Race Preview: 2017 ERRA Men’s 6-Stage Road Relays, Sutton Park
Reigning champions, Cardiff AAC, will be hoping to take the title once again, but will come under a lot of pressure from what looks like a very competitive line up for the 2017 6-Stage Road Relays. Last year they fielded an incredibly well-balanced team – just 34 seconds between the fastest and slowest legs – the kind of consistency they will need to repeat if they want to become the first team to retain the title since Belgrave in 2008.
However, fellow Welsh club and last year’s runners up, Swansea Harriers, have put the pressure on by placing two teams ahead of Cardiff in the Welsh relays last month. Having also won the national 12-man equivalent earlier in the year, they will probably be heading into this weekend as the favourites.
The new Southern 6-Stage champions, Highgate Harriers will go into the weekend looking to add the national title to their successes. They won the 2016 12-stage, but have only once finished in the top 3 in the 6-stage, a second place in 2014.
The winning club from that same year, Aldershot Farnham & District, will also present a huge threat if they’re able to field a full-strength team. In fact, if their top six athletes were all to take part on Saturday, it would be very difficult to see past an Aldershot victory.
Sandwiching themselves between Aldershot and Highgate at the Southern Championships a few weeks ago, Tonbridge AC will also be looking to mount a serious challenge. With a youthful squad improving year on year, they will be hoping to go at least one better on their 4th placed finish in 2016.
Bristol & West AC have only ever finished top three once, in 2006, but have a strong team this year and will be looking to put themselves in the mix. Last year, injury on the final leg put an end to a serious challenge for the medals. If they can avoid the bad luck this year, a top 6 finish looks very likely with the added possibility of grabbing a surprise medal.
Northern champions, Lincoln Wellington AC have been going fro strength to strength of late, so it was no surprise to see them perform well last month. Despite not having any standouts in the team, the consistency and depth they displayed at the Northerns was impressive – just 19 seconds separating all six runners. Could they be the ones to spring an upset on Saturday?
Cheltenham & County Harriers held the lead for most of the Midlands race two weeks ago, only to lose out on the final leg. If they can do the same this weekend and hold off a challenge, they will be right in the mix for the medals
Salford Harriers & AC clocked the second quickest time at the Northerns, but found themselves disqualified after fielding ineligible runners. However, they have been allowed to compete in the national and will be hoping to clock another strong performance.
Fellow Northern club, Liverpool Harriers & AC’s have finished 19th, 13th, 4th and 3rd at the nationals over the past four years – can they push another position or two this year?
The reigning Scottish 6-stage champions, Central AC, are also likely to find themselves inside the top 10. If Andrew Butchart is available to run, the lap record could come under threat if last year’s 16:29 is anything to go by. They probably don’t have the depth to challenge for the win, but are definitely capable of making a push for a place in the top 6.
Photo Credits: Mark Shearman & Nellie Sanders