On the face of it 8th place in this season's climax, The National Championships at Derby may seem a disappointment, especially having reached the dizzy heights of 3rd last year. But as soon as I heard the event was to be held at Derby I knew that it would be an uphill struggle. My skills had improved hugely this year but the sticky mud and technical course was not ideal for my lanky frame.
Two weeks beforehand I was in great form in the mud at Todmorden and the beautiful Ripley Castle. Spurred on by incredible venues and tough courses I was flying but a slight bug picked up a few days before the National had drained my power and I just had to salvage all I could from the day.
Things got a bit desperate 2 hours before the race. While warming up on the course my shifter broke, rendering the bike useless. I knew that it would be all over with only the spare bike, luckily Mark from Beeline Cycles was on hand. I'd only really met him once beforehand but he happily got to work. You can tell a great mechanic not just by their ability to solve a problem but by their keenness to solve a problem. He soon had the shifter replaced with a spare, I mean who carries a spare shifter around? What a star, he saved my day.
I had seen the grassland turn to mush on the seven recce laps of the course the day before and the overnight rain and the hundreds of riders lapping throughout the day meant that by the 2pm start the course was a true quagmire.
Through 30 races in the last 17 weeks I raced on many different courses and I’ve strayed to lots of different leagues- Eastern, Western, Central, Notts & Derby, Yorkshire and North East. It's been such a fun season, especially a 10 day/4 race trip to Yorkshire over Christmas and New Year. We based ourselves halfway up Cragg Vale in a secluded hillside retreat, just training and racing. Although it was blowing a gale the whole time and all training was either up or down it was a fun, relaxing week and I finally got to race at Todmorden with the cobble climb which I'd heard about a few years back.
Not all races this season went to plan, but I’ve learnt that there’s no point being upset when things go wrong in races, I was on for a flyer at the National Trophy Round 4 at Milton Keynes but major mechanical disasters with both bikes left me struggling to finish. At one point I walked off the course but knowing finishing whatever state or position is essential, I continued, and after a comical fall in the pits left me on my bum while swapping one broken bike for another broken bike I saw the funny side. The season has not been short of funny incidents and much to Davina’s amusement, she was asked at the Southern Championships whether I was her dad!
So as I float sideways down a bank on the last lap at Derby in the last race of the season, seemingly out of control waiting for my Challenge Limus tyres to take grip before the bike slides from under me (and they did, what amazing tyres), and as I spit another clump of mud from my mouth, I’m sad that it will be another 8 months before these pleasures will be upon me again........ I Love Cross.
(Images by Joolze Dymond)