A HEREFORD cyclist who is improving with age has been crowned the West Midlands Cyclo-Cross Champion in his category.

Mark James is competing for the second year in the veteran's over-50 age category and is on a run of five wins on the bounce.

Cyclo-cross is a predominantly winter sport and sees cyclists compete off-road over fields and wooded areas on specially designed courses.

James, who also won round nine of the West Midlands regional league last month led in the regional championships held near Worcester last weekend from the opening lap.

However, disaster nearly struck for the Hereford cyclist when he crashed while attempting to bunny-hop a set of hurdles on the course.

"I hurt my back a bit as I went over the handlebars," said James.

"There was so much time to be gained from jumping the hurdles that it was worth the risk. I had a decent enough gap at the time and only had to straighten my handlebars so it wasn't too bad."

James went on to win the race by over one minute and took the West Midlands title, going two better than his third place in the same event last season.

Next the Hereford rider is targetting the National Cyclo-Cross Championships taking place in January when the best cyclo-cross riders in the country gather to compete in Kent.

It will be the first time this season that James has tested himself at a national level after placing 10th in the same race last year.

"I'm riding consistently better this year and have beaten those who beat me last year," James added.