The first time I saw Craig Hardie race it put me in mind of a Pokemon: a small bundle of unstoppable energy whose special ability amounts to slinging a bike through mud and rain and wind and snow. Very quickly. It's a talent that shows no sign of abating as the new cross season beckons, and the 41 year old bike shop owner (he's the proprietor of the eponymous Hardie Bikes in Cairneyhill, Fife) prepares for relentless laps. Taking photographs of the man racing is inspiring enough, but earlier this year, as I embarked on a fledgling cross career at the (hopefully annual) Haughcross event, I saw the bike handling, speed and stamina up close. Four times in fact, as he ticked off eleven circuits to my seven.
Just how does he get so good? Well it's been years in the making. "I've been cycling since I can remember, so I guess from about the age of 4 or 5. I spent most of my formative years on a BMX, jumping barrels, building quarter pipes and taking the train to Livi skate park. This is where I put down to most, if not all, of my handling skills that have kept me in good stead all through the disciplines I have competed in."
Disciplines. Plural. Craig is no one-trick pony. He has competed in (note, competed, not just 'tried') Cross Country Mountain Biking, Downhill Mountain Biking, BMX racing, Road racing, Crit racing, Cyclocross, Grasstrack and Time Trials (hill climbing). This love of competition goes back 21 years, "My first competitive cycle race was back in 1991 in a novice MTB race at Peebles which I won, after that I went on to get second in the Scottish MTB series in 1993. Then 1994 was a great year, I took the series overall and the MTB Championships in Hawick against a Raleigh Pro at the time who had come up to race."
He lists that 1994 success as possibly his biggest achievement to date. "[It was] my first time in getting the double in the Scottish MTB Series and Championship in 1994. I managed the double again in 2002 but the first time I won was the sweetest and at that time the Mountain Bike scene was really big, with a lot of people and interest. A bit like the Cyclocross is now."