A safer run than Pamplona

THE 400 metres at the Wangaratta Gift is a long way from Pamplona and running with the bulls, but Luke Versace wouldn’t have it any other way.

In 2002, in what he said was a moment of madness, he decided to take on the Spanish challenge.

The now 31-year-old Melburnian was gored twice in the leg and the nagging arthritis in his left knee which now limits his preparations is a permanent reminder of that experience.

But on Saturday night Versace put the pain aside to make it back-to-back 400-metre wins this month.

Two weeks ago he won the 400 at Rye, in between making the sprint final at St Albans a week before Wangaratta.

“We had targeted those two races for some time so it worked out perfectly,” Versace said.

“My coach Brad Armstrong has a strong affinity, family links, with the Wangaratta carnival, so we wanted to do well there.

“I went in the sprint at St Albans just to stay fresh — 400s always take it out of you, you know they are going to hurt.”

Versace said injuries limited his opportunity to train purely for sprints, but hoped to “pinch” a few more 400s in the summer.

“I’m just going to enjoy it for the time being,” he said.

“Having had such a poor record with injuries it is a matter of enjoying being fit and in form.

“My recent success, including this race, is all down to my coach, we have been friends for some time but he only started coaching me about 10 months ago.

“Brad knows my strengths but also my weaknesses.

“I’d love to do more sprinting but I’m not sure the body is up to it.”

St Albans was also a handy form guide to the main event, with Matthew Hargreaves winning the 120-metre Wangaratta Gift in a blanket finish.

He had finished just behind Versace in the sprint final a week earlier.

Brunswick’s Ben Abels won the wheelrace at the carnival, with Albury’s Stephen Kilpatrick (third) the Border’s best.

Kilpatrick was also just beaten in the open bike race, finishing second.

Organiser Graeme Taylor said the number of runners and riders were strong and the gate takings up on last year.

“Overall we had a great carnival and the sprint final was one of the best we have had in recent years,” he said.

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