I only rode my first North of England champs last year but really enjoyed it. It’s a good atmosphere and it’s a mid way between the lower key regional races and the just-too-hard National Trophy races.
This year’s race was held near Beverley in the East Riding, at Bishop Burton Agricultural college. It was a good venue and the opinions were mixed about the course. From my point of view, I thought it was a cracker, because it was the first muddy, leafy race that I’ve done this year (despite the wet autumn). The field sections were heavy going and the course only had a couple of bits of relief in it, but I was ready for a slog like that.
By the time the forty of us lined up, I was ready to race and well prepared, and even had a very good start (4th into the first corner), but it all went bang – literally, when my rear tyre punctured on a large pothole about a minute into the race. By the time I’d carried my bike and ridden some sections on the flat tyre to the pits area, I was in last place and suddenly was faced by a new game plan!
I’d worked out before the race that, given my form and the other riders competing, I was not going to repeat last year’s 7th place, but hoped for a top ten. Now, in last place some five minutes into the 60 minute race, I really had my work cut out, big time.
Thanks to some great pits support (thank you, Billy, Jack and Mick), I got my spare bike and then changed (mud clogged) bikes each lap in order to make up as much time as I could. It was good for morale passing so many riders so quickly, but the momentum gradually levelled off and I couldn’t close down on the two riders stopping me from my top ten place. 12th on the day was more than satisfying, but it was annoying being lapped.
Wheelbase won the team prize for the third year running, this time without my help!