Riders battled it out over four gruelling laps of a 22km mountainous course at MargamPark, South Wales at the weekend in a bid to be named UK national marathon champion.
Olympic cross-country rider Oli Beckingsale (Giant) was a clear favourite for the men’s race and he looked confident in the hills, relishing the brutal conditions.
Beckingsale’s main competition were Paul Oldham, Dave Collins, Ross Creber and Ian Bibby.
Using his climbing prowess, Beckingsale moved into another gear on the third lap of the race and started moving swiftly away.
Only Oldham and Bibby could hold onto the Giant rider’s coat tails until eventually falling by the wayside, Beckingsale riding home for the win.
Bibby was looking good for the silver until a puncture saw Oldham surge past, grabbing second spot. Bibby limped home in third.
Beckingsale said: “This is the first time I’ve had a go at the marathon title so it’s great to come back with the jersey. It’s never really fitted in before with my busy schedule, but this year I could make a bit of time for it, so I decided to give it a go.
“I always think racing starts at halfway and that’s what happened today. We took two laps pretty steadily and on the climb on the third lap I gave it a little bit and only Paul and Ian came with me, and I pushed on and came home for he win.”
Defending champion and marathon specialist Sally Bigham had a less than perfect race in the women’s event.
On lap one she had company going up the climbs in the shape of Swiss-based UK rider Jane Nuessli. In an effort to lose her rival Bigham took the riskier lines on the descents, which paid off until a high-speed crash nearly stopped the Ergon/Topeak rider in her tracks.
Undeterred, she carried on and completed the full race to hang onto her national jersey for a second year. On finishing she headed straight for the medics where she fainted and was whisked off to hospital, missing her moment of glory on the podium.
Bigham said: “My race didn’t exactly go to plan! I had a high-speed crash which flung me from my bike, and I landed on my leg and then my head. I jumped back up telling the startled guys behind that I was fine and got back on my bike.
“My leg was hurting and when I looked down at it I panicked – it had swelled instantly and looked like someone had inserted a couple of tennis balls under my skin.
“I figured that the other girls would soon catch me as I completed the lap and I focused all of my effort on not fainting and just getting back to the pits. I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the finish line and that I had won!
“The medics were concerned because of how much it had swelled so they called an ambulance. While I was struggling to provide drugs control with my urine sample I managed to faint. That was it… off to hospital I went! Luckily it is just a bad haematoma and rest, ice, elevation and ibuprofen should do the trick.”
The race behind for the minor places was changing constantly, with Gemma Collins holding on hard for bronze while Nuessli maintained second. However, by the end of the race, it was national cross-country champ Jenny Copnall who charged for the line to claim silver leaving Nuessli the bronze, while Collins had to be content with fourth.
The women’s veterans championships were fought over three long laps and it was seasoned contender Lydia Gould who rode to victory, leaving Debbie Burton claiming silver and Abi Armstrong bronze.
Michael Powell failed to retain his national title in the men’s veterans race, succumbing to the strong challenge posed by David Hayward. Third went to Pete Turnbull.
For the full results, see TimeLaps.co.uk