Once again Box hill near Dorking turned into the racing ground for hundreds of competitors all battling to finish the 2012 edition of the notoriously difficult Kinetica Spring Ballbuster.
Participants set off into a healthy covering of early morning mist to begin what is known as one of the hardest duathlons on the UK racing calendar. Starting with an 8 mile run through the Surrey hills and including the infamous Zig-Zag Road, the Kinetica Spring Ballbuster is eye-catching as well as gruelling. After the first leg competitors then switch from running shoes to pedals and complete 24 miles on their bike incorporating the villainous Zig-Zags to the summit on each circuit. The final 8 mile run has been the decider of podium positions many times over the years and always guarantees to push all competitors to their limits, from the first place finisher down to the back-markers.
David Vaughan and David Freeman took off right from the gun closely followed by Sam Wade and Nicholas Saillard who both entered T1 level. Wade, clocking the fastest transition time of the day in 51 seconds, made a speedy exit passing both Freeman and Saillard and set about trying his best to pull away as the bike leg began. In the women’s race, Victoria Gill opened up a 3 minute lead during the first run, clocking 48.33. Gemma Farrell and Sophie Alliston positioned themselves just behind the lead during the run with Manuela Maxwell hanging on not too far behind and entering T1 fourth. With the top position in both the male and female races now looking decided barring punctures it was the race for second and third where the majority of the day’s excitement was occurring.
Despite a slight slip when dismounting in T2 Vaughan remained untroubled on the bike leg and set about powering through the final run for first place and a time of 2:38:21 – a full 12 minutes ahead of his nearest challenger. Speaking after the race, Vaughan spoke of the importance of including spring races in his training plan. “I find entering the Spring Ballbuster gives me the motivation I need to get my fitness up early on in the season and I’m delighted to get the win.” Back on course Saillard kept the pressure on Wade but it wasn’t quite enough and Wade’s determined 2:48.47 clinched second place leaving Salliard in third with a very respectable 2:50:12.
Taking the title for a second year running, Gill (Swim for Tri) looked strong as she finished in an overall time of 2:59:41 and destroyed last year’s Ballbuster personal best by 7 minutes. “The reputation that Ballbuster carries and the fact that it is such a challenging duathlon made me want to return. This is my first race after a winter spent training so I’m pleased with how I felt and with my time today.” A full 17 minutes behind Gill, the remaining podium positions were changing hands regularly as Maxwell managed to pull back a deficit from the first run with a fast cycle, moving ahead of Farrell and putting herself into second. As is so often the case at the BallBuster the final leg proved crucial and Farrell’s running ability moved her back into second (3:17.25). Maxwell took third place with a time of 3:19:23.
As the final competitors wound their way up the zig-zag road on their quest to the finishing line they were greeted with some spring sunshine to round off the gruelling event on a high.
Next up from race organisers, Human Race, the Off-Road Winter Series takes to the historical Eridge Park in Tunbridge Wells for TrailMan on Saturday 10th March. More details on this event can be found at www.humanrace.co.uk