The race was over the “sprint” distance of 750 metre swim, 20km cycle and 5km run and was incorporated with the Stromness Sprint, which is also a Triathlon Scotland ranking event.
Each team consisted of three men and one woman whose times would be added together at the end to make up the team time. With Orkney’s men winning bronze at the island games in 2007 they were expected to dominate, but with Lynsey Henderson, defending champion of the Stromness Sprint, completing the Shetland team line up it was hoped she would redress the balance.
The swim was pool-based with everyone setting off at the same time, and it was Orkney’s Mark Harrison who dominated by exiting the swim first with a 30 second gap back to Shetland’s Lynsey and another 30 seconds back to Peter Fenwick of Caithness. There then followed a flurry of bodies coming out of the pool grabbing their bikes to hit the 20km bike course.
The Shetland team have focused strongly on improving their short distance bike speed over the last 12 months and this showed as a trio of blue and white flagged tops in the shape of Robin Atkinson, Andrew Grant, who posted the fastest bike time of the day but was still not happy with his performance, and Lynsey came flying into transition in third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
Not even a storm of biblical proportions could slow the team’s speed and this seemed to shock the Orkney and Caithness supporters and competitors. Fourth Shetlander Bonar Barclay made up five places from the swim to come in to transition eleventh to start on his favourite leg, the run.
The 5km run through Stromness was a tough affair as the team knew that if they slowed up to catch a breath it would cost time and no one wanted that on their conscience, so they all pushed incredibly hard to finish as fast as possible.
Orkney’s Mark Harrison won the race followed by Peter Fenwick of Caithness. Andrew, who followed up his bike split with the second fastest run time of the day, came home to claim third place overall, followed closely by Robin in fourth to put Shetland in a strong position. Lynsey backed this up by coming in sixth overall, to win the women’s race for the second year running and three minutes faster than last year.
With Bonar struggling with a knee injury which had held him back in training over the past two weeks, it was unclear how hard he would be able to push the run. With the team at the finish cheering him up the hill, the pain was evident as he sprinted home to claim 12th overall. All knew that it had been a close race for the inter-county and no-one really knew who had won.
There then followed a tense wait until the awards presentation to find out. The times were added together to make up nearly five hours of racing, and it showed that Shetland had taken the win by 99 seconds. The Inter-County Champions trophy was presented to the delighted Shetland team captain Lynsey together with the Women’s Champion trophy.
This has been a major breakthrough and confidence booster to the squad and to the sport in Shetland, however Orkney and Caithness will definitely come back stronger next year when the event takes place in Wick.
A spokesman would like to thank NorthLink for sponsorship, Orkney Triathlon Club for hosting the event, Torqui Clyde and Beccy May for their hospitality and Orcades Hostel for their outstanding facilities and support.