|It was business as usual for Diamondback’s Nick Craig|
and Team Raleigh’s Barrie Clarke at the second round of Mountainbiking’s Rav 4 sponsored
National Series (cross country) over the Easter weekend. Although the weather was
not on it’s best behaviour (including disposing ice balls the size of mini eggs out
of the sky minutes before the elite race), the venue of Margam Park in South Wales
made a welcome return to hosting a round of the country’s most coveted series.
Following his round one victory at Thetford Forest – where he ripped the field apart
with a fantastic display of speed, Raleigh’s Clarke donned the leaders jersey for
this, the second race of the five race series. On possibly the toughest course in
the UK, the speed factor was dismissed as the rain and the severity of the 5 lap
race really did sort the men from the boys.
It was one tough test from the gun, and the all familiar Clarke – Craig tandem was
quickly to the fore. As the sun shone between the showers and the end of lap one
neared, a keen eye could spot the yellow jersey of Clarke close to the front. Down
the descent and indeed it was Clarke, along with Craig and Marin’s Paul Lasenby heading
the race, while Scott’s Oli Beckinsale was carving a lonely chase a little further
back in 4th. The scene was set. With one lap to go there was a small but important
change to the order we saw at the end of lap one; Lasenby had been dropped. Whilst
he fought to regain the leaders, Craig stepped on the gas, and the lead duo were
gone. From then on in it was simply a case of Craig or Clarke? Craig was looking
strong, and strong he proved. To strong for Clarke, the Diamondback man forced a
gap with just a half-mile remaining and held on for a much-deserved victory indeed.
Clarke did plenty however to hold on to the coveted leaders jersey for round three
in June…it just needs a quick wash!
The under 23 competition – held within the Elite race – saw Team Raleigh’s Elliot
Baxter in the battle for the honours and scoring a final third place. This result
leaves him close to the top of the overall standings, which is headed by Raleigh
Factory Racing’s Dan Lloyd who finished fifth on this occasion.
It’s a though agenda that lays ahead for Craig and Clarke as they tackle three World
Cup events in three weeks. Houffalize in Belgium hosts the first race on April 30th,
followed by St. Wendal in Germany (May 7th) and finally Sorrentino in Italy (May
These three events are the deciding races for Olympic selection, so you can be sure
that the Craigy – Clarkie tandem will be working hard again to secure the two places
that are available to the UK (male) mountainbike racers!
Cooperman – Team Raleigh’s Ian Cooper will be flying high at the weekend’s Bike
2000 show (28 – 30th April) at the NEC in Birmingham. Competing as part of the ‘Best
of British’ team, he along with five others take on the ‘Best of the Rest of the
World’ – including Diamondback’s Thibaut Marriaux. Cooper, complete with new bike
will be gunning for gold and you can guarantee that whatever the medal, it’ll come