photo: James Sudder

On Saturday morning, on the first anniversary of my first ever MTB event I set off to compete partake in Hit the North 4, a 2 hour MTB event in Phillips Park, just behind the office, organised by our own Jason Miles and his friend Andy McHugh…

The weather was ideal for riding although it had been reported that there may be some muddy bits around the course. I arrived, registered, listened to the Major of Bury, Andy’s safety briefing and the bagpipes and then made my way to the start line with the 300+ other riders.

With the Elite riders jostling for pole position, I checked the starting pens for where I belonged – somewhere below “average” but above “will die on the day”.

I found my ideal spot alongside the sign for “Plodders”.

The atmosphere was relaxed and the banter was flowing. The hooter sounded and we were off. With 300+ riders and being close to the back I could see the “Elite” riders set off at a furious pace whilst my fellow plodders and I just about managed to stay seated and follow the crowd. The first few hundred metres were a steady climb so the horde of riders soon thinned out. The first half lap was slow and steady as the pack of riders bunched at various slower parts of the course, but soon everyone got into their race pace… or plodding for me.

HTN 1_0150

photo: Sportsunday

I felt pretty good after the first lap, but that soon faded as I came to my first crossing of the “field of despair”, only passable on foot. The mud was ankle deep and it not only slowed me down, but zapped the energy I thought I had, and I was only thirty minutes into the two hours. Once through the mire and back on my bike the fun quickly returned – I had planned on enjoying myself and riding with a smile on my face, I’ve seen plenty photos and I’m unsure if I managed a smile or a grimace.

My only goal was to complete four laps (which would be 1 more than last year).

As I crossed the field of despair for the third time I was given an encouraging shout from Budge as he crossed the field, well at least I took it as encouragement. I struggled with a touch of cramp during the final part of my last lap, but I was happy to have achieved my goal of four laps. I was entirely unaware of any position I may have come – As that wasn’t important to me, the enjoyment, friendship, chit-chat and wit ensured that everyone felt like a winner.

With the good weather, there were plenty of people offering support and encouragement around the course, especially our very own JMC Marshalls, namely Andy Smith, Mike Wheeler, Lauren Steele and Mike Bentley. And of course the young girl with her cow bell as I reached the end of each lap – She was amazing.

It was great to see so many Team JMC riders, and congratulations go out to Dave, Phil, Budge, Andy, Paul, Jacqui, Wayne and Sally.

Finally a word of thanks and congratulations must go to Jason Miles and Andy McHugh for organising a fantastic event. Bring on HTN 5 (could I do 5 laps ?)