on this occasion that person was Hannah Plaschkes, not James. On leaving transition the athletes were met with a surprisingly undulating bike course – a prospect relished by some and dreaded by others. David used his strength on the bike to temporarily overtake Tom before receiving a penalty for leaving his wetsuit in transition and undoing much of the good work. On the women’s side Laura maintained her lead over the rest of the field and Renee also had a characteristically strong bike leg, while Lucy showed her commitment to the OUTriC cause by refusing to stop cycling even whilst throwing up in the highlight of a largely uneventful cycle for the Oxford contingent.
Going into the run it was looking like Oxford were a shoe-in (pun intended) for the victory. Tom was streets ahead at the front of the race and, despite his best efforts to give the Tabs a chance by falling over after one lap of the run, won the race in just outside an hour. David came home second with James completing his own fantastic race to tie up an excellent men’s 1-2-3 for Oxford. CUTriC President Petros Giannaros was a valiant fourth, but Oxford’s strength in depth shone through with 16 of the top 19 finishers. Less than 6 minutes separated 5th to 23rd on the Oxford side, comfortably tying up the seconds, mob and alumni matches to round off a phenomenal day.
The women had similar success as Laura took an excellent victory, with Cambridge’s Varsity Duathlon winner Kate Curran in second. Lucy’s third place finish was all the more impressive considering she had raced in the National Super Series only 18 hours earlier, and Renee was next in to ensure a dominating victory for the Oxford women in a time only 5 minutes behind Cambridge’s Men’s Blues. The women’s seconds was the closest match of the day, ending in an Oxford victory by just over 90 seconds. Cambridge’s consolation prize came in the form of the women’s mob, where they packed well to secure a 15 minute victory, however Oxford took the women’s alumni to wrap up an overall 7-1 Varsity win.
The most successful day in Varsity memory for OUTriC comes at the end of an incredible season, and the amount of novices featuring strongly in the Varsity standing leaves us in fantastic shape for years to come. Congratulations to all involved.