Mike Simpson

The long trek up North

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‘If we go on the Friday we can do the north east league the day before’, so glad I decided to race on Saturday, as Sunday didn’t quite go to plan! We were to leave at 10am on Friday to try and get to Newcastle in the light and before the traffic, however an impromptu lie in and breakfast in bed meant that by the time I had been out on the bike for an easy spin it was after 1pm when we finally set off. The next 6 hours didn’t do much to change my opinion of the M1, crashes and tail backs all the way up. One junction took over an hour! The day before our accommodation had phoned to say due to flooding they were uninhabitable, so Davina had to hastily find somewhere else. Luckily she was earning her crust as the new venue was superb, a lovely barn conversation with a mezzanine bedroom (ideal if it floods!) I slept very well and by Saturday was ready for stage 1 of the weekend…...a North East League on the same course as Sunday’s National Trophy. I took an instant shine to the course, muddy with lots of twists and turns. I managed to get clear of the field and despite coming off an a tricky off camber section and dropping my chain, I could relax and take it easy on the last lap and save my energy for tomorrow. Prize giving was at the end of the day so we had to wait 4 hours after my race to collect some diesel money and prophetically a new helmet! Into Newcastle now to find some pasta, we parked right outside the police station to hopefully minimise any possibility of the van and bikes going missing.

Sunday arrives and it’s icy. Although most of the course is marked out differently to the day before, a few sections have some very nasty icy rutted parts. A cautious start had me in 7th place after the first few turns. Approaching a descent I see Andrew Peace in front slide off, I turn to go around him but he falls in my path, so I need to adjust my descent, as I steer around his head I have no option but to go over to the left, I know that will stuff the rider behind me, through the tape off course. No time to apologise I accelerate up the incline as the rest of the field have to negotiate the rider on the floor. Knowing I got through that quite well I begin my quest to get to the front. I power past a few riders and on a straight I floor it. It’s is at this point I lose control. I was not aware of the bike going from under me or aware of falling off, it all happened so quick. The first thing I knew was my head hit the solid ground hard. I instantly knew my race was over, the world was spinning. It was a weird feeling just lying there, I couldn’t move, I knew there was the whole pack of riders coming past. I could guess that I was in the way, but for a few minutes I could do nothing about it. Very quickly I was surrounded by marshalls, they did a great job alerting the rest of the field. My head started thumping, not good. The ground was so cold, but I was soon wrapped up in foil blankets and coats. Davina got to me quick as well and I tried to tell her I was fine. Every few minutes the riders would speed past. I asked my helpers to drag me off the course but as I had said my head was hurting they didn’t want to.

Within 10 minutes a paramedic was with me and I was soon on my way to A&E. By this time I was pretty sure all was ok. It’s odd but the way my brain works, after I realised I was not riding again today, I was assessing if training tomorrow would be affected. My knees were a mess, my groin was sore, and my chin was cut open but although annoyed I failed to finish the race, I was pretty confident that I’d be fine tomorrow. The A&E was only 200 metres from the course and they were super efficient in there. Within an hour I was stitched up and back on the motorway home. Five stitches, a cracked helmet and a good excuse not to share the driving home.

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