There have been mixed fortunes for the Look Mum cross team so far this season. Jeremy has a broken collar bone after a training incident the night before the first race of the season, and an innocuous fall the day before the first national trophy took me out of it this weekends’ race in South Shields, Newcastle. Never before did the Look Mum Race Team (now down to just one brave woman) need the spirit of the honey badger more.
Making the call from A and E where I was having my hip x rayed, I told Nik the news. No pressure, but we needed her to race, and she needed to not fall off. Shunning ‘the Curse of the Van Dessels’, Nik took the extra responsibility in her stride, landing in Newcastle late on Saturday night like some kind of para-trooper with a tent on her back and a bag big enough for a body. With rain pouring down and the dark well and truly ‘in’, Nik arrived at Newcastle station and was greeted by the Bearded Man and his friend, Paul. Newcastle is no place to be without back up, and even Nik admitted she was unnerved by some of the sights she saw in the city centre.
Meantime, Kevin and I had finally arrived at the Travelodge and been greeted by a large Geordie lass warning that we were in for quite a night of it, as there were a load of ‘stags’ and ‘hens’ in. Taking pity on me hobbling about on crutches and Kevin going back and forth to the car with bags, we were ushered into the farthest corner of the hotel, where we might get lucky and not be too disturbed. We were also given a slip of paper with the hotel reception number on it, in case we had trouble later and were too intimidated to leave the room (No, really). I collapsed (carefully) on the bed while Kevin went out in search of Tesco’s finest bedroom buffet, bringing back stories of 6 foot tall women in high heels and skirts even higher. When we planned to come away to ‘see the sights’ of Newcastle, Tyneside A and E and party central Travelodge were not really what we had in mind.
The next morning eager for the fresh air, we headed back to the course where the Bearded Man and Paul were on hand to help in the pits, and Kevin and I were ready to move (slowly) from one part of the course to the other to shout encouragement. Nik made preparations by checking out the course and warming up with one headphone in playing ‘slayer’ for motivation. (We discussed it and on balance felt that one ear full of slayer was acceptable but two might look unprofessional, and perhaps even be dangerous). The scene was set for an epic battle.
In her first National level race, Nik did a great job, making a steady start and then working her way through the field as the race progressed. By the time the win had become a battle between Corrine and Adela Carter, Nik had managed to work her way up to 5th, and shortly after, overtook the rider in front to take 4th. Nik and Hannah Peyton (national Junior champion) exchanged places again before the finish and it looked from the sidelines as if Nik was waiting to pounce and go in for the kill to take fourth. Unfortunately, (and I will only mention this once and it will then never be spoken of again) Nik failed to notice that she was on the last lap, and so allowed a gap to open between herself and Hannah. Come the finish, Nik came in a little way behind young Hannah, looking rather casual and wondering why spectators were now blocking the route. Was it ‘Slayer’ still playing in her head that caused Nik to miss ‘the bells’? Who knows. But a fantastic 5th all the same and a competitive seed planted for next time.
A seven hour car journey followed back to London, where we chewed over the events of the weekend, the pros and cons of world religions, ‘string’ theory, time, relativity, the universe and life after death, the importance of wind farms, Thatcher’s ruination of National Rail and other varied topics. Nik and I fought over who had the sorriest story. Me, for being really quite badly hurt from something seeming so minor, and her for being a bit of a plonker with the last lap business that shall not be named. From my own point of view I cannot really call the weekend a success, but it certainly has cemented the team bonds a little tighter.