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National Championships

Nick Craig victorious in Elite Mens XC.

Silver to Sturgeon, Bronze to Clarke

Two podium finishes for Team Raleigh at the National Mountain
bike Championships was reward of a ‘tough weekend at the office’ – which this weekend
was located in the pretty village of Innerleithen in the Borders region of Scotland.
A two-day program over the weekend of 5/6 August provided an action packed schedule
of races including both the downhill and cross-country disciplines.

The venue is home to the Scottish Development unit for downhill racing – something
that was clearly apparent with a downhill course proving second to none, and perfect
for a National Title event. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the cross-country
circuit. A top quality XC does not simply appear, tracks need to be found, routed
and in some cases built – just like a top quality DH course. But on the riders first
inspection of the course this clearly had not been the case. So a compromised circuit
that was simply 15 minutes uphill and less than five minutes to get back down to
the start awaited the riders on Sunday lunchtime.

The elite men were the first to take grid positions and faced some seven laps in
order to make up the 2-hour minimum distance. From the gun, the frontrunners were
exactly who you would expect to see with Diamondback’s Nick Craig leading after lap
one. Closely following behind and putting his downhill skill’s to full use was B-One’s
Carl Sturgeon who in turn was closely followed by Team Raleigh’s Barrie Clarke.
And that is how it would stay. Sturgeon briefly took charge of the lead on lap 2
– just as Clarke was getting on terms but from then on the gaps would slowly widen
until the last lap when Clarke put in a tremendous charge to almost catch the flagging
SturgeonÖ.but no quite.

As ever the elite men did not fail in providing an excellent and exiting race and
Diamondback’s Craig again proved what a fine all rounder he is. He won the title
in ’97. Clearly a repeat performance was on the cards and his form of two weeks
earlier when he won the National Series race at Plymouth gave a clear indication
that he was ready to play his hand. It was a great victory for ‘Craigy’ and first
to congratulate him was that of Clarke; never one to make excuses Clarke was pleased
to receive a Bronze medal – to add to his three previous Gold’s – on a course that
really was not to his liking.

Ian Wilkinson victorious over Elliot Baxter and Tim Morley

in U23 – espoirs race.

Another man whose form has returned at exactly the right time
is that of Team Raleigh’s Elliot Baxter who competed in the Under 23 title race.
In contrast to Clarke, the course was one for Baxter who relishes long steady climbs.
Spending much of the race in the bronze medal position, Baxter turned up the power
over the last two laps to overhaul Tim Morley and finish an excellent runner-up to
pre-race favourite Ian Wilkinson (Team Y2k). Raleigh Factory Racing’s Dan Lloyd
also enjoyed a creditable performance coming home in fifth place and with another
two years in the category he’s looking forward to the future.

MAD MATTÖ.. There was some disappointment at the Team Raleigh truck on Saturday however,
as Matt Farmer simply didn’t get it right in the downhill event. A mistake at the
top of the course led to another whilst trying to grab back time – which cost him
any chance of a podium place that he had so much hoped for. A couple of seconds
lost and the Raleigh man was left extremely ‘Mad’ as he was relegated to a finish
position of 20th – something that again verifies the high quality of competition
within the UK. Newly crowned Euro Champ. Steve Peat took the Elite title from Rob
Warner and Crawford Carrick Anderson. Raleigh Factory Racing’s Petra Wiltshire did
provide some consolation however when she gained the Silver Medal in the Masters
Women’s event.


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