The British Championships is the one day of the year in the cycling calendar that every racer looks towards. It's the one event that they will always target, that everyone would love the honour of wearing that red, white and blue hooped jersey. Even for non-podium hopefuls hopes are high and the pressure is on. For all us Scots, these expectations multiplied ten-fold as the Championships had once again returned north of the border. On Saturday the 20th and Sunday the 21st July, the top cross-country mountain bikers in Britain headed to Cathkin Braes, the 2014 Commonwealth Games course to battle it out over multiple laps in scorching conditions. Swathes of Scottish riders took part, showing strength and depth in every field and fully taking advantage of the home crowds, with many spectators creating a world-class atmosphere. The course was deceptively tough, with an apparent lack of 'techinical' features or big climbs, however come race day, Cathkin was a true leg and lung tester, and praised for having a little bit of everything that made for exciting racing. To name absolutely every Scottish rider who took part here would create a report which would be pages and pages long - podium'ers will be mentioned here - follow the link to the full results to check out how everyone else got on too.
The first set of Championship races came on the Saturday when the Under-12's took to a shortened version of the main course - it was still a very long loop! First Champion was young Eilidh Gronkowski, aged only 3years old who took the win in the Under 8's category. Eilidh was soon followed in by older brother Gavin, also riding for Mukyriderz, who equalled her result in the Under 8 boys field. Next up were the Under 10s where Iona Aldridge took the win for Streathdearn MBC in the girls class. In the boys, Finton Price and Gregor Robb took 2nd and 3rd place, respectively, giving their all on a tough course in the midday sunshine. In the Under 12 girls race, it was total Scottish domination on the podium with Anna Flynn from Edinburgh road club taking the top spot ahead of Niamh Doherty and Anna Shackley, both from Glasgow Riderz. Jamie Johnston from Thomsons Cycles continued his winning form by winning the Under 12 boys race, followed in by Charlie Aldridge. These young ones were all so inspiring to watch the joy they took, not only from winning, but from being out on their bikes and taking part in such a big event.
It was an early start for the Juvenile and Youth riders who were off on the 9.30am gun. Large crowds of parents gathered around the start finish area to cheer on the riders and provide encouragement. A fantastic race, moving consistently clear to build a very comfortable advantage, brought Erika Allen (Thomsons Cycles) home to take a well-deserved victory in the Youth category. For a long time after the finish Erika could be seen with an expression of total shock and tears of joy in her eyes, a Champions jersey means so much to these young racers. The Youth boys category was not so clean-cut however with an epic battle between early leader, Harry Johnston (Thomsons Cycles) and Calum MaGowan (Peebles CC). These two boys battled back and forth over three laps, barely separated by more than a tyre length. On the finish straight Calum broke clear to take the win by only 4seconds to claim the champions jersey. A fantastic morning of racing and a great start for Scottish riders with our two Champions being backed up by many other strong performances throughout the youth and juvenile fields.
Next off were those at the other end of the age spectrum. The male categories for Master and older headed out on course just as the sun was breaking through the early morning grey sky. Again, there were large numbers of Scottish riders in these categories with fantastic performances from all these racers. In the Veteran 45 category, Team Leslie Bikeshop showed their strength with 2nd place going to Damien Slorach and John McCaffery taking 3rd. Gregor Grant (Moray Firth CC), a previous British Champion, replicated the feat and will be wearing the Grand Veteran Champions jersey for this coming year. There was yet another Scottish Champion in the Super Veteran category with John Shirley (West Highland Wheelers) coming in less than 20 seconds ahead of the next finisher in a hard fought race.
At the back of midday, it was time for the Womens 17+ categories to set off, with many different fields taking to the course in the hot sun. And, yet again, Scotland brought back another British Champion with world-class racer Lee Craigie (Cannondale) putting in an excellent performance to take the victory in the Senior category. In an strong field, it was an excellent result for Lee who will have the honour of wearing the British Champions jersey at all XC events she takes part in for the next year. With all her family and friends watching and cheering her on, it was a fitting result for this girl from Glasgow who is building her performances to qualify for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. After that, there were three excellent 2nd places for Scottish riders in tough categories. Firstly, Isla Short (WXC) had a great race in the junior category to finish 2nd with an extremely comfortable margin over 3rd place. Gillian Pratt (Team Leslie Bikeshop) led for the majority of her 4 lap race but was just pipped at the post by less than a minute to take a well-deserved 2nd, ahead of fellow Scot, Katie Carmichael (Hervelo). Finally, the ever-smiling Anne Murray (Team Jewson/Thule/Kinesis/CNP/MI Racing-Ride - longest team name ever?!) came in 2nd Veteran female with another strong result following a great season so far.
Last up were the Male 17+ categories of the Seniors, Under 23s and Juniors. In the Senior field, young Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens), took the victory in a race filled with Olympians, and men with many more years and experience than him. As part of a season involving much international travel, the home crowd including family and friends supported Grant all the way to the finish, and just as impressively, he was the only rider to do a sub-14minute lap of the course. Grant rode a cool and consistent race to finish almost half a minute ahead of nearest rival Oli Beckingsdale in what was a good tester for next year's Commonwealth Games. In the junior category, which is filled with promising young riders, there were Scots in 2nd and 3rd place with fantastic finishes from Iain Paton (Ben Wyvis CC) and Stuart Wilcox (Team Scott UK).
Overall, it was a fantastic showing by all the Scottish riders who took on - or as it turned out, were - the best cross country mountain bikers in Britain. Well done to everyone who took to the Cathkin course over the weekend, regardless if you were on the podium or in last place, just taking part in such a big event on home soil is an experience to cherish.
We'll see you all again on the 1st of September at Kirroughtree for the Scottish Championships - keep those fast legs 'till then!
Follow this link to the British Cycling website to see the full results;
And scroll down for the podium shots....
|The young Gronkowski's celebrate|
|Eilidh - Under 8 Champion|
|Gavin - Under 8 boys Champion|
|Iona on the top spot in the Under 10s|
|Scottish girls lock out the Under 12 podium - Anna, Niamh and Anna|
|Finton (2nd) and Gregor (3rd) in the Under 10s|
|Jamie celebrates victory in the under 12s ahead of Charlie|
|Erika on the top spot - Champion!!|
|Calum in 1st just ahead of Harry|
|The Scottish riders who came out on top in the Youth races with those special stripy jerseys|
|Erika - the joy of winning|
|Junior boys with Iain and Stuart on the podium|
|Gillian in 2nd and Katie in 3rd|
|Junior girls featuring Isla|
|Anne in 2nd in the Vet women|
|Lee celebrates the Senior women's win|
|Grant on the top spot in the Senior race|
|Champagne victory for Grant|
|Your Champions in the Senior categories - and both Scottish! Well done Grant &|