I’m a huge fan of crit/criterium/circuit racing: with high speeds, short circuits and party atmospheres there isn’t much more you could want. Last night I went to my first National Championship Crit in Otley, West Yorkshire.

We arrived in Otley just as the youth races were finishing and headed to the Horse and Farrier for a drink and some food. I really wish there were more real ale pubs like that in Scotland – cracking pint of Black Moor and very tasty two courses for £12! Great start to the night.

Having watched the first couple of laps of the Chevin Cycles Classic on the home straight we wandered along to see the bottom end of the descent. Wow. Even in full daylight, with very fast shutter speeds all I could accurately capture on camera was a blur!

A bit blurry

For the championship race we moved up to the top of the hill where great views of the surrounding area opened up, and we could really begin to appreciate the descent. It was mental.

Over the course of the next hour we walked round the course against the direction of the race. Even at the back of the course there were decent crowds. The pace was vicious but I was very impressed with the 100% Me (GB Academy) team who were constantly attacking.

For the end of the race we made it down to the churchyard, which has an elevated view down the finishing straight. Perfect. As the riders came past us I realised we were stood next to Ian Wilkinson’s parents, who were absolutely lovely people. Their enthusiasm and support was incredible, especially since they must have been doing it for quite a while!

Our view of the finish straight

It was getting so dark that nobody around us could really see who’d won for sure, but I thought the victory celebration looked like Scott Thwaites – he’s won three of the six races I’ve seen this year so I’m getting pretty familiar with it!

Because it was so dark my camera was even more useless than usual for photos, but curiously was ok for videos, so I’ve created a short highlights video.

Overall it was a fantastic day out and Neil and Mike, the friends I’m visiting in Leeds, seem to have enjoyed themselves as much as I did, even though it was their first bike race.

I think this is one I’ll stick in the diary for next year too.