Sbihi and Gregory win Grobler's toughest test yet
Mohamed Sbihi and Alex Gregory, reigning World Champions in the men's four, teamed up as a pair at the GB Rowing Team's Winter Assessment to win one of the most gruelling tests ever set by the GB Rowing Team's Head Coach for Men, Jurgen Grobler.
Sbihi and Gregory came home ahead of five other World gold medal winning men - George Nash also from the four; Paul Bennet, and Matt Gotrel, and Peter Reed (racing with Scott Durant) as well as Nathaniel Reilly O'Donnell (racing with Alan Sinclair) from the men's eight.
Grobler had his men completing three back-to-back 2k time-trials with only the paddle back up to the start as recovery time.
“Today very much took us out of our comfort zone”, said Sbihi afterwards. It was a new experience, making sure you didn't push too hard in the first one but also not leaving it too little, too late.
“It's an important event. The reason for this is that it keeps us on our toes for the summer racing. Everyone wants to establish themselves at the highest possible ranking in the squad. The bigger picture, of course, is that because everyone wants to do well, we get a stronger international team out of it”.
Sbihi and Gregory came home overall ahead of Bennett and Gotrel and then World silver medallist men's pair, Matt Langridge and James Foad. Olympic men's four Champion Reed and Durant were fourth.
Sam Townsend took the crown in the open men's single ahead of the 2014 GB Rowing Team Senior Team Trials men's single scull winner Charles Cousins. Both men were part of the men's quadruple scull that took World Championships sliver in 2014.
Peter Lambert from that same crew came home fourth, a smidgen behind Jonny Walton from the 2014 GB men's double. Jack Beaumont and Angus Groom, World U23 medallists in the double, were fifth and sixth.
Alan Campbell, 2012 bronze medallist in the single, warmed up for racing today but was then withdrawn by the team doctor early this morning having been poorly overnight. Graeme Thomas the final member of the GB quadruple scull in 2014 was absent on recovery from injury.
The top women and lightweight men and women all raced in singles today and undertook a time-trial followed by some four-lane, side-by-side finals and ranking races.
Olympic women's pair Champion Helen Glover and Vick Thornley, the GB women's single sculler for the last two seasons, locked horns in a tough battle to take the women's single victory.
Glover led at half-way but Thornley battled back and looked like coming through before Glover found some extra pace at the end to win.
Both women have been team-mates and rivals since they learnt to row together, as part of the GB Rowing Team's Start programme, at the sport's talent development centre in Bath.
Katherine Grainger continued her return to training with a ffith-placed finish in the event. Kat Copeland, the Olympic lightweight women's double champion, put in an eye-catching time-trial to enter today's final in second place ahead of many of her open weight colleagues. She was fourth behind Melanie Wilson, the British Rowing Championships women's double scull winner.
The lightweight women raced in the same field as their open weight counterparts today with Charlotte Taylor 11th overall and Ellie Piggott, 15th. Imogen Walsh, Copeland's 2014 double sculls partner, was absent as she is recovering from illness.
Olympic silver medallist Richard Chambers dominated the lightweight men's single scull field which had a few absentees on medical grounds including Jamie Kirkwood and Will Fletcher from the 2014 lightweight men's double scull, as well as Sam Scrimgeour from the World medal men's pair.
Zak Lee-Green, the Cardiff dentist who went to the World Championships as a reserve earlier this year, proved his progress with a second place ahead of Mark Aldred from the World bronze lightweight men's four. Joel Cassells was fourth.