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  • Joe Stringer

MCC - Kings Of The Hills

Northumberland and Durham Cycling Association awards evening 2019


I sat down to start writing this post and the first thing that came out was the title, (which I planned on changing later). Almost immediately the voice of Hank Hill from King of the Hill came into my head, at first uttering the word ‘propane’, and then the funnier sounding ‘Bobby’ when I remembered the name of his son in the show. Not really an issue in itself, or at least it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the intrusive, repetitive nature of the voice - when this sort of thing kicks off, it usually persists, until I have completely done my own head in. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have experienced the ‘out loud’ version of this – I’m sorry. Maybe it’s a bit like when you get an earworm of a song stuck in your head, although perhaps a bit more advanced on the autistic spectrum disorder scale.


What does this have to do with cycling or hill climbs? Maybe nothing at all. Or maybe more than you’d think. Either way, it got me thinking about some of the interesting personality traits, and behavioural quirks I’ve observed in some of the cyclists I know – especially the really good ones.


Unfortunately athletic talent can’t explain my own idiosyncrasies, as I don’t really have any (the former that is, I have plenty of the latter) in general though, they can be pronounced in a lot of the people I know who have become particularly proficient at a particular discipline. It’s not exclusive to sport, in fact some of the musicians I know are the worst ones - I suppose it’s simply because it can require a very particular, obsessive sort of personality for someone to be single minded, and focused enough to dedicate so much of themselves into getting really good at something. Not a bad thing at all, in fact, an admirable, and potentially inspirational thing. Unless of course your pursuit of ‘better’ has been to the detriment of other areas of your life - let’s say your social skills for instance, or having difficulties with personal relationships, or maybe your work life has suffered. Let’s just imagine, hypothetically speaking, you let your relationship fall apart because, among over things in fairness, you were going out for 7 hour rides on Saturdays and Sundays, and all your annual leave was spent cycling abroad with the lads whilst your girlfriend was back at home falling in love with another man. That sort of stuff might put winning the odd road-sign sprint into perspective, or perhaps you may think, just make it even more meaningful…



# stringtani - perfect cycling/life balance


Anyway – less of that and on with the business of the post which is supposed to be the 2019 North East hill climb season. On Saturday 25th January it was the Northumberland and Durham Cycling Association annual awards evening, and MCC riders were there to pick up a few of the honours. The evening looked back at the North East time trialing and hill climb season, and awards were given out to the winning individuals and teams of the various races over the year. The evening also featured a fun game I like to call “try not to appear rude because you have no idea who the person talking to you is because you don’t recognise them out of their cycling gear and only identify them by the bike they ride”. I’m actually a lot better at that now after having been around for a few years. Fun game number two was “try and restrain yourself at the buffet because you can’t let the other cyclists see what a fat greedy bastard you really are and then get your team mate to go and do your dirty work and bring you seconds back to the table later when he goes for his”. Awards were given out by local time trialing legend Mick Bradshaw and there was also a talk and Q&A with Josh Reid about his 15,000km China to Newcastle ride last year. Inspirational stuff - there is a definite appeal in the lightweight, long distance touring stuff for me, just as long as it doesn't involve eating horse cheese, or wondering if you're going to get shot by a Kyrgyzstani truck driver.



The buffet - an absolute staple of any self respecting hill climb. Just because Josh Craven wasn't racing this day didn't stop him from getting stuck in.



The word eccentric gets bandied about a fair bit when talking about the hill climb scene. It’s not without good reason – it is a very particular discipline, the slightly peculiar but fascinating uncle in the family of bike racing. Therefore it stands to reason that it can attract some of the more unconventional characters, people prepared to absolutely turn themselves inside out for a few minutes on some cold, autumnal hill somewhere. It’s also a great spectator sport, especially if you have a sadistic capacity for enjoying watching people push themselves to extremes of suffering, whilst making ridiculous faces. If that sounds like it could be up your street make sure you put the next Muckle Cycle Club Hill Climb at Prospect Hill in Corbridge in your diary for Sunday October 18th 2020.


For four years in a row MCC have won the team competition in the Northumberland and Durham Cycling Association Hill Climb league. This is for the highest ranked qualified riders in the overall league, from any one team or club grouped together in a team of 3. In 2016 the winning team was Matthew Smith, John Bowman, and Darren Robson. In 2017 Matthew Smith, Colin Atkinson, and Lewis Timmins were the winners, and in 2018 Colin Atkinson, Matty Smith, and Andy Richardson took the prize for first. In 2019 the winning team consisted of Colin Atkinson, Craig Hodgson, and me.


Plenty going on here...


The hill climb season in the North East consists of eight rounds – this year the two stage events would only count as one round. In order to be in the running for competing in the league you need to complete a minimum of five races out of the eight, with your best five results going towards your final standing in the overall tables.


Winning the league outright this year, as well as winning the vet’s category for the 4th year in a row was Grandadwatts himself - Colin Atkinson. At this point it’s worth mentioning (in case you didn’t already know) that Colin nearly died at start of 2019 from sepsis and pneumonia. Apparently, if he hadn’t sought treatment when he did, he would’ve been a mere 60 minutes away from death. Colin wasn’t sure if he would race for the rest of the year after that, so his achievements this year have extra significance. 4th overall at Hedley on the Hill, where he won the v50 category in the 2017 national championship race. 4th up the Winters Gibbet at NTR’s hill climb, 3rd in the Allen Valley Velo 2 stage race, 2nd place up Peth Bank in the Cestria CC race, 1st place up Silverhills in the Sunderland Clarion promoted hill climb, 4th in the Blaydon CC race at Whittonstall, 4th in the Houghton CC race up Quarrington Hill, 5th place in the MCC hill climb up Prospect Hill, and finally 2nd V50 (and 87th overall) in the national championship race up Haytor in Devon.


If you happen to bump into Colin anywhere and are interested in hearing about the minute detail of any of those races, including heart rate data, tyre pressure, gear ratios, as well some additional, and highly specific material on North East runners from the 1980s, or his near death experience - Just ask, he’s usually more than happy to tell you all about it. *winking face emoji*


Taking the bronze trophy for third overall in the hill climb league in 2019 was Craig Hodgson, who also got some strong individual results - 8th up the Winters Gibbet, 7th in the Allen Valley Velo two stage event, 6th at the Cestria CC race up the horrific Peth Bank, and 11th Blaydon CC hill climb. Top work from Craig and it’s great to see that the funding for his PhD has been going to good use and afforded him so much extra time to get out and ride his bike. I hope his supervisor is suitably impressed as well.



Colin Atkinson - Nearly died


Craig Hodgson and Matty Smith racing the NTR hill climb on the Winters Gibbet




I managed to do enough to scrape into the winning team with two 9th place finishes, a 7th, an 11th, and a 16th place in the Muckle race on Prospect Hill. Finishing one point behind Craig for 4th place overall in the league. Of course this is the sort of thing where “you’ve got to be in it to win it”, and there were a few riders, usually way up in the results, but who were either racing for clubs not affiliated with the N&DCA, or that did not complete enough races to be in the league, and therefore allowed the likes of myself to creep in for a result. I should have just kept that to myself shouldn’t I, just in case anyone was disproportionately impressed with my overall result, but maybe that would have been a bit disingenuous of me?


Because of that we need to mention the likes of star Muckle rider Matty Smith who was in great form and took 2nd in the MCC race, 2nd at Allen Valley Velo, 3rd in the NTR race, and 6th at the G.S Metro race. Looking back over some of the results really highlights the strength in depth of the club with Andy Richardson, Lee Cuthbertson, and Adam Greenwood also picking up some great results. It would’ve been an absolute Muckle whitewash, however the league must be completed in order to be contended – so maybe next year think twice about stuff like those nice holidays with your girlfriends and remember what’s really important eh lads!


As well as success in the hill climbs, Muckle Cycle Club collected the award for third placed women’s team in the time trialing best all-rounder competition, with Jen McMahon and Teri Bayliss making up the team. Top work from the Teri and Jen, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the Muckle women get up to on the road this season.


Teri Baylis and Jen McMahon making it look easy



One of my favourite bits about the night was the ‘walk on’ music that master of ceremonies, N&DCA committee member, and Blaydon CC rider, Paul Wright had selected, for award winners to walk up and collect their awards to – Riverboat Song by Ocean Colour Scene. I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for watching TFI Friday in the 90’s. It would’ve been great to have been a guest on that show, maybe boshing a few lines with Patsy Kensit and Steve Coogan in the green room, swaggering on half pissed and conducting yourself in a disgraceful manner, defacing Chris Evans’ desk with a blow torch, and giving flippant answers to questions about your rock and roll excesses, and which celebrities you’ve been shagging, then after the show going out on a proper naughty sesh with Sean Ryder and a couple of the lasses from All Saints.


I’ve gone off-piste again haven’t I? That’s just what was going through my head, and even though this was only a small venue in Byker, celebrating a very niche and low key community of racing cyclists in the North East - thanks to Paul and Ocean Colour Scene, I could have my 10 second TFI Friday moment. Helped I may add, in no small part, by Paul introducing me to the audience me as ‘the housewives favourite’. Fair enough, it did get a few laughs, but I still have no idea what you’re on about Paul? Probably a good place to bring this piece to a close. Hank has gone now anyway, and I feel a lot better. Go well everybody.

Big Joe x





Northumberland and Durham Cycling Association website

https://www.nanddca.co.uk/

Some stuff about Josh Reid’s big ride

https://www.the-spokesmen.com/i-accidentally-ate-horse-cheese-josh-reid-on-his-gravel-bike-ride-from-china-to-the-uk/

Jack Earl - photographer of many North East races

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1830151290334388/

Loads of old TFI Friday on Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNxb6bqQ5Tg&t=715s

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