Why Lee Craigie is smiling from ear to ear

Lee Craigie

British XC Mountain Bike Champion Lee Craigie reckons she has just taken on the Best Job in the World.

“Do you fancy riding in the Scottish Highlands for two weeks?”

“And filming lots of amazing routes for the benefit of others?”

“How about the use of a Big Tree Campervans van for the duration, too?”

When Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland asked top Scottish mountain biker Lee Craigie these few questions she could hardly wait to say: “Yes, yes and yes.”

Over a fortnight (starting last week), the British XC Mountain Bike Champion will be out and about in the Highlands and Islands charting some fabulous routes and generally enjoying the landscape and scenery on her favourite Cannondale bike.

“I think it’s the best job in the world,” says Lee, grinning. “Of course I said yes when I was asked!”

Getting started on the Best MTB’ing Job in the World

The first evening of her epic round-Highlands mountain biking work, saw Lee enjoying a trip to Glencoe’s popular Clachaig Inn. “The beautiful setting sun as I drove through Glencoe accompanied me to the Clachaig. What could be a more perfect way to start this job?” says Lee. She was joined for dinner by Tess Hill, orienteer and hill runner extraordinaire.

Day two of the Best MTB’ing Job in the World

Rider Lee and runner Tess decided to race the Devil’s Staircase. The Devil’s Staircase has 423m of ascent and 659m of descent with a maximum height of 547m. Lee, who is one of Scotland’s medal winning hopefuls for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014, says: “To start with I could only watch as Tess sailed off up the Staircase while I haemorrhaged energy trying to ride the unrideable.

“I stopped for a quick photoshoot on the pass courtesy of a German tourist, and by this time Tess was long gone.

“But then I quickly hoofed it off after her, loving the fast-flowing descent. In the end Tess got to Kinlochleven at the end of the Staircase only a couple of minutes ahead of me but I was so blissed out after that descent that I couldn’t have given a hoot!

“It was fell runner 1; mountain biker 0. I had a great ride and Tess told me she had a great run. I don’t know how she does it.”

Day three of the Best MTB’ing Job in the World

Lee was up early filming the trails around the Glencoe Lochan, on Forestry Commission land. Then it was off to ride the Ciaran Path, joined by her old racing buddy Lesley Ingram. By all accounts, this ride is a labour of love, extending to more than six hours on the hill yet with only four hours of ride time. This gives you an idea of what the terrain is like.

Lee says: “Retracing my tyre prints from the Tour De Ben the previous weekend, we got to the end of Loch Eilde Mor and this time swung right along the marginal single track by the river that flows to Loch Treig. What the trail lacked in flow was made up for in entertainment as we leapt over bog, making it only 50 per cent of the time.

“The trail remained marginal all the way to Loch Treig but very suddenly the river we had been following gave way to a breath-taking view over the loch. We rode round on a well-surfaced trail to the head of the loch where we turned north again on singletrack back towards Kinlochleven and started the bike carry once more.

“It remained truly spectacular and felt so wild that we continued to be buoyed along despite the boggy conditions underfoot until gradually our trail became more and more rideable.”

Almost six hours after setting off, Lee and Lesley spotted the dam ahead and the descending trail to Kinlochleven village below.

Lee says: “It is truly an epic ride and finished off nicely by coffee and cake at The Ice Factor. What a great job this is.”

The reason for Lee’s job

With the help of Lee’s films, Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland will create an e-guide of the top MTB trails in the Highlands. Future routes include the Bealach Brittle Loop on Skye, the Corrieyairack Pass and the Torridon Coulags.

I hope to bring you more news of the e-guide, but in the meantime, Lee, I am green with envy! Also see Lee Craigie’s blog.

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