So, based on my attempts at punditry at last year’s world marathon champs, and now also for the British XCM champs this year, i shouldn’t give up my day job! In a race that saw many of the pre-race favourites sidelined or handicapped by punctures, navigational error or “technique failure” it was Neal Crampton who emerged from the final technical descent, bloodied and delirious to claim the red, white and blue stripes for 2013. The women’s race, featuring a front three who are often near the front of marathon world series races, was an altogether easier to predict, although not without its own share of “excitement”,with Sally Bigham crossing the line to take the title for the 4th time in her career.
Race day itself started at the altogether more civilised time of 12:30 in the town square in the centre of Selkirk, with organiser extraordinaire Paul McGreal of Durty Events keen to show us off to the cheering crowds (and there really were cheering crowds!). A neutralised road start saw some jockeying for position, but with an extended offroad climb for a proper shakeout, no one seemed too worried about their positioning. Up the first climb, the pace ramped and a lead group of front runners formed, with Sally sitting in the wheels with the men’s leaders.
As the race wore on, this group thinned – first losing former road pro Dan Fleeman to a puncture, then Oli Beckingsale to a navigational mistake which he admitted later came from being in “TT mode” when he found himself off in the lead. This handed the lead to the pairing of Lee Williams and Ben Thomas, who then proceeded to miss a turn on a fast descent, and similarly lose a chunk of time. In the final reckoning, it was former Kielder 100 winner Neal Crampton who crossed the line ahead of Rob Friel in 2nd and a resurgent, and likely rather miffed Oli Beckingsale! It is the nature of marathon racing that, unlike XC, competitors have to keep their heads up and their eyes open, and the rider best-capable of doing this crossed the line first.
Neal’s win was not without incident, however, as he crashed on the final descent to the line, giving him some nasty looking scrapes to his face. It was some time before he figured out why people were cheering, convinced that other people had crossed the line first!
Sally had an altogether less eventful ride, finishing without incident in a time that would have put her 9th in the men’s field, unfortunately her nearest competitor Jane Nuessli falling foul of the same turn as Ben and Lee. This didn’t affect the order of the podium positions however, as Catherine Williamson also went the wrong way, the podium reflecting who was strongest on the day.
Pre-race favourite for the blue veteran’s jersey Nick Craig was beset by punctures early in the race that left him in chase mode. He appeared to have the race sewn up, passing Anthony White on the final descent only to suffer a further mechanical which put him back to second behind the plucky Peterborough-dweller. Northern speed-meister Richard Rothwell rounded out the top-3, a characteristic smile on his face.
Full results can be found on: http://www.selkirkmtbmarathon.com/
Photos of the event thanks to talented photographer Andy Upton here: http://zupix.co.uk/event.php?event=7 – he also provided all the photos for this report.