Wansbeck Race in the Eye of the Spectator

The perfect family day out.Thats us up there. I had planned to pedal up to the start line at Longhirst with the Junior Cyclist. He’s champing at the bit to ride now but even for a child who’s pretty road savvy theres a busy stretch of country lane there. My mate And picked us up instead. Driving through Longhirst itself was a sight to behold, the place was thronged with cyclists warming up, bike twiddling, chatting and of course the accompanying cars.  You have never seen such a beautifully vibrant sight. We pulled up by the side of the road and walked to the start line with an excited five year old.

We were in a lovely spot and the boy was very excited to watch the riders line up for the ride round. This year I watched the riders with new eyes, I’ve been to a few of these events with Simon but this time I was eyeing up the plethora of oh so pretty bikes, seeing which clubs were represented and really paying attention. I was rapt.

A few decades later the riders returned to the start line and got in order. The club to my eyes seemed more organised than previously and the start went smoothly with three groups staggered eight minutes apart.  Thrilling, the child was rapt and Andy was taking lots of pictures, as was Simon further around the course.

Then there was the wait. How do you occupy a child on an open road with a wait between lap? You feed them fruit and crisps and biscuits and run. And run and let him win sometimes. You hunt sticks and sword fight and then you shout “here come the cyclers” each lap the gap between groups were closing. There were 2 mountain bikers stopped to watch and a gentleman on a tourer actually took a ride round the course. I find such joy in those moments.


As the laps went on and the field got tighter more spectators appeared, more riders abandoned and there was even a disqualification or two. Things became more exciting and the exertion began to really show in their faces and bodies. It was amazing to watch. As the bell rang for the last lap I was handed a digital recorder and asked to take numbers. It’s not the first time I’ve done that and it’s a job I enjoy.  The hubbub, the tension, the marshalls, three people one side of the road rhyming numbers off, three on the other doing exactly the same. The riders making it over the finish line, some half dead. It’s an amazing thing and things were fairly close at the finish line. I really wish I could find the words to describe how that felt. I can urge you to go see it for yourself sometime.


That’s it, the race was over, back to the village hall to wait for the results being announced. Walking into the village hall I saw this guy:


This is Lee Palmer (he’s kindly given me permission to talk about him). He’s been riding 2 years and told me he has never ridden with a club. This guy may have been the slowest round the course but what really made me happy, proud and amazed was that he kept on going. This was his first race, the club members at the start line showed their encouragement at each lap and as everyone was leaving, some to hit the village hall, some for home I watched him make it past the finish line one last time. Well done lad, that’s determination. Keep it up. I hope you will consider joining a club.


Explore posts in the same categories: Friends, General randomness, The Bike, wansbeck cycling club

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