Michael Openshaw wins the Hill Climb Nationals (29 October 2017)

Michael Openshaw (centre) with club supporters having completed the National Hill Climb at Hedley-on-the-Hill. From left to right, Peter Scott, Stuart Cook, Jonathan Foreman, Graeme Bradford, Michael, Ray Haldene, Mike Wyngard, Ian Gardner, Gary Heath.

For those of you who have read my reports in the past, you will know that I tend to avoid including myself in the details. You’ll have to forgive me this time since I must provide a bit of detail about a very moving and incredibly thoughtful gesture at the beginning of last Sunday’s ride. Unfortunately, I have had to move out of the region due to my job, which means that I am unable to regularly take part in the Sunday club rides. Chair Mike Wyngard and others decided to mark this occasion and presented me with lifetime membership of the club, marked by a stunning framed certificate which they presented to me. To say that I was overwhelmed is an understatement – I was absolutely staggered by the thoughtful and generous gesture and it means a huge amount. I’m incredibly honoured to be given this; it’s been a real privilege to be part of a club where everyone is supportive and work towards the common good. Thank you so much for this – I’ve got loads of great memories of the club and am thrilled to be a very small part of the recent revival in the past eight years or so. Thanks also to Ray Haldene who presented me with a miniature cycling figurine in club colours and glasses (yes, it was me!). I’ll also treasure this for the rest of my days. I am also most grateful to those who turned out last Sunday morning to wish me all the best and I’m sorry I did not get a chance to chat to everyone before we departed.

It was a cool but very bright morning when a large contingent departed from CLS, following a route to Hedley-on-the-Hill set by Ray Haldene. We went via Waldridge for a change, and a small group of faster riders peeled off the front. After the climb up to Edmondsley we regrouped and headed up to Burnhope where we were divided by a combination of the gradient plus temporary traffic lights in the village. Here we turned north for Maiden Law into a light headwind, keeping a brisk and manageable pace. The drop to Stony Heap went without incident, and we then all climbed past the back of Leadgate before the bumpy drop to Ebchester.

Having negotiated the junction, we took the road in the direction of Whittonstall but then turned right towards Hedley-on-the-hill. This is a lumpy road, full of undulations which again split the field. We waited for riders off the back of the group and then headed into the village of Hedley, scene of this year’s National Hill Climb Championships. This was organised by NE club GS Metro and others, under the excellent leadership of Ben Lane. We were there to support our very own Michael Openshaw who had entered the V45 category and was off as no. 82. We got there at about 11am, and after a quick recee down the hill decided that the tent offering bacon rolls and hot drinks was worth a visit – and it was! The atmosphere on the hill was fantastic and having fed ourselves, we headed down the closed road to where other club members had gathered. Every cyclist was given a great reception, and we could just about hear John Davison’s commentary from further down the hill. There were people with banners, cowbells and klaxons, so the noise was stupendous! We lustily cheered local riders Fiona Burnie, Tony Fawcett and Tom Guy, as well as Shaun Tyson. However, the roof lifted when Michael Openshaw came into sight, still keeping his momentum (we were at the last corner of the 1.1 mile course) and pushing a big gear. Apparently, he had been chased by both Terry Ottaway and Chris Burns who were wearing mankinis, a brave decision considering the temperature was in single figures and close to ‘brass monkey’ conditions! We then headed up to the finish to see Michael and congratulate him on what looked like a fantastic effort. We caught him at the top and he thanked us for our support, mentioning that there was probably going to be very little in the times of the big hitters. As it transpired he was spot on, with the excellent news that he was victorious in the V45 category! Unfortunately, he (or we) didn’t know it at that stage, but since then everyone in the club is absolutely thrilled for him and to have a National Champ in our ranks. Michael has been a stalwart of our club, representing us in many events around the region, and his club tri-skinsuit has become a familiar sight for those spectating at time trials, as well as duo- and triathlon events.

After all that excitement and with everyone having visited the food tent, we then headed for the top of Crawcrook where we split with the main group deciding to go to Pedalling Squares. Ian Gardner proposed a loop to Corbridge and this sounded very attractive for some extra miles, so he took Gareth Clarke and myself. We kept to the main valley road to Corbridge, but then headed uphill to WhittleDene reservoirs. I had not done any decent climbing for a number of weeks, and suffered on this climb, even if enjoying the super lanes and routing. On joining the Military Road eastbound I was still puffing and panting, and we then dropped to Heddon and Throckley as usual, before crossing the Tyne at Newburn where we enjoyed a tailwind. I started to get the hunger knock here (legs going to jelly and all that), so the lads patiently waited while I visited a petrol station and raided them for crisps and lucozade! Having downed gels and an energy bar, I felt better and we headed the usual way via Birtley and CLS.

Thanks to all concerned for a great day, especially to Ian and Gareth who patiently waited a good few times. Signing off with a hearty ‘Au revoir’ (rather than ‘farewell’ – I fully intend to keep in touch as much as possible. Peter