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Bitchell times sprint finish to perfection

A perfect kick: Bitchell, centre, with Doucy, left and Chipangama on Front Street (Phtograph by Blaire Simmons)

Adam Bitchell timed his kick to perfection to emerge victorious in one of the most “epic” finishes to the KPMG Bermuda Invitational Front Street Mile.

It was almost impossible to tell who had crossed the line first, with just a tenth of a second separating the three runners competing in last night’s elite mile race.

So close was the finish, Welshman Bitchell and runner-up Drew Soucy, of the United States, recorded the exact same time of 4min 26.51sec, with third-place Jordan Chipangama, of Zambia, just a split second behind.

With about 400 metres remaining, Soucy and Chipangama had established a small lead but it was Bitchell, coming up on the inside, who finished the strongest, treating the spectators lined along Front Street to a thrilling finale.

“It was an epic finish,” said Bitchell, a first-time visitor to Bermuda. “Three men going neck-and-neck, everyone all out, it was a great race to be a part of.

“It was tough in the middle part, it was windy and uphill and as soon as we turned with 600 [metres] to go it was just an all-out sprint.

“I wanted to sit back, this was my first race for about six months and I had no idea how it was going to go.

“They got about five metres on me with about 400 to go and I just thought, save a bit more until the last 200, and I felt I timed my kick perfectly.”

Bitchell praised the tactical nous of James Thie, his coach and two-times Front Street Mile winner, who helped plot his exciting victory.

“James is a tactical master and he told me to sit back early on,” said the 24-year-old.

“We’ve always worked on winning races more than anything else. Even if there are guys who have a gap on me early doors, my main aim is always to win the race.

“I’m sure he will be pleased I managed to pull through in the end.”

Bitchell, who represented Wales at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in the 10,000 metres, vowed to return to Bermuda next year to defend his title.

“I came in on Wednesday and I’ve loved being on the Island,” said Bitchell, who will be among the contenders in today’s 10K. “I would love to come back next year and do it again.

“I think the 10K will be more difficult. There’s quite a few guys who have come over as part of an England team and they will be in good shape.

“I’ll see how the legs recover and see what I can do.”

In the local men’s competition, Spencer Butterfield won his first Front Street Mile since setting a still-standing record time in the Primary School race in 1999.

Butterfield, the brother of two-times Olympic triathlete Tyler Butterfield, stormed across the finish line in 4:33.99, ahead of defending champion Stephen Allen in 4:41.53 and third-place Christopher Hands in 4:43.38.

Darico Clarke, who has represented Bermuda at the Carifta Games, came fourth in 4:47.22.

“People like to joke, I won when I was 11 but haven’t raced it since,” Butterfield said. “I raced the Bermuda Triangle Half Challenge two years ago and did a similar time to tonight.”

Butterfield said he prepared well for the race as he knew the field would be competitive.

“I knew the top four were strong competitors and I knew Stephen Allen would be mixing it up,” said Butterfield, who will run the 10K today and half-marathon tomorrow.

“I wasn’t sure what kind of homework he’d done but I figured he would be fit.”

In the local male over-40 race, Christopher Harris reigned supreme in a time of 5:09.23, with Craig Rothwell second in 5:27.41 and Dean Smith third in 5:38.66.

Harris said he was over the moon to defend his title.

“It’s nice to be able to win a race, it doesn’t happen very often!” said the 46-year-old. “I felt pretty good going into the race as I’d been running some longer distances.

“I had my family and friends out tonight and it’s always a fun event.”