BenMoreau Wed, Feb 9 2011 Likes0 2 comments Facebook0 Twitter0 The European Club XC Champs - Milan This race is like the Cup Winners Cup of Cross-country running and as AFD won the Nationals last year and then beat the representatives from the rest of the UK at Liverpool, then we were the UK's team. Looking at past winners, it's gone to Spain and Portugal nearly every year and I think the club system there is made up more of 'Superclubs' than the UK. We took 6 to the race, with 4 to score. Our team was Steve Connor, Martin Mashford, Andy Vernon, Paul Rodgers, Jonny Hay and myself, which was pretty strong and only really missing Chris Thompson and Ben Lindsay. The course itself was one of the weirdest things I'd ever seen. It was mainly around ploughed fields, but there were a couple really steep up and over ridges, and the danger of these was demonstrated the day before the race by team manager Mikey Boucher who attacked the steep rise, and then stacked it down the other side, as we all fell about laughing. This at least showed that we needed to approach with caution, and probably wear spikes too. In the muddy sections, the mud had been covered with chipped up fir trees that were extremely soft to run on, almost like sponge. By far and away the strangest part of the course was the fact we ran through a working water mill. You literally go through a doorway that can only be done in single file, along a stone corridor with a carpet put down, and then a sharp left up some steps back outside. You then sweep round the back of the mill and come back through from the other side. Bizarre! Generally, the course was quite good underfoot - there were sections which would slow you down, but in the main it was pretty good. There were a few sections where you had to watch your footing as it was quite uneven but I was mainly just pleased it wasn't too muddy! I got off to an ok start and was in the pack in the 30s or so and just settled into a rhythm that felt comfortable. I was quickly reminded of the fast starts of cross country races and did my best to match it! After about a k I started to move through people and went past Jonny Hay and kept pushing on, wanting to get as near the front pack as I could. I kept pushing on and negotiated the steep hills fine and actually caught a group through the mills as they all got stuck in each other's traffic and had to slow! After about 3k I was catching Andy Vernon and gradually caught him and went past him. It turned out he had a back problem and so wasn't able to run flat out. After about 5k I started to feel quite tired and the course was beginning to sap me. I could feel I was moving slower but was holding my position. I tried to push on and probably gained about as many places as I lost in the 2nd half of the race. The spongey section was really fatiguing me as well as the sharp hills. I held it together though and finished in 22nd place and I think that I'm so used to trying to run even paces in road races that actually XC races are more about going off in the pack and just hanging on! I was pretty happy with my position; it's always hard to gauge these races as I don't know many of the runners around me but the top 10 were similar to the top 10 at the european cross and so to be 90 secs behind the winner (Ayad Lamdassem who Mo blew away in the last lap of the Euro Track Champs 10k) was a decent effort. The team finished 6th, which was pretty good too, and the top 20 were mainly made up of Spanish, French and Portuguese athletes, most of which were the same as their national teams!