AIREDALE Athletics suffered another close-run defeat in Sunday's LEEDS COUNTRY WAY RELAY.

Second in three of the past four years, they felt that this time would surely be different.

Quentin Lewis and Simon Pass led off on the 11.75-mile leg from Garforth to Stanley and handed over in second place, less than a minute behind Valley Striders' strongest pairing, and well clear of the third team.

However, there was a major hiccup on leg two to Morley as Gerard Mills and Marcin Soscka dropped to sixth.

But the Queensbury vets' pairing of Martin Firth and Pete Hughes proved the value of experience on the hilly leg to Thornbury.

They were just 14 seconds behind the fastest team on this stage and brought Airedale back into contention.

Captain Will Kerr and perennial partner Matt Nowell departed two minutes behind an Abbey Runners pairing including Matt John and five minutes behind leaders, Valley Striders' Gwilym Thomas and Paul Kaiser.

A storming run on the toughest leg to Golden Acre Park brought Airedale to 43 seconds behind Abbey and 101 seconds off Valley. Pudsey & Bramley's Colin Walker and Neil Armitage were 12 minutes further back in fourth.

The podium trio seemed sorted. Chris Dove and Martin Fillingham headed off strongly and by half of the ten-mile stage were within 100 yards of Abbey and closing on Valley, but the effort told and they fell back.

Nevertheless, Pete Hopson and Chris Williams picked up the baton for the anchor leg from Scarcroft to Garforth.

They moved decisively into second, catching Valley, but, in the pressure-cooker situation and fatigued, they took one wrong turn and lost five minutes.

Abbey returned to second, with Valley Striders victorious for the second year.

The winning time, perhaps due to the heat and humidity, was one that Airedale had bettered in each of the last five years.

Kerr put a brave face on his disappointment, only massaged by an excellent personal run and the fastest leg trophy for leg four.