The new Scottish Cycling Super 6 series kicked off in grand style today at Gifford in beautiful East Lothian, with Gary Hand taking a well-executed and deserved solo win in the ‘A’ Race, in a superbly organised Edinburgh Road Club event.
It was a great result for his pedalpower.org.uk/Endura Race Team as his teammate Gordon Murdoch came across the line in 2nd place 32 seconds behind, and with David Lines in 6th place at 3’25” and Paul Coates next in just 1 second behind pedalpower easily won the team award, a feat which mirrored the team’s earlier success in the ‘B’ race. Paul Coates also won the KoM competition, and Gary Hand the Sprints competition to round off a very successful day for the team.
There were new faces and new team colours to get to know, such as the redesigned Dooley’s Cycles team, which pays a tribute to their member Jason MacIntyre who sadly passed away in January this year, with black armbands bearing his name – a nice touch. Race organiser Chris Harney told us last week that Jason’s was in fact the first entry he received for the event, which excited him about the prospect of a top-class field for his races, and he certainly wasn’t disappointed.
It was great to see a full field of 80 riders roll out of Gifford on a fairly nippy but sunny, early spring afternoon: an unusually large field in Scottish races of late.
Ahead of them lay 8 laps of an 8 mile circuit, which we previewed last week. A friend of mine reckoned that the race was rather short, but given the time of year, the circuit to be used, and the likelihood of a strong westerly wind, I thought the race would still find the same winner. We said last week that if it was windy it could play a large part in the outcome of the race, and so it proved, with riders finding that deep-section carbon rims, together with gaps and gates in the hedgerows meant that the gale force 3 sideways gusts made for a difficult time in the bunch, and was apparently the source of at least one crash in the earlier ‘B’ race.
Proof, if proof were needed, as to the strength of the wind, came when I was about to get changed out of my cycling kit at my car before the ‘A’ race started (I had ridden round the circuit to watch and take photos when the earlier ‘B’ race was on). I had my bike above my head to mount it onto the roof-rack, when my boot was slammed shut by a gust of wind – locking my car keys inside! Slapping my forehead like Homer, I had no choice but to watch the first few laps of the ‘A’ race from the side of the road, cycling round the parcours the wrong way to keep warm. Thankfully, Gillian turned up with my spare set of car keys shortly afterwards.
The race pattern was decided early on – in fact on the first of the 8 laps – when a break of 6 riders made their escape off the front of the bunch into the block headwind and short, sharp hill shortly after Bolton at 5 miles (trying saying that when you’re frozen at the side of the road with your gloves in the boot), driven along by several PedalPower riders.
Once onto the B6355, and charging along towards Gifford again on the undulating roads with a strong tailwind, 2 more riders made contact, and the 8 continued to collaborate well for the majority of the race, pressing home an advantage that the bunch never looked likely to close.
I watched them fly up the drag towards the main road on their second lap, and was able to see that the gap – although they were still visible to their chasers – was already significant by then, at just over 2 minutes. The break was working well together and contained Gary Hand, Gordon Murdoch, David Lines and Paul Coates (all pedalpower.org.uk/Endura Race Team), Paul Rennie (Dooleys Cycles), Jim Cusick (Glasgow Couriers – Bennett), Tim Allen (GS Metro), and Ross Creber (Science in Sport – Trek).
By this point the riders were on lap 3, and now, safely ensconsed in the passenger seat of a lovely warm car with a thoughtfully provided fudge doughnut and flask of tea, I watched the riders flying down a sheltered descent a mile after the finish area, concentrating on building on their time gap, which was now 2′ 15″.
The race stayed pretty much like this for a while, and then on the 5th lap some fireworks were let off in the bunch, as a group of 8 riders escaped and set about reducing the leading 8’s advantage.
Silas Goldsworthy (Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers) was giving it everything just in front of the other 7, but they were now looking at a deficit of over 2’40”, and I didn’t reckon that was closeable in 3 and a half laps.
Old-hand Phil Brown (Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers) looked strong as he led another group of 15 riders past, but smiled wryly to me when I shouted that he was 3’27” down: he knew that he wasn’t racing for the win anymore, but of course realised that there was mileage in continuing to drive on, as his eventual 12th place evidences.
The remnants of the bunch passed us at over 4’00” down (above), as we decided to partake of the free BBQ in the town centre, and wait until the race came through to begin lap 6.
Whilst waiting for the riders to reappear, and munching on several very welcome sausage and onion rolls, I was able to watch Chris Hanley as he flitted about between the various officials, ensuring everyone was on top of things and happy with how it was all going. We had a quick chat, and then he was off, taking one of the sponsors around in his car to see the conclusion of the race unfolding close up.
Gillian offered to take the photos of the riders coming through the town on the end of their 5th lap, on the stroke of 3pm, whilst I was catching up with some old friends like Physio Pat and Kev “Barn Door” (off to Mallorca next week – take me with you!), and Fergus Watt (back in the country after a spell teaching English in Hong Kong). After using a slow-moving tractor to set up the shots, she seemed surprised when the riders passed through the town at over 30mph and she didn’t get a single good image. Bless. Er, can you do the time checks for me on the next lap, love?
Still in Gifford and refuelled and warmed-up ourselves, we watched the riders belt through for their 6th time.
Things had changed a fair bit in the format of the race since the last passage. This time there were only 4 riders out in front, Gary Hand, Paul Coates and Gordon Murdoch (all pedalpower.org.uk/Endura Race Team), and Ross Creber (Science in Sport – Trek), followed 31 seconds later (thanks Gillian) by the second half of the break: David Lines (pedalpower.org.uk/Endura Race Team), Jim Cusick (Glasgow Couriers – Bennett), Paul Rennie (Dooleys Cycles), and Tim Allen (GS Metro).
We drove counter to the race direction, towards East Saltoun, and stopped to watch the KoM Prime sprint on Lap 7. Hand easily outsprinted Creber for the points – these two having put 9 seconds of daylight between themselves and Murdoch and Coates.
By now the race had exploded in several different groups: Lines, Cusick and Rennie came past at 1’08”, with Tim Allan (GS Metro) on his own a further 2’10” back – apparently a pucture caused him to lose contact with the group.
The large chase group and bunch had both split up, and 5 small groups of between 2 and 20 riders filed past between 6 and 8 minutes behind, and by now the fire had gone out for many; they were looking grateful that they were about to begin the last lap.
Continuing around the circuit, we we surprised to quickly come across the lead car again – the race had really lit up, and yes, it looked like there was a single rider on the horizon tearing towards us. We couldn’t guess which of the break’s riders it might be as they had all looked very strong.
In fact, it was Gary Hand, who had shaken off Ross Creber to go for the solo win, and with around 4 miles to go he had 28 seconds lead over Creber, who now had Hand’s teammate Murdoch for company, and sitting pretty on the wheel – not what you want when some bit-and-bit would come in handy.
Paul Coates had slipped back to the company of teammate Lines, Rennie and Cusick.Would it stay like this for the finish?
At the finish, just as race announcer Jammy Johnston arrived and was advising over his car-mounted PA system that we were to expect a lone winner, Gary Hand came into view, and modestly celebrated a very convincing win as he rolled over the blue timing mats – the photo-finsh equipment not being needed for this race anyway.