Monday, April 22, 2024

Scottish Cycling Super Six Series – Event 1, Gifford: Preview


HomeRaceRace PreviewsScottish Cycling Super Six Series - Event 1, Gifford: Preview

Scottish Cycling Super Six series; Snowdrops by the roadside, fluffy white clouds scurrying across a blue sky, bright sunshine requiring the Ray Bans to get dusted-off, and a breeze that was fresh but not chilling — has Spring arrived in Gifford on this February Sunday?

Nah! It’ll be snowing, tomorrow!

Still, it was a lovely day to recce the course for the first of James McCallum’s ‘Super Six’ series; the timing was perfect, organiser Chris Harney pulled-on the brakes of his Orbea outside Gifford town hall, just as I stopped the Toyota beside the village green.

Ah, snowdrops.
Ah, snowdrops.

Gifford is the perfect spot for a bike race, historic and quaint, with the Goblin Ha’ Hotel providing a great race HQ and there’s plenty of space for the catering marquee on the green — not to mention quiet, scenic roads all around.

Race Organiser Chris Harney.
Race Organiser Chris Harney.
The majestic Gifford Town Hall.
The majestic Gifford Town Hall.

Chris tried me out by attempting to take the back wheel out of the Orbea with the chain in the big sprocket, I spotted it though, plonked it into the eleven, popped the wheels out and had the Orbea in the back of the Toyota in a jiff as Chris squeezed his tall frame into the front seat and we were off.

Chris is an Aussie, like Velo Ecosse’s Paul Rowney, and also like Paul, it was the love of a Scottish girl that brought him to Bonnie Scotland — maybe I should go to Australia to get a woman, I keep ending-up in the divorce court here! Anyway…

First drag on a testing little circuit.
First drag on a testing little circuit.

The start is at the top of the drag on the B6369 out of the village at Gifford Vale – take a left at the beautiful old church – the race will be neutralised on the first ascent, but not the next seven, by which time it will feel steeper than it looks, no doubt.

Initially the quiet road through Slateford and Brounshill rolls straight and gently past trees, pasture land and ploughed fields, with wonderful views across the East Lothian countryside; it’s open, and if the race was in Northern France or Flanders it would all be over about here: a bordure (echelon) would form and just ride off into the cross wind, never to be seen again.

From the car we admire Lennoxlove stately home ahead of us in the distance, and then there’s a quick drop past Colston Mains farm to Cockles, then we go straight on when the road bends right towards Haddington. We’re on a long, flat, fast, tree-lined straight – probably into the wind.

Turning left for Bolton.
Turning left for Bolton.

Past Colston House and turning left on the B6368 through the village of Bolton, the longest drag of the day heads for the skyline through rich farmland, as Chris explained; “None of these drags seem that hard, but on the seventh and eighth laps, particularly if it’s windy, there will be a lot of riders hurting.”

Looking back at one of those schneby climbs, this one just after the village of Bolton.
Looking back at one of those schneby climbs, this one just after the village of Bolton.
Turning right at the top of the climb out of Bolton.
Turning right at the top of the climb out of Bolton.

At the top of the drag the course turns right then undulates more past Upper Bolton, before kicking left again onto the main Gifford road, the B6355; it’s fast but rolling with tough little ‘schnebz’ (this word copyright our editor and photographer for the day, Martin, meaning, ‘sair wee rises’).

Heading for the left turn onto the B6355 past Upper Bolton - the Prime is just around the corner.
Heading for the left turn onto the B6355 past Upper Bolton – the Prime is just around the corner.

There’s a king of the mountains sprint at the highest point of this road at the white cottage, on laps five and seven.

The view from the Prime location - it's mostly downhill for a mile now.
The view from the Prime location – it’s mostly downhill for a mile now.

The run-in to Gifford will be fast and furious, dropping down on the recently resurfaced road into the village.

A very fast run-in to Gifford will be spectacular.
A very fast run-in to Gifford will be spectacular.

The riders will take the racing line through a chicane at the old bridge before lifting through the village, hanging left at the church to finish on the long, gently dropping straight just before the start of the climb which the race starts atop.

The downhill run to the line.
The downhill run to the line.

The course is safe, fast and tough – not super-tough: hard enough for there to be a lot of casualties with gravity and the wind but not hard enough to let the strongmen have their own way.

Talking of strongmen, we asked Chris who he has on the menu; “It’s a full field (80) for both races; from Pedal Power we have Gary Hand, Gordon Murdoch and Paul Coates; Paul Rennie and Graham McGarrity ride for Dooley’s; Paul Rowney and Phil Brown and the Creber brothers are riding — Hamish for Sandy Wallace and Ross for Trek-SIS. The only two big names we’re missing are Stuart McGregor and Raymond Wilson (Dunfermline)”.

Hard to pick a winner there, but my spies tell me that Paul Rowney is causing major problems in the chain gang, “doon the coast!”.

Whilst it’s a new season with fresh ideas and we didn’t want to raise any “negs,” we had to ask about the stories we’d heard that entering for the race had been a tad confusing.

Chris explained; “The entries went to EntryCentral and they took the first 80 received, it’s the first time that they’ve actually had a full field to deal with – in fact there were more entries than places — so those 80 riders all thought that they had a ride, but we had to wait until the closing date so we could select the field on merit. So, some riders who thought they were riding, aren’t. It’s been a bit confusing, but it won’t happen again, hopefully!”

The Goblin Ha' Hotel.
The Goblin Ha’ Hotel.

We liked the fact that Chris has kept the finish within easy walking distance of the village so spectators can sit with their coffee or beer outside the Goblin Ha’ Hotel race HQ (which is open from 08.30), watch the story unfold lap by lap, then amble down to watch the finale.

There’s a free barbecue, that’s right — free, in the Field and Lawn (one of the sponsors) marquee on the village green and there’s even going to be video coverage of the race which will be shown after the finish.

Chris is setting the bar high here for future Super Six organisers; we just hope that the wee Goblin chappie has a word with the weather Gods!

VeloVeritas would like to thank Chris for interrupting his training rain on Sunday to take us round the course — we’ll be there next Saturday of course, to bring you the story of what we expect to be a great race.

Race Information

Race Headquarters
Gifford Village Hall, Gifford, East Lothian.

Course Details
Circuit: 8.2mile/13.2km Start: On B6369 for 3 miles, road veers left at Cockles then continue straight onto unclassified road towards Parkend. At T-junction turn left onto the B6368 and head towards Bolton. Continue on until the junction with the B6355 where riders turn left and head towards Gifford. Once in Gifford, turn left and back onto the B6369. Finish is 600m after left turn in Gifford. The total rise from Parkend to Bolton Muir Wood is 73m over the course of 3.2km. Total rise of one lap is 150m.

Route Profile.
Route Profile.
Gifford Town Centre.
Gifford Town Centre.

Race Officials
Chief Commissaire – David Menzies (‘A’ race) Tom Forbes (‘B’ race)
Commissarie – Christopher Adamson (‘A’ race) Ken Whitson (‘B’ race)
Chief Judge – Gareth George (‘A’ & ‘B’ race)
Photo Finish Judge – Bill Dunscombe (‘A’ & ‘B’ race)
Gear Checker – Neil Muir (‘A’ & ‘B’ race)

Race Organiser
Chris Harney
5 (4F1) Willowbrae Road
Tel. 077 6029 3368
Assistant Organiser – Dominic Hines

Notes for Competitors

  • Competitors must sign-on 20 minutes prior to the commencement of their event. Riders who have not completed sign-on will be withdrawn and reserve riders will be included in the field. This will be strictly enforced.
  • Please remember to br