I’m coming to the end of the penultimate lap of my first 100km marathon cross-country mountain bike race – I’m thinking to myself, “ I’ve done pretty well here, no-one’s lapped me, I think I’m in a fairly good position, I might even have made a bit of an impact”. Seconds later a rider smoothly coasts past me as fresh as a daisy, one lap up and cheerily tells me, “almost home, keep it up”.
The next time I see Nick Craig is ten minutes later when I wearily ride through the start/finish arena and set out for my last, hour long lap. He’s got a throng of photographers, friends and a mechanic with him, whilst I’m all alone! If he wasn’t one of the best riders in the world, a source of inspiration for many (including me) and also a bloody good bloke I’d resent him – As it was, I kind of just wanted to stop and chat to him!
That was 2006, a few years before (around 1998) was when I got the bug – I’d decided (like many excitable teenagers that I needed “my-own-sport”. It’s that stage where you decide that you’re going to get involved in something like football, rugby or cricket…or if you’re good at music you learn the guitar or the drums. For me I couldn’t stand ball games (except for rugby, but that was purely because I was un-naturally tall and fast for my age) and the only instrument I’d come close to learning was the recorder. I was good at Swimming, Cross-country running and most of all Cross-country mountain biking.
So there it was, Mountain biking would be my thing! Now I just had to learn how it worked, so I turned as many a young man does to a magazine (not that kind of magazine) – Mountain Biker International was just about as hardcore (not that kind of hardcore) as it got back then and in fact there isn’t really anything like it about today. It focused solely upon racing. I remember buying my first copy, getting back home and going straight to the poster in the middle, before carefully undoing the staples and blu-tacking the A2 photo to my bedroom wall. It pictured a grey, wet day at Thetford where the first round of the National Series had just been and centre of shot were three riders in close formation – Liam Kileen, Oli Beckinsale and Nick Craig.
Barrie Clark had been the man for the last few years, Oli and Liam were the new kids on the block and Nick Craig was already mountain bike royalty. I read that magazine from cover to cover a hundred times and gleaned as much information as possible. Paul Lasenby was winning big races and so I quickly went out and bought a replica Marin jersey to use on my local trails. I spent my weekends either riding or pestering my mum for money, which I’d use to upgrade bits on my Raleigh Special Products bike… I don’t think anybody in the world had (or has since) performed quite so many full strip downs and re-builds of an RST 281 fork as I did!
It’s incredible just how Nick Craig keeps going and shows no sign of slowing down – he kills us all on the cross-country and the ‘cross too. Five years after he caught me on the last lap of that Enduro race he repeated that same little trick for good measure, when we both raced the Herne Hill “Muddy Hell” ‘Cross race – what’s even more impressive was that in both of those races I finished in the top quarter of the field, so just imagine how many times he lapped some of the other guys! – the man is as much an inspiration now to me as he was all those years ago when he, and a handful of other talented British riders, got me interested in this little world of bicycles.
Glen runs THE.TRIBECA.SPORT.WØRKSHOP which is based at 28 London Road, Southborough, TN4 0QB – 01892 533 339 – firstname.lastname@example.org . The shop specialises in precision servicing, race prepping, 3D bike fitting and high quality bikes and equipment. Drop in, give us a call, visit our Facebook page or browse our website for more details. He also runs the shop race team and club as well as racing ‘cross, road and cross-country nationally.
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 The Recorder must surely be the most stupid instrument ever… Not only is it incredibly hard to play with any kind of conviction, it also makes you look stupid. Even worse still, it’s only years later that you realise how terrible it is for your parents who have to suffer every time you practice – if only you’d known you could have played it more!