A life long obsession
Mick Bell secured the 2012 National Cyclo-cross Championship title in thrilling fashion when he survived a last lap crash to take the win by just a few feet from defending champion, Steve Davies, at Chantry Park in Ipswich. The two had been locked together for much of the race – in fact for much of the season. The riders both came down on the final corner in front of gasping spectators and it was Bell who remounted first to get the edge in the sprint.
There are few people who can claim to have competitively raced every year for their entire lives, and especially in the gruelling sport of cyclo-cross where one has to endure the coldest, wettest and grimmest conditions during a time when most cyclists are taking a well earned break.
Bell’s hard-fought victory comes after several close calls with the top step of the podium. His first taste of success was at the National School Boy Cyclo-cross Championships aged 13. Since then he’s never missed a season. He's named the ‘fast fireman’, thanks to his flame-licked shorts, custom Condor and dedicated service to the London Fire Brigade for thirty-two years. The now retired fireman explained it was a school friend that had been riding in local cyclo-cross races that got him to go along. “I was quite successful in it and I think it's what got me to come back the next week.” From there he moved up from novice through to becoming more serious and it progressed to riding at national level. "It was the shift from the erratic schedule that being a fireman brings with it to having more free time that helped me."
It is quite astonishing that Mick can summon the motivation to get out and ride, season after season, knowing what is ahead. Mick appears to be one of those lucky cyclists who remains permanently determined. The obvious question has to be: why do it? "It's a hard one to answer", he admits. "It has become a routine and a habit. I found that I loved pushing and challenging myself." Reassuring words from someone with unwavering commitment to a cause, the type of qualities that you'd expect of a fireman protecting our fair city and its citizens.
Unusually for some 'cross riders Mick does most of his training out on the road rather than 'cross courses or indoor rollers. On a Wednesday night come rain or shine he can be found under the floodlights of a local athletic stadium, training on the banking surrounding the track and occasionally dipping into the sand pits, but it has been all on Mick's own terms. “I’ve worked at my training over the years, I don’t have a coach, I’ve just figured it out.” Christmas is a tricky time as the National Championship comes a few week after the Christmas break and Mick admits can play havoc with a usual schedule. “I spoke with a few former Brits who rode at World level and we worked out what to do during Christmas. I think that was key to my results in 2012.”
For the first time ever he missed a season, taking 2013 and some of 2014 to travel through every country on the continent. Including Russia and its former satellite states. He returns for the 2014/2015 season with just as much motivation as he’s always had, testament to the magical allure of cyclo-cross.