The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton takes on a challenging course over Reeth

We’d enjoyed practice day on the steep slopes above Reeth, but race day on Saturday brought with it some nerves.

The chain on his moutain bike causes problems for the Yorkshire Vet

The course was very challenging, with steep and muddy turns, off-camber descents and sharp and large rocks emerging from the track at all angles.

With a stiff wind and steady rain, we embarked on leg one. I set off last: we were all very aware that dad was the slowest of the three Nortons. I didn’t want to hold anyone up.

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It started well. The first two jumps safely negotiated, followed by a bomb hole, switchbacks, a loose, gravelly corner and some rocks. The adrenaline was bubbling like a geyser, until disaster struck.

As I tried to make a crucial gear change before the next hard pedalling section – where I hoped to make up some time – my legs pedalled ten to the dozen but my speed fell to the point of grinding to a halt.

My already glucose-deprived brain took moments to compute the problem. My chain had fallen off.

In a stage race where seconds are crucial, to stop is bad enough but to have to perform essential maintenance work meant my chances of posting a respectable time had evaporated in the first section.

But never mind – I got it back on as swiftly as I could and pressed on, pushing hard.

A big jump and some technical mud, rocks and turns in the woods at the bottom and even cheering from supporters with alpine cow bells and I rejoined the boys, who had been waiting patiently.

The rest of the ride was just as hard, with a minor crash and another mechanical incident. Aside from the racing, it was a joy to be out in the beauty of the Dales with my kids.

As we climbed the final kilometres towards Reeth, over the heathery shoulder of Low Moor covered in regal purple, our legs were pumping and our lungs bursting with pure air. We were in our element.

For me, it was a perfect day. It put me in mind of a bike adventure I had with my father, almost 35 years ago. On that day, we’d entered a sportive ride from Sheffield.

It was sixty miles and included some of the behemoth climbs of the Peak District. Dad was keen because he could relive his university running days, when he’d pounded the same roads in trainers, decades before.

In the 1980s, bikes came either from the tip and were fastidiously rebuilt, or handed down. The one dad was riding was my grandfather’s old track racing bike. Reliable (and successful) as it had been in its day, it was not very useful on the steep roads.

With single speed and fixed gear, it was not possible to change gear or freewheel. Poor dad struggled both on the climbs and the descents.

I can’t remember if I waited for him that day, but we both made it to the end. It was a tough ride, but I had the enthusiasm and fitness of youth – characteristics I recognised in abundance this weekend in the distant figures of my sons, as I toiled to try and keep up.

Back at the race headquarters in Reeth, we downloaded the information from the timing chips and scrutinised our times.

The boys had done very well and anxiously waited to see if podium places would follow as more riders returned.

As usual, my times were slowest and left me with a list of “what ifs” and “if only…” But unlike the day when my father was miles behind me in Derbyshire, I had few excuses and could certainly not blame the bike!