Despite horrendous and extremely-changeable weather conditions last weekend, the 2014 Selkirk Mountain Bike (MTB) Marathon proved as popular as ever.
Incorporating the British MTB Championships, the event drew almost 500 bikers to the town and the Selkirk High Street start on Saturday was a spectacle in itself as riders poured out of town and down the West Port.
The event is locally organised, having been taken over in 2013 by Selkirk residents Paul McGreal, of Durty Events, and local course builder Peter Laing when the previous organiser backed out. Both felt that it was too good a course and too important a sporting occasion for the Borders to lose.
Laing told The Wee Paper: “We really wanted to showcase the incredible trails that the area has.
“We aimed to add new features, including popular timed ‘Enduro’ sections to keep it fresh, and to produce a challenging, but achievable, course that everyone would enjoy – I reckon we managed it!”
The British Championship race brought the star names of the sport out in force, including ex-Olympian Nick Craig, and pro-riders Rab Wardell, Rob Friel, Lee Williams, Dan Fleeman and Ben Thomas. The women’s field was equally strong with several ex-British champions and pro-riders, including Sally Bigham and Melanie Alexander.
After the High Street start, the courses then moved out onto the trail hills above the Yarrow and Tweed valleys, including land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland, Buccleuch Estates and Philiphaugh Estate.
Course options of 25km, 50km and the championship 80km meant a range of abilities, including families, were catered for.
McGreal added: “We’re really grateful to the people of Selkirk, our sponsors and to Scottish Borders Council for their support.
“We wanted the whole thing to feel relaxed and have a local feel. Judging from the comments we’ve received, and the smiles at the finish line, hundreds of cyclists and spectators enjoyed the experience, and riding their bikes on the incredible Borders trails.
“This is an event that will only get bigger and better in future years.”
The weather and trail conditions added an additional layer of challenge – rain and hail were frequent, resulting in some very muddy sections.
First rider back, and therefore the new British champion, was ex-professional road rider Dan Fleeman (Metaltek-Kuota) in 3hrs 44 mins for the 80km race, who was closely followed, only two seconds later, by Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles) and Nick Craig (Pioneer/Scott/Syncros).
In the women’s race, Sally Bigham (Topeak Ergon Racing Team) came home in an incredible 4.14, with a lead of nearly 30 minutes over second-placed Rickie Cotter (559 Bikes). Melanie Alexander (Contessa Scott Syncros) completed the podium.