CLARKE DOES IT AGAIN!
Team Raleigh’s Barrie Clarke quite simply has done it again! Trouncing the competition, Clarkie’ scored a repeat performance of one year ago in winning the opening round of mountain biking’s Rav 4 sponsored National (cross country) Series at Thetford Forest, in Norfolk on Sunday 19 March. As the sun graced the beautiful Norfolk setting, the National Series got off to a fine and furious start in near perfect conditions. And with mountain biking a strong leisure time activity in the regions many forests it was no surprise to see a knowledgeable crowd encouraging the riders throughout the day.
The Elite men’s race saw most of the big names on the start line, and all eye’s were on Barrie Clarke as his victory of 12 months ago was still fresh in the memory and to add to that, he has won every race he has competed in so far this season – on or off-road! From the start Clarke was at the head of the race. An unshipped chain saw him drop back momentarily on lap one of the five lap, 2 ½ hour race, but with plenty of effort to spare he simply re-joined the leaders of Ian Cuthbertson and Carl Sturgeon. Riding together the three leaders opened up a sizeable gap and on lap three Clarke decided it was time to make his move, and as one of his adversaries said, a click of the gear lever and he was gone! Clarke was simply too strong for the competition around the relatively ‘flat’ course and went on to take the victory and the leaders yellow jersey by a near 2 minute margin.
Clarke is hopeful of taking another overall series title by the time the series ends in September, but will no doubt have some stiff competition from the defending Champion Nick Craig of Diamondback. Craig’s season has not got off to an ideal start, as a fluke accident while on a training camp in Spain saw him off the bike for two weeks and left him with some neck injuries. Back into full swing now however, Craig rode a controlled race at Thetford and came through stronger towards the end to score a top ten finish in 9th place.
Next on the schedule for both Clarke and Craig is the opening rounds of the World Cup where Olympic selection begins. Round one takes place in San Francisco on March 26, followed by round two on April 2 – which sees the circuit visit Mexico for the first time. Both riders will be looking for solid performances across the Atlantic – to set them up with a good grid placing for the European rounds that begin in late April. Domestically, the attention switches to downhill as the Rav 4 Series kicks off in Peebles, Scotland on April 2. Matt Farmer will be there – and out to repeat (or better!) his last years opening round performance when he finished in the runner-up spot.