It’s 1976 again. The hot summer, the Cold War and for Joe Barnes, a lesson in politics …

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Remember that long, fabulous summer? Britain baked and every blade of grass was brown

The Story

ONE of the highlights of the early part of the 1976 season is the visit of a team from the USSR. These riders from the Communist bloc are rare visitors to Britain, with their old-fashioned black leathers and their two-valve JAWA bikes.

For Nikita Baranov, one of the youngest riders in the Soviet side, it is a dream come true. He longs to ride against the best in the sport and to taste the freedoms of the West - a world he has read about but never experienced. But Nikita, who rides for Lokomotiv Daugavpils in the Russian Premier League, is planning more than just a flying visit.

With the help of a friend in the Soviet diplomatic service, he intends to defect when the tour arrives in London. To do that, however, he needs a contact in England. Joe Barnes is a young heat-leader whose career he has followed through the pages of the British speedway magazines he manages to obtain from other riders. Will the Englishman be willing to help someone he has never met?

A chance encounter in a Montreux hotel, an envelope stuffed with Swiss banknotes in the post at Plough Lane and a meeting in the changing room at Hyde Road draw Joe inexorably into a plot he can’t control. Cold War intrigue, the ruthlessness of the Soviet authorities and the collusion of the Foreign Office make for a breathless and danger-filled start to the season.

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