A beautiful calm sunny evening greeted the athletes for the last stage of this year's RBC All Terrain Challenge but the course over the paths, beaches and common in Herm was yet another very hard race as The Challenge really lived up to its name.
The seventh race, far from being a gentle finish, is in some ways, the most brutal, as it climbs up from the common, descends to Belvoir and then goes North before the runners are sent along the strength sapping sand of Shell Beach before crossing the common for a second lap of the same course.
Half of Herm seemed to be out supporting the two locals in the race, Andrew and his son Jonathon Bailey and Jon responded in style, producing his best race of the series in finishing fifth on the night and cementing his sixth place overall. Shouts of encouragement for the two, as well as the other competitors, could be heard all over the course.
At the head of the field, Dave Dyke was making a last desperate attempt to claw back the 50 seconds required to take him back into second place ahead of Dave Holmes and in doing so put leader Mark Mercier under as much pressure as he had been under all week. Mercier prevailed in the end by a mere 8 seconds although Dyke's huge effort was to be in vain as Holmes clung onto second, after a week of racing by 15 seconds. Mercier had dominated all week and was only beaten once, in the hill climb and was a deserved winner of this, the tenth addition of the All Terrain Challenge.
Martine Scholes once again won the women's race and wrapped up a conclusive overall victory and like Mercier, she was only beaten once, by Gail Merrien, in the Cliff Path timetrial. Merrien finished runner up with the new record holder for the hill climb, Elyse Dandeker in third.
Division two, three and four all saw close racing with the overall result very much up in the air on the final night. Rugby player Jim Elliott held onto the lead he gained Thursday night and with probably his best run finished high up in the field to win division 2. Division 3 started with three runners seperated by a mere six seconds but Tim Creasey produced a great last run to take the lead for the first but conclusive time. In division four, Mark Babbe had held the lead throughout the week and another strong run ensured that their were no slip ups at the final hurdle.
This year's field was a record number and The Challenge continues to go from strength to strength with the limit of 75 being reached nearly a month before the event started. As ever, the race threw up many runners who were new to racing and the best newcomers awards were won by Colette Andrews and the outstanding Martin de le Mare, who didn't look out of place in division one and can be expected to represent the Island in distance events next season. Organiser Geoff King can expect a busy time next spring as he prepares for the next addition the RBC All Terrain Challenge and he has already formulated plans for what he expects to be an even bigger entry next year. It seems that for Guernseymen and women the All Terrain Challenge is becoming more and more popular.
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