The Stinger Report #1 - Muckle-Cross
Updated: Apr 13
Sunday, 5th January 2020 was the Muckle CC cyclocross race – the 11th day of Christmas, and the 11th and final round of the CXNE league. If you've never been to a CX race before, I would strongly advise it – unlike going to spectate at road races or time trials, where you only really see a few seconds of racing, a CX race surrounds you with action from start to finish.
Race organiser Jay Bell had done an amazing job with putting a tough course together, and the conditions were good - six or seven degrees, dry, and not too much wind. After a few days of clear weather the course was in decent nick, so it was to be a ‘one bike race’ – the pit monkeys tasked with hosing down the mud from the bikes of riders they are supporting, would have an easy day with spare bikes not being required, although I think all of us would have preferred to have seen those racing absolutely splattered with mud, true Belgian toothpaste style.
There would be five races today - one for the juniors, vets, and women, the under 14 and 16s, under 8, 10 and 12s, and finally the senior men’s race including the over 40 category. As the field started filling up with entrants, the commentator’s Smooth FM playlist was blaring out of the PA system, and the atmosphere was building nicely. The scene was set.
Guess which eccentrically mustachioed Muckle is wearing those deeply suspect leather strangler gloves creeping into the right of the photo.
First up was the women’s race, along with the juniors and vets. Representing MCC was Nicola McCoy and Colin Blacklock who won today’s V60 category, as well as winning the V60 league outright, and I think 7th in the V50 category as well. Bill Kay took the win in the V50, Lewis Dobbing was first out of the juniors, and Roisin Lally was the victor in the women's race.
The most remarkable thing about this race for me was when Reifen Racing rider Brian Johnson took a tumble in the wooded area and unfortunately hit a tree face first. He carried on bloody faced and eventually finished fourth, seemingly with some damage around his right eye which was bloodshot and half shut. Obviously not great for Brian, and I hope he’s ok, but what was great however, was when the commentator named him ‘One Eyed Brian’ and referred to him only as this each time he completed a lap. A suitably swashbuckling nickname I thought, appropriate for a mad sport like CX.
Colin Blacklock - V60 champ
On with the racing - I largely neglected my post, assuming a ‘roaming marshal‘ role and wandered about chatting with MCC rider Daniel Moore. Daniel has had a solid CX season with a load of podiums and top 10's, finishing 4th in the league overall I think. We discussed our respective goals for the coming season and Daniel told me about his MTB racing plans for next year, which sounded super exciting and I can’t wait to see how he gets on.
On our travels of Hedley West Farm we encountered Colin ‘Granddad Watts’ Atkinson, famous runner, holder of countless hill climb vets course records, and aficionado of hi-viz shower caps. Colin was sat in his camp chair in the woods where he was on marshalling duties, and by all accounts spent most of the time napping and eating chocolate. For me, Colin’s best contribution today came in the form of comment he made whilst a group of us were standing about watching people prepare for the race and admiring some of the cycling bling on display. “That guy’s never had two divorces” Colin exclaimed. I detected a wistful cynicism in his voice, and also maybe an important lesson to be learned – a long, and hopefully happy marriage as being the secret to keeping a healthy stable of expensive bikes?
The under 16s race was a closely fought affair with Daniel Holmes of Derwentside CC, and Cody Lee of Hetton Hawks, inseparable for 30 minutes and eventually finishing on exactly the same time in a sprint finish with Daniel just inches ahead. Strong performances, and both ones to watch for the future. I was thinking to myself though, If Cody doesn’t keep up his cycling, he could perhaps pursue a career in music, as he’s got exactly the sort of name that belongs in a Seattle grunge band from the early 90s.
A majestic lone kite circled overhead as the action continued with the youths and kids races. Occasionally the whimsical sound of a steam train’s whistle could be heard, and the accompanying sight of a thick plume of white smoke could be seen, from across the road where the oldest railway in the world – the Tanfield Railway is situated. In the absence of pop up bars knocking out super strength Trappist ale, and an endless supply of frites and waffles, (as is the Belgium way), Jay’s bag of chocolate and sweets given out as prizes to the juniors, was shamelessly plundered by us volunteers requiring sustenance, but in order to obtain a coffee, an exciting trip to the world’s oldest railway was in order.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the race, but I’ve always seen train travel as the most romantic but also the saddest mode of transport. Firing the imagination, and conjuring a host of nostalgic images – I grew up in a house that looked out over the train tracks, the sound of passing trains ingrained in my psyche and embedded in my memory. Boats would probably come second, and the hot air balloon scene looks pretty quirky, but who the fuck travels by hot air balloon anyway?!
I was going for coffee wasn’t I?! I suppose, in a way, the instant coffee from the railway museum cafe was authentic, and not inconsistent with the overall whimsy I associated with the place, and the day in general. I pushed away all thoughts of the oat milk cappuccino with single origin specialty artisan beans, I secretly desired, and embraced the instant reality. What made the trip across the road really worthwhile though was the beard this guy I saw there had – he resembled something close to an Amish version of Jeff from Byker Grove. Whilst not a beard guy myself, I can certainly identify with, and respect the kind confidence and panache required to make a statement like that. Chapeau Sir (reminder to self to go on Trip Advisor and give kudos to the Stanley Abraham Lincoln).
Absolutely steaming ...
Back at the race and the main event of the senior men and V40 race was just about to start. MCC's main prospect was Hot Rod Roddy Weir. Also representing the club was the current ‘Muckle of the Year’ Ryan Parkinson, Stephen Walton, Mark Bell, and Ben Wilkinson.
In between shouting encouragement, and trying to work out who was where on the course, I bumped into former cyclist Tim Wilcock. Tim was offering up a variety of semi, to non-witty put downs aimed mainly at V40 winner Tony Fawcett, as well as sock, and other kit related critiques. After getting a brief overview of Tim’s ‘dynamic’ love life we went our separate ways. Driving home later, I thought about Tim, and then thought about what I’d do differently if I could go back 10-15 years, and that it would probably be quicker and easier to list the things that I’d do the same.
Sorry about the change in tone there... Back to the race! On the first lap Roddy started pulling out a gap on the rest of the field with James Edmond from Scott and Richard Jones from Ribble along for company. There wasn’t much between them for the full 60 mins, the gap to the rest of the field ever increasing, and the lead switching between one of the trio on each lap. Eventually as the race neared its conclusion Edmond managed to distance the other two and took the win, Jones was two seconds back, and Roddy rounded off the podium for third place a further second behind.
Ryan finished 9th after a strong start, and a smattering of hilarious abuse from me. Ben Wilkinson finished 15th, and in the V40 category Mark Bell was 26th, and Stephen Walton put a solid effort in for 11th place.
A successful day for the club, and for CX in the North East, with some strong, competitive, performances and team spirit on show from the racers, and everyone who was volunteering and helping run the event. I spoke with a couple of guys who had raced, all commenting on what a top event it had been, a hard course, good racing, well supported, and a great atmosphere, everything that makes up a Muckle event. See you at the next one!
Ryan Parkinson - Impressive running and resilience toward light hearted piss taking