British national champions recall how they won their stripes, the pride in wearing them for the season and the effect it had on the rest of their careers. Podium fines, finish line crashes, curious combines, white shorts and unlikely alliances – these are the stories behind the jerseys.
John Herety (1982)
The ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality came from both sides, in all fairness. I don’t remember it getting too out of hand… until that championships.
Paul Sherwen desperately wanted to win, so when the break established itself, seven or eight of us, everyone was going through – Sean Yates was by far the strongest there – but we were definitely riding as a combine. No matter what, it had to be one of us who took the jersey back to Europe.
Paul went round the breakaway trying to do a deal, and I remember Bill Nickson being extremely annoyed: no one can ask to win the national championships, it all had to be a level playing field. But there were all sorts of combines going on, even in domestic racing at the time, so it was a bit ironic.
Then Paul came back to me and said you’re not doing another tap. If you do another tap in this race, you and me are finished. So I just sat on for the rest of the race. When it came to the final sprint, I took off with about 350m to go and won it by lengths.
Bill Nickson’s face on the podium photos is like thunder, while me and Sean are all smiles. He didn’t speak to me for years afterwards…