IT was declared the best championships ever and that was music to the ears of Mike Charlton.

For the first time, the HSBC UK British Cycling National Cyclocross Championships came to the North-East.

Riders from throughout the nation converged on Hetton Lyons Country Park for two days of muddy biking action last weekend.

For Mike, chairman of hosts Hetton Hawks, it was the culmination of many months of preparation which began a year ago after the club had held a round of the British Trophy Series.

“We did a great job, but we knew we could do better,” said Mike. “We are a small club and it was the first big event we had run. We thought with that experience we should apply for the national championships.

“In our bid, we talked about the heritage of the area, the working class background – we talked about the park, about how it was a former mining community, the old pits and how from one thing had grown another.

"We had to do a big sell because the national championships have never been this far north.”

To their surprise, the club got the green light.

With that in the bag, the hard work then started. A team was put together with Lisa Cooke ‘the brains of the operation’ working on paperwork, licences, revenue and costs.

It would have cost more than £40,000 to stage the event if everything had had to be paid for. British Cycling contributed £4,000.

“Lisa has been a genius in begging, borrowing and negotiating wherever possible. A number of non-cycling related North-East companies have also supported us. Nordstrom Timbers supplied 700 wooden posts, Speedy Barriers provided the 1,700 metres of barriers that were required free, Gee Dee Plant Ltd provided the water bowsers for a fraction of the cost. The bridge the riders rode over, again, was provided for a fraction of its cost by JTL Scaffolding. All of that helped to bring the overall cost of staging the event down.

“We also had 300 volunteers on site, so while the event was fronted and organised by Hetton Hawks it was delivered by the whole of the North-East cycling community.”

All this would have been for nothing, though, if the racing itself had not been exciting for riders and spectators alike.

“We are blessed with Hetton Park because it has such a variety of options. We picked the best parts in some many different areas and made a course that didn’t suit one type of rider,” said Mike.

“You might have a technical rider who likes twists and turns or a powerful rider who likes it flat and fast or a climber who likes to go uphill – this course had everything.

“Nobody put together the perfect lap and I guess that’s what as a cyclist you want. You want to be challenged continuously throughout. We live in a sanitised world where we manage risk to a point where we take away fun and enjoyment. Cyclo-cross is about enjoying the risk and feeling the bike fly around underneath you, feeling you are just one twitch away from an accident, because then when you get it right it’s a buzz.

“That is what people felt when they came off the course, they were buzzing.

"You were on the edge and having fun as well as racing.”