International competition next
By Ernie Clark - EAST CORINTH - At 22, Adam Craig already has seen the highest peaks of the cross country mountain biking scene, not to mention the fields, forests, streams and other natural obstacles that stand between the competitors and the finish line.The Corinth man been competing in the sport's world championship meets since 1998, mastering the 30-mile courses that typically take the best racers regardless of age two hours or more to complete.
Craig was crowned 2003 national U-23 cross country champion for mountain bikers ages 19-23 on Saturday after placing 11th overall at the fifth and final National Off-Road Bicycle Association series event of the season at Durango, Colo.
"It's definitely a step in the right direction," said Craig, a 1999 graduate of Dexter Regional High School.
Craig will cap off his final year of U-23 competition at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships to be held from Aug. 30 to Sept. 7 in Lugano, Switzerland. Craig qualified for the world championships earlier this summer with a top-10 finish at a NORBA race in West Virginia.
Craig will leave for Europe next Tuesday, and plans to compete in a Swiss Cup event on Sunday, Aug. 31, as preparation for his race at the world championships on Friday, Sept. 5.
"It will be a good warm-up for me," Craig said of the Swiss Cup event. "All of the guys I'll be competing against will be there, so it will be a good test."
Craig hopes to make a significant improvement from his finish at the 2002 world championships, when he was "running in sixth place and headed for a good finish" before sustaining a flat tire while crossing a stream, resulting in a 14th-place finish.
"It's my last chance at the Under 23s, so I'm hoping I'm going to win, and it's a definite possibility," Craig said. "The Europeans are the strongest competition, just like always. There are a bunch of strong guys over there, but we've met several times this year in World Cup races, and sometimes they've beaten me and sometimes I've beaten them."
Beyond the world championships, Craig is looking ahead to the 2004 Olympic Games.
Though he is still young by mountain biking standards, he is hopeful of being one of the two cross-country mountain bikers to represent the United States in Athens, Greece.
"I'm definitely on the young side, but I'm in position," he said. "There are four major players, and I'm among them, so hopefully things will work out."
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