And so to the National ’50’. I?ve won this event every year since 2000, something which astonishes me.
The ’50’ was the first championship I ever rode, in my first season racing, when a team-mate persuaded me to enter. It subsequently turned out that really all he?d wanted was someone to give him a lift, but by then I felt committed.
That edition was on a cold, grey, windy morning on the exquisitely exposed A14 near Kettering. In the midst of the wide-open countryside, on the brand-new, unfenced dual carriageway, you had the sensation that you were hardly moving. Fifty miles, inch by inch.
It was, frankly, miserable. It was won by Richard Prebble, in 1.46 something and I floundered home more than 10 minutes behind him, with a deep understanding of why everyone else in the field had put a water bottle on their bike. I felt like I?d been pickled.
It being the first championships I?d done, it was the first time I?d ever seen most of the top riders ? Prebble, Stuart Dangerfield, Ian Cammish. The highlight of the morning was being caught for seven minutes by Julian Ramsbottom, who howled past near the finish looking like he was doing a different sport altogether.
I wound up something like 40th, with my team mate some way behind me. I swore I was never doing another ’50’, and if at all possible, I planned to avoid the humbling experience of getting my ass kicked at championship races as well. I changed my mind, and did the 10-mile Champs in 1996, but it was four years before I could face another ’50’.
Michael Hutchinson writes the ‘Dr Hutch’ column for Cycling Weekly every week. He is current British National 10- and 25-mile time trial champion, author and athlete’s hour record attemptee.