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2016 - here we go again!

Well, 2016 has indeed rolled on and there are a few changes afoot within the Club which affect everyone, including me. First is the bad news that my good friend and long-time CS buddy Alan "Ashie" Patterson was taken ill with a very rare infection around Easter time and is having to undergo a series of Chemotherapy sessions. Unfortunately while he was being treated he deveoped Shingles too, so that was a downer although as I wriote he's doing well with the recovery. Another great friend and indeed constant Euro-Vets companion for the last few years, Jim Graham is suffering from gout over the same period as well as a very painful shoulder which just might have him throwing in the towel this year. That's enough bad news, but I share their pain, I really would love them both back and fighting fit again.

The good news for me at least is that the season has started decently with a couple of good scores in the Northern League although I still find it difficult to get motivated in training matches, preferring to spur on the younger or less experienced rider by giving chase. I also managed to get myself in front of some good riders at Edinburgh, Sheffield and Heckmondwike in our first three away matches if only temporarily. Doing this occasionally keeps my spirits up and keeps me wanting to continue as long as I can compete decently, although I can't see me ever not wanting to ride at all.

Tuesday is normally training/practice match night but Neil Magee chose 19th April to stage our annual Spring Best Pairs to ensure most riders were there. With a little good fortune my partner Keith Oldham and I managed to win the title after I came first in a runoff with Dan Redshaw and Michael Parr, so that felt good as we were easily the oldest combo!

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Once again I've enjoyed a couple of great races in Northern League Division One (I still don't think I'm a Division Two rider yet) and either beaten or ran around in front of Matt Lush, Adam Watson, Jake Slight, Niall Morton and a few other notable youngsters and as long as I can pull the odd one out of the bag I'll stay with it. It could be that I've put a bit more into my mountain biking and that may be helping my current decent form and fitness. On the other hand, it could be down to the way I'm being looked after by my much better half Janet (left-1978, right-2015. Different house, different bike, same wife and health advisor):

 JDonHondaLight300   3rd300

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The Euro-Vets Grand Prix Series seems to be down a few regular members on occasion this year, but so far (up to 5th June) I'm happy to have won the first four rounds in the Over 60s category at Stoke, Glasgow, Poole and Norwich. Glasgow's the only track I'd ridden on before but unfortunately that's where I clashed with new 2016 Over 60 entrant, Joe Mclaughlin of Coventry CSC (Joe's fault, he acknowledges) and his crash put him out of the series for a few months. That's really just left Fred Rothwell and I to chase the OAP award up until June at least. However, I'm also running third in the Over 50s (as I did in 2014) but not sure if that will last with some new fast entries in that class!

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Sunday May 29th saw us go one better than last year in the British Over 40s Club Championship! Absolutely amazing result after the unbelievable third in 2015, but maybe the difference this time was that I pulled my finger out a bit further and scored 12 points in the semi-final, dead happy with that. And with a pretty decent 8 point haul in the Final I think I supported Gavin Parr and Jason Keith pretty well, especially at the immense Wednesfield track, not always a Geordie favourite!

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Track-wise I finally managed to arrange two deliveries of ready-mixed concrete during the school's summer holidays in August to cover the pits floor, a very much needed improvement to the fantastic facilities we now have at Cramlington, and we got two willing squads together to make sure we got it laid before the dreaded setting set in! And I also constructed and erected two more floodlights in the middle of each straight to complete the installation, Jason Keith again helping me with the terminations and testing.

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The Euro-Vets series got back underway after a very long summer break to accommodate the various stages of British Championships and although I missed the round at Underwood (Newport) by choice as the track is too small to race on (and I chose to take a holiday then anyway) I kept winning until the final round at Birmingham when Joe McLaughlin got the better of me as I fell into relaxed mode knowing the Title was already mine. So two Championships in three years is pretty decent for this old has-been but I felt much better about finishing third overall in the Over 50s, again for the second time in three years with some great rides against the younger lads. And for once the reward was extremely nice, a LONG SLEEVED RACING JERSEY, the idea first mooted by Over 40s Champion Craig Marchant and produced by 3318 Designs in Coventry, and very nice it is too. I will wear it with pride (if the track is dry enough!) at the Northumbrian Riders Final in November!


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below - the one and only Kevin Greenhalgh (ex-Blackley superstar) presents me with the Over 60's winner's trophy. Unfortunately last years winner Bob Prince failed to return the perpetual Champions Trophy so I had to make do with just three from the Birmingham meeting.