PHIL Smithson left his rivals deflated when he won the opening round of the 1999 British Enduro Championship.

For the Clitheroe bike ace scored a convincing victory on the two-day Breckland Enduro - despite being forced to race for over two hours with a flat front tyre.

Smithson, who won the British Enduro title in 1997, was halfway through the 100-mile long Sunday leg when his brand new Husaberg 500 punctured on the rough Norfolk forest terrain.

Regulations forbid the changing of tyres during an event to keep costs down and the huge gash in his front tyre left Smithson with only two options - retire or try to get to the finish.

"Now I know why it's called Enduro," said Phil. "The bike was virtually unrideable, but I didn't want to give in.

"In fact, it made me even more determined get it to the finish, even if I had to carry it on my back.

"It wasn't too bad in a straight line, apart from wanting to throw me off, but when it got to the corners, it wouldn't steer at all. Luckily the track was deeply rutted, so I perfected a technique of throwing the bike on its side and doing a 'wall of death' ride to get round!"

"I couldn't believe it when the results came through and I had won. It's the best possible start I could have to getting my British title back."

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