The pace ebbed and flowed. Teammates took it in turns to take up the running on the flat and dusty terrain in the south of France.
The sound of the bell saw the Spaniard make the first surge of sorts in an attempt to break up the leading group of fifteen. It succeeded.
When the lead pack splintered down further to six and a single file of the continent’s best followed, Davies was still up there.
Sitting on the shoulders of the leaders in fourth, Jonny stayed calm as another surge came. Pretty soon it was down to three.
Mayo, Petro and Davies. Spain v Belgium v Great Britain.
‘The race was really manic as always,’ remembers Jonny en route to Italy for the 2016 European Cross Country Championships.
‘I knew before that I had a shot at winning but it wasn’t until I was in that breakaway group of three towards the end that I really believed I could win.’
Remaining strong and firm in his footing over the final few artificial mounds and inconveniently-placed logs, Jonny hit the front for the first time.
As the trio snaked round the twisty woodland section, the finishing straight arrived with only two runners left in contention.
Scampering down the home straight with only Mayo left for company, Jonny’s rabbit-caught-in-headlights glare willed the finish line to arrive.
‘All I could think was: I really hope no one catches me here!’
And thankfully, they didn’t. Davies stayed strong and flinched just one glance over the shoulder with the tape within touching distance.
A three-second victory and first European Cross Country title was his – a marked improvement from his 30th-place finish in Samokov just twelve months before.
The 2013 European junior 5,000m bronze medalist graduated to senior honours in Amsterdam in the summer and heads to Chia this weekend more of a marked man.
‘Being the defending champion doesn’t really change anything to be honest,’ claims the Birmingham University graduate. ‘It’s going to be a very hard race as ever and last year’s result really does count for nothing.
‘It is nice to be one to watch though.’
After missing out on team gold by a meagre two points twelve months ago, Davies is the old head in an inexperienced British team otherwise full of Euro Cross first-timers. He’ll be looking to lead by example.
Overshadowed somewhat by the exploits of more illustrious Olympian opponents, the Rob Mckim-coached athlete has enjoyed a decent winter so far.
A familiar figure in the red and blue of his Reading club vest, Jonny picked apart the field in early-November to nominally bag the fastest time on leg two at the National XC Relays.
He followed up tenth in the first British Athletics Cross Challenge in Milton Keynes with 11th – and first U23 – at the Euro Cross trials in Liverpool two weeks ago.
With memories of last year still living long, the Run Fast man will be able to draw on all his strength and relative experience as he bids to notch up his second Euro Cross crown.
‘I’m going to Chia looking to defend my title,’ adds Jonny. ‘But provided I give it my all and feel like I had nothing left to give, I can’t complain.
‘I’m just looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the best in Europe again.’
Words by Chris Rainsford
Image from YouTube