Last weekend saw the 2013 National Marathon Champs taking place on a one lap course in Selkirk, Scotland. This year, TORQ was represented by marathon specialist Neal Crampton who, after a 10th place finish last year and a good winter training, combined with some good early season form, was all set to race. Here is Neal’s report of the event where he was crowned National Marathon Champion ahead of a star studded field of world-class riders.
This is what Neal had to say of his victory: Selkirk has always been a special place for me. I think I have ridden five Selkirk Marathons and have some great friends there, so it is fantastic that the event has also doubled as the National Marathon Championships for the past two years. For some, the challenge is to win, for others the challenge is just to get round. I shared a few beers in the evening after the event with the couple who claimed the lanterne rouge and, listening to their stories about the ride, they had had just as much fun and just as much of a challenge as I did.
For the first time, the race started in the centre of Selkirk and we were given a great send off by locals and supporters alike. Before long, we were on the first climb and things were surprisingly civilised, initially at least, and a group of eight of us made it down the other side to the first checkpoint. Eight soon became seven as TORQ-Fuelled Nick Craig set the tone for the day by having a puncture (the first of three!). The group fragmented on the next climb as Oli Beckinsale and Dan Fleeman upped the pace. It was a hot day, so I decided taking it slightly easier was the best survival strategy. After another fantastic descent, which caused Dan a race ending puncture, we dropped into the Tweed Valley and the only significant road section on the course. Here the GT-Muc Off express, along with John Whittington, caught me pushing an impressive pace and, before long, we were in Ellibank forest. Here we were very surprised to be caught by Oli Beckinsale, who had taken a wrong turn. This meant another convenient tow up the next fire road climb and, after a quick drop down the Caddon Bank trails, we were at Innerleithen.
Now the only obstacle between us and Selkirk was the Minch Mhor climb. Last year, this climb had been the scene of some spectacular blow ups, so I had tried to leave a bit in the tank and had been very conscious to keep my drink and gel intake up. Unfortunately, deflations were more present this year, with Rob Jebb and Oli both having punctures. This meant that Rob Friel and I were now racing for 3rd step on the podium. I had a soft back tyre which I knew I would have to stop and inflate to get down the last long descent, so figured putting some time into Rob now would be useful. So, it was one last effort along the rolling ridge line to the Three Brethren, a quick CO2 pit stop, a quick sit down after a 30 mph faceplant (no need to dwell on that!) and down to the finish and time to revel in the glory of a top 3 finish. Frankly I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself.
However, there was some confusion at the finish; I had expected Lee Williams and Ben Thomas to have already been there. They weren’t and apparently I had won! It turned out Ben and Lee had missed a sign and gone off course. This raised some slightly strange emotions in my rather battered head; I went from being over the moon with third place, to being a bit disappointed with first. On the one hand, of course, I couldn’t refuse a first place, but part of me couldn’t help thinking I would have preferred a more ‘honest’ third place. I certainly had had no issues profiting from other riders mechanical mishaps; was this really any different? Of course I empathise with those who perhaps should have done better but that’s marathon racing. After all, it’s about getting out in the hills away from endless laps and challenging yourself, no matter who you are.
A special mention has to go out to TORQ-Fuelled Sally Bigham who took a dominant win in the woman’s race and was also crowned National Champion, way ahead of the opposition, finishing just 7minutes off the winning men’s time! See Sally’s report on XC Racer here: http://www.xcracer.com/Sally-Bigham-Marathon.html
Thank you for the kind use of the photographs by Andy Upton at www.zupix.com
As always, a big thank you to all the team sponsors, without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.
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