A Mansfield cyclist has had a season to remember on the bike, following months off it due to injury.
David Fletcher capped off a fine return to the saddle when he was one of four British cyclists selected to compete in the elite men’s category at the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder, Belgium - and going on to claim a top 50 finish against a strong field.
The 26-year-old fought his way back from a dislocated collar bone sustained in 2014 to compete once more in the British Cycling National Trophy Cyclo-cross Series, finishing on the podium in three out of six rounds, and second overall on his return to the circuit.
A mechanical error when moving up the field from fourth to third threatened to dash his hopes of reaching the world championships but a gutsy two-and-a-half kilometre run to change bikes and a determined ride through the gears resulted in an admirable ninth-place finish.
His courageous efforts were not to go unnoticed and his form, which included numerous podium spots at regional events, proved enough for the national selectors to give him the nod to compete for Great Britain - a first world championships since his injury lay off.
He said: “It was a good experience. It wasn’t the result I wanted - I wanted to get a lot higher up than what I got but I’ve not raced in the world champs for a couple of years now. I missed last season through injury. It forced me to miss my mountain bike season early.
“This year my form has come really well and I’ve managed to get myself selected. I was really pleased to get there to be honest, really pleased.”
He added “I dislocated my collarbone and tore a load of ligaments in my shoulder. That put me out from July to March and so I had to miss last year’s Cyclo-cross season and I’ve only done my mountain bike season and the cross season just gone but I’m feeling good.
“I’m back to full fitness now. I’ve worked quite heavily on recuperation since the incident and was given the all clear. If anything I feel like I’ve come back stronger now than before my injury. My form is going well at the moment and I’m looking to improve this and next season.”
His first day on the Belgium course was an eye-opener with lots of ruts, steep drops and what he said felt like a 1,000ft climb on each lap but by race day he was prepared for a tough race against a field full of professional riders.
He finished a very credible 49th in a field of 61 riders from 20 different countries.
He said: “At the moment I’m only doing national events. If I wanted to do top level racing I would have to go abroad a lot more with the faster guys and do a lot more specific training. The guys at the front are all professional. At the moment I work as well. I have a part-time job that I do to pay the bills. I’m a foot back on them and trying to catch them up.
“It’s hard to keep up with them when you’re not racing at the top level. I make the most of my days off. At the moment I’m working three or four times a week. I’ll have a day off for training which I work then if I am working will do a couple of hours indoor training when I finish at five. Get on the turbo at half five for two hours and get off at half seven.
“I’ll get a few hours in on the road bike, mountain bike or the cross bike when I’m not at work and bust a gut to get in as much as I can. Sometimes if there isn’t a race I get a bit of down time. I usually have a week or two off when the season finishes, not worry about it too much. During the season I tend to have a week’s break to re-charge my batteries. You have to be dedicated to compete with the top pros.”