MORETON mountain biker Marc Chamberlain began his build-up to retaining his Veteran National Mountain Bike Marathon title by coming home fifth in his category (Master 40) at this year’s Andalucía Bike Race, in a field of more than 200 riders.

The gruelling six-day mountain bike stage race in Spain covers around 70 kilometres and 2,000 metres of climbing each day, almost exclusively on the exceptional single tracks of Córdoba and Jaén.

In total, around 1,000 riders contest the various race categories.

Riding for the Cotswold Cycles-TREK team, Marc, 44, said: “It was a big undertaking so early on in the race season, and I trained solidly for four months over the winter.

"But the hard work really paid off.

“I can’t believe I met my hero, Olympic silver medalist José Antonio Hermida Ramos.

"Racing against some of the best riders in the world, like Tour de France veteran Joaquim Rodrigues and Giro d’Italia stage winner Francesco Casagrande (who won Marc's age group) was a dream come true – I’ve been grinning from ear-to-ear ever since.

"I feel fantastic and I’m really excited about the UK season, especially the National series.”

The overall race winner in Andalucía was mountain bike World Marathon Champion Tiago Ferreira.

Cotswold Cycles-TREK team mates Iain Wight (Master 50) and Dean Hitchings (Master 40) also completed the race, finishing 15th and 59th in their categories respectively.

Marc’s focus now is on the first round of the National cross-country series in Pembrey on April 2, and defending his championship jersey at the 2017 British Cycling National Mountain Bike Marathon Championships which are being held on the Isle of Man on Saturday, July 29.