The latest round of Mildenhall Cycling Club’s Off-Road Championships marked quite a significant turning point for the club.
It was not because there were three sets of father and sons racing, which is quite a feat, but it was the return to competition for the first time for chairman Mark Burchett, following open-heart surgery in the summer.
The 54-year-old was admitted to West Suffolk hospital in June, and within two weeks was transferred to the world-renowned Papworth Hospital, where he underwent successful surgery to repair the mitral valve in his heart.
Burchett said afterwards: “I was just following the excellent advice from the cardiac physio’s to ride at a comfortable pace, which is exactly what I did.
“I certainly was not racing and just ignored the riders who kept lapping me!
“It felt wonderful to be taking part again and even the rain held off until we’d enjoyed a cuppa afterwards.”
About his health scare, the chairman explained: “I just thought I had got a bad dose of the flu or a virus, but it turned out to be bacterial endocarditis which had caused some damage to a valve in my heart.
“I cannot fault any of the NHS staff who cared for me before I left West Suffolk Hospital in August when my long-road to recovery started.
“I have recently been out on my bike a few times with my wife Mandy over short distances, although Sunday’s off-road event was the first time not on tarmac and I’m feeling okay.”
At the competitive end of the Over-18s race, it was a tussle between regular Matthew Mantle and Matt Skeats, returning home after finishing his university work placement, with the younger of the two finishing first.
They were both one lap ahead of Garth Collier, while Matthew’s son Colin was the fastest in the Under-18s race.
Matthew’s wife Diane narrowly lost out to Judith Robb in the Women’s section.
Judith’s sons Alexander and Francis finished second and third in the Under-18s, while her husband David was fourth in the Over-18s.
The year-long competition is for all members and open to all ages, with the result determined by the best eight rides from all the rounds.
It is held within the confines of Thetford Forest and is therefore traffic free, making it ideal for children.