Having taken the spring off organising mate’s races to concentrate on real life it was with great anticipation I announced the upcoming schedule for this year’s summer series. There had been some subtle and lots of very unsubtle prompting about when the new season would begin and so with the passing of the longest day, racing began.
This year’s series is planned to be a succession of 8 races taking in all ‘undisciplines’ of mountain biking, including a dual race open to the public and a Strava based round. The nature of these mates races is that they are just that, unofficial ‘races’ between friends, chaotic meetings of people all with the aim of having fun on bikes. As such it was great to have the opportunity to open up a couple of races to the public (other than Peatys Steal City DH) but more of that in another post. Also we’re still waiting for sanctioning from the UCI for points but ‘Ockers is working on it.
Round 1 this year was one of our old favourites and still the most fun you can have on two wheels, cycle speedway. Rob Mahwood of the Sheffield Stars once again welcomed us back to the newly surfaced oval to get our foot down and our bikes sideways. Apparently the lads that help Rob out when we come down look forward to it every time as the carnage that ensues is not quite typical of a speedway meet. Always happy to oblige. Every time we go down I’m amazed that this sport is not nationally well known: it’s so much fun; so hard to get right and such an amazing spectacle. It should featured every week on Grandstand.
Looking out of the office window at 3 and seeing another of this summers deluges running off the soaked earth I banged my head repeatedly against my keyboard. Somehow it spelt out ‘Fuck this summer’ 5 times in and email and sent it by accident to my most important client. Happily as 5 rolled round and I left the building, the sun cracked out from behind the clouds and our luck once again held. Descending upon Cookson park at 6 Rob had again rolled out all the stops, the full starting gate was in place the track had been bailed out (literally) and swept ready.
By now most of us are old hands at Speedway so the practice laps were quickly racked up once a suitable bike had been selected from the pile. The lankier of us always suffer with choice but that just adds further to the fun. 16 of us elected to race, with many just coming to watch the carnage, which meant the 3 lads and Rob himself were included in the line up. They have these brilliant grids already setup which set out who races who and when making sure everyone gets a go in each lane and shouldn’t race the same person more than twice.
Racing got underway quick and it was a full 4 lap affair. Considering the track is only 200m around, 4 laps is such hard work. Its balls out sprinting off the line, foot off, corner, drift, then back on the pedals as soon as possible to sprint to the next corner. The first corner is all important as once out in front it is possible to control the race if you have the skills, naturally we don’t and it’s just a balls out battle.
There are a few memorable moments from the evening; my favourite though was when I lined up against Rob for the first time. Such a pro, he’d been showing us how it was done all night and was very generous with advice. I was in lane 1, him in lane 2. He said to me “you remember Liam don’t you ?” as he signalled to the lad in lane 4. It was then that I remembered why I recognised him, it was from this incident, at 1:15, during last year’s Spring Series Speedway session. I’d used some rather dubious tactics to put him out of the race and it was as these neurons fired that Rob delivered the knife as the grin spread across his face “ …because he remembers you!”. That was it, purely psyched out, and I didn’t see any of them for dust but the team were being kind enough to let us invaders win.
During their 3rd round battle Rich Baybutt and Henry Norman had a bit of a coming together on the last corner of the last lap. Scrambling off the floor to get back on their bikes Baybutt was lagging well behind as Henry was first back on his feet pushing/pedalling/paddling his bike over the line. Not able to get back on his bike on the time Rich took the only logical choice and sprinted on foot towards the tape dragging his bike by the rear wheel behind him to the jeers for the assembled crowd. Victory was his as he crossed the line just ahead.
Surprise speedway star of the night was John Jones. He turned up late missing the practise and the first couple of rounds still in his steel toe cap work boots. Rob was immediately impressed by his style (you’d have thought he should be good being one of the most over qualified coaches in the country) and was trying to sign him up for the Stars.
Will Swinden was dominant all evening only dropping one point throughout which was in a first round battle with Timmy. Tim starting in lane 1 had the advantage and made the most of it. Ruari was also on form only dropping two points which left the final two spots in the big final to Chris Pearson and myself. I picked lane 1 out of the bag which put me next to Will in lane 2. As the tape flew up we sprinted off and I clashed with Will and went down like a sack of shit. Will went on to take a well deserved first with Ruari second and Chris in Third.
And so ended the first round of the Summer Series, the seal had been broken and it was on to the next race. This was scheduled to be the Dual in Endcliffe park but more of that in the next race report.