Fast and furious motor-paced action

This weekend sees the national championships in one of the less-sung but most intriguing branches of cycling, derny racing. The nationals kick off at 1pm, Saturday August 17 at Bournemouth velodrome at Slades Farm.

An integral part of winter six-day events on the Continent, derny racing involves teams of two - a rider on a track bike and a pacer on a special motorbike - flying round the velodrome at speeds up to 50 mph.

It’s therefore fast, noisy, and somewhat hazardous - great spectator sport, in other words.

The UK has only held national championship for derny racing since 2000 for  men and 2005 for women, but it’s already become a landmark for future stars. Previous female national champions include Olympic gold medallists Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott and Dani King, while Tony Gibb, Team Sky's Luke Rowe and Jon Mould have claimed the men's prize.

Reigning national champions Matt Gittings (AW Cycles.co.uk) and Hannah Walker (Matrix Fitness Racing Academy) return to defend their titles, both paced by George Gilbert.

Matt Gittings, who won the Dernyfest trial race at Bournemouth earlier this summer and a round of the National Endurance League when he took the Rob Jefferies Memorial Trophy at the same track two weeks ago, will likely start clear favourite.

But former medallists James Holland Leader (Prestige VC) and Symon Lewis (Nuun YB London) will be ready to capitalise on any slips ups and Alex Wise (VC St Raphael) has also shown good form behind the derny this campaign.

Hannah Walker, one of the most promising young track and road cyclists in the country, will be bidding for a hat-trick of titles but faces stiff opposition is what is set to be a competitive women's title race.

Young Scottish rider Katie Archibald of the City of Edinburgh club, who has burst onto the scene in the past year, will likely test Walker. The 19-year-old won the National Junior Pursuit title last year and has a growing reputation.

They will both have to contend with the experienced partnership of Janet Birkmyre and her pacer Graham Bristow, who won the championship in 2008.

Youngsters from Bournemouth Arrow and Poole Wheelers will also compete in a supporting youth programme to the championship events, which will consist of heats and finals.

See British Cycling for full details.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.