Matthew Bowser hits top gear to win Lincolnshire Cross Country Championships
Matthew Bowser added another title to his mantelpiece after an absorbing battle with the highest calibre field ever assembled at the Lincolnshire Cross Country Championships.
Bowser was faced with three former winners of the title and a man ranked inside the nation's top-30 for a half marathon, at Louth's London Road venue on Sunday.
The five heavyweights were soon to the fore and sharing the lead until Bowser turned the screw at halfway to leave his rivals scattered across the course, with only defending champion Aaron Scott left for company.
"Aaron pushed me pretty much the whole race and I just about lead from gun to tape, but that was more so we could drop the other guys and avoid a big sprint finish at the end," said Bowser.
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"I told everyone I was going to sit in and outkick them all, but because the first lap was at an uncomfortably slow pace I took it on, knowing there was only going to be a couple able to go with me."
Second to Scott 12 months ago, the 29-year-old waited until the final 100 metres before putting in a winning burst to drop the Notts athlete, who had tracked the Lincoln Wellington man up to that point.
The Royal Air Force's Ben Livesey claimed third in his first outing at the county event following relocation to the airbase at Waddington.
The 34-year-old, who trains with Mark Baddeley's Lincoln training group, set personal bests across four distances in 2012 and given that form, expected to be closer to the leading duo.
"Bowser and Aaron ran well together at the front and having each other to fight against certainly helps," he said.
"I was actually quite confident of being a bit closer to them than I was, and I was disappointed at the end.
"I have trained on my own predominantly (since moving), but it's great now to have the chance of training with Lincoln Wellington.
"The quality of the training group is certainly bringing me on."
Wellington stalwarts Tom Doe and Ian Kimpton were fourth and fifth respectively, while the quality continued to flow further back.
The top-nine finishers could count themselves inside the country's best 300 over 10km on the road in 2012, and statistics such as this have left Lincolnshire's leading man feeling confident ahead of the Inter Counties Championships in March.
"This is a bold statement, but if Lincolnshire could get everybody out we have possibly got a winning team at most things," said Bowser.
"We have said it for years, but I'm the fittest I have ever been, Kimpton is too, and having six people with an average 10km time of 30 minutes is phenomenal."