Nick Craig is one of the nicest people in mountain biking. He’s also, still, one of the fastest guys on the circuit and shows no sign of slowing down this year. He’s a report from his season so far.
The first race for Nick to report on is the Chain Reaction Cycles MTB Marathon British Championship up in Selkirk. It was quite a bit earlier this year, but it is still one of the most loved rounds of the series. With its uniqueness through its combination of the superb natural trails around the Selkirk area and the world famous purpose build tracks of nearby trail centres like Innerleithen. This is one of the most loved races on the circuit.
“What an epic race this was going to be, one lap of the Marathon National Championship up in Selkirk. I decided the Spark RC 29er was the perfect bike for this event, with 84km of a mixture of natural terrain, a helping of manmade terrain, and all the other terrain you can think of, oh and 3000m of climbing thrown in for good measure!
From the off a rapid pace was engaged with a strong group of 10 riders, which included all the favourites, Dan Fleeman, Lee Williams and Rab Wardel. By the 15 km mark it was Dan, Lee and myself pulling away. Lee is a very good XC racer and Dan is a very strong road rider. I knew, I was going to have to use all my know how to try and win this one. Lee put the pressure on in a technical section putting Dan just off the back. He soon rode back up to us but I noticed his weakness, this happened again so I sat in behind Lee, driving the pace down the valley towards Innerleathan. It took Dan two miles to get back on to us.
As we hit the big climb, Lee again pressed on, now putting Dan out of his comfort zone on the climb. I knew this would not sit well with Dan as this is his strong point, but after having to close the gap in the valley, he was now paying for his efforts at the top. We were all together, so I did some riding on the front as we approached the 2nd feed. Leading into a technical rooty section we had gaped Dan again, then we hit the valley again.
Me and Lee shared the work on the front knowing how strong Dan is from his road career. This worked as began to Dan chase. We pushed hard and then it was down to a 2 horse race. I felt Lee was on a good ride but had a feeling that he might find the distance at this pace. So I decided to bide my time as I know this route very well and thought the final hill will be decisive.
Through the final feed and one more bottle of Torq fuel and I’m feeling good with only 10km to go. We started a simple decent on the moor and Lee lost control locking his rear wheel, I reacted grabbing to much front brake in the mud only to hit the deck! Bars twisted and chain off I lost contact, I got going and chased hard closing to 10 second gap at the finish.
So near, but that’s mountain biking. The podium was completed by Dan Fleeman on exactly the same Spark RC 29er as me.
From Selkirk I went straight to Scott HQ Switzerland, then off to recce and advice on the courses through the Langkawi jungle for a 6 day stage race to be held in October.
Also Thomas Craig finished 5th in the NPS Hopton wood’s his best finish this year.”
This next race Nick attended was the BC Nationals R4 at Kirroughtree, Scotland. Here is Nick outlook on the race.
“Round 4 of the Nation Series headed up to Scotland’s South West Coast to Kirroughtree. Kirroughtree is one of my favourite places to ride, as the 31km black route is the nearest to a wilderness MTB experience you will find in the UK. Its flowing red and black tracks, topped by the infamous MC Moab, is well worth the journey off the beaten track.
My worry was, can the NPS make a course to give everybody the feel for what Kirroughtree has to offer. There was no disappointment there, proper technical track made more so by the buckets of rain falling all Friday night…
Sunday morning and Thomas Craig was keen to add to his superb 5th at Hopton. Thomas raced well, coming home in 7th place. That’s 4 rounds in the bag for him, as he is not racing the final round in Essex. We will have to see where that puts him in the overall after the final round.
Also, younger brother Charlie who was riding the go ride event, was a little frustrated as he wanted to do the under 14’s race, but is not old enough yet.
For the elite race, we had 5 laps to complete. This was going to be a long race by the new XC standard. As ever, the start was rapid, unlike myself, running diesel fuel, I ended up back in the teens in the 1st half lap. Not ideal, but I pulled in to 9th after completing the lap. I spent the rest of the race working hard fuelling on Vanilla Torq, this was difficult on this course, but I believed it would pay off later in the race.
At the start of the last lap I had Rab Wardel and Gareth Montgomery for company in 4th5th and 6th I pulled away and started to see 3rd place by the crest of the first climb. Passing Hamish Bachelor next in sight was Dave Henderson, he was surprised to see me as I had caught him at mid distance only for him to pull away, straight past Dave, and into second place at the finish. Oli Beckingsale took the win but was shocked as I had closed to 20 seconds!
Before tackling the 4 hour drive home, Charlie wanted a decent ride so all the Craig family headed out for the superb black loop. Me and Thomas were suffering, but it topped off a great weekends racing.”
And this weekend Nick will be racing at the Wiggle Mountain Mayhem as part of Scott Sports mixed team. He’ll be joined by Neil Crampton, Dan Fleeman and Katy Simcock.