The mud-fest continues, this time at the 2012 East and South East Regional Championships, staged at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Kent, where the recent rain had turned large chunks of the course into a wheel-sucking swamp. This was my first Regional Championships, and I badly wanted to ride well, but I had my doubts…

A good start saw me get away from the chasing pack with former national junior champion Alex Paton, currently riding for Gwb ACTiV. Our lead was short-lived though, as Taylor Johnstone of De Ver bridged the gap after two hard laps, and then began to break clear, with Paton also pulling away.

The heavy conditions were taking their toll on the Major Jake, so I swapped bikes for a lap, giving Jake the Snake an outing while my new bike was jet-washed by one of my Hackney GT teammates. The worsening conditions seemed to be suiting my rivals as my legs began to tire, but I tried to concentrate on keeping smooth and staying upright on the technical sections.

By the last lap I began to feel that the podium was in sight but, as often happens when you start thinking about the end of the race, my concentration lapsed, my pace dropped and I was caught by Darren Barclay of Arctic SRAM, a super-strong rider who has won 5 out of 10 races in the London League this season. I gave it everything through the technical section at the back of the course, trying to keep him at bay, and I made it to the finishing straight just ahead, sprinting for the flag without daring to look back.

A well-earned win for Johnstone, then, a strong second for Paton and third place for me after one of the toughest races of the season.

Photo: Oskar Scarsbrook