If we’re in Gifford to watch road racing and the snowdrops are out on the verges it must mean the start of another cycling season, it’s funny how it comes around more quickly each year. There’s been a few events on the track and roads so far this season but today’s two races signify the start of the season-long National Series; today there’s a ‘B’ race of 40 miles for junior riders and seniors not ready for more distance, and the ‘A’ race over 65 miles, which is the one we came to see.
The circuit remained the same as in previous years, eight laps of an eight mile circuit of lovely quiet, rolling lanes around East Lothian, with a fairly strong wind and a couple of mild climbs to stir the action up a little. The promoting Edinburgh Road Club once again put on an organised show, well marshalled and popular too, with plenty of club riders out on the circuit and local folk spectating.
This year the winner of the ‘A’ event was also clearly the strongest rider on the day; Tom Bustard (Velosure – Giordana RT) was the first to make a serious attack on the first lap, pulling a break of several riders clear which cemented itself as more riders made it across over the next couple of laps.
Tom was at or near the front of the group in most of our photos helping to keep the move clear of a (until a couple of laps to go) pretty determined chasing bunch, then jumping out of the break with a lap to go he time-trialled to a well-deserved solo win.
Second place went to another man who was also very active in the break, Starley-Primal’s David Lines, whose winter of cyclo-cross racing has helped him into very good shape this early in the season. We spoke to Davie recently to hear about his change of team and his plans for the year.
Third spot was taken by VeloVeritas regular James McCallum (NFTO), who has been around long enough and ridden at a high level so often that he’s unfazed by anything these days and has the placid facial expression down to a tee, whether it’s just finishing a sprint or watching a break gain a gap from the group he’s in.
The break stabilised it’s lead on the main bunch by the fourth lap, the gap consistently around forty seconds, with all eleven riders working well, and the bunch being pulled by a smaller set of riders.
We caught up with the action as the break streaked through Gifford town centre on it’s fourth passage, James McCallum forcing the pace as the single line of riders told the story – it was fast.
Whilst we were in Gifford grabbing a cuppa and chatting to ‘Ginger’ Gray (he says “hello” Vik) we spotted the Scottish Team car with Mark McKay out and about on his bike, here in support of the youngsters on the squad. Not the best day for them though with crashes and abandons, including the winner here two years ago, Tom Arnstein.
With the bell ringing for three laps to go the bunch hammered through Gifford again after the escapees, but it had by now split into two parts, about a minute in between them but with 40 seconds of space still remaining from the front half to the organised and workman-like break.
The break was starting to catch the back-markers with two laps to go, and their lead began to stretch out to over a minute as the front half of the bunch looked like its fire had gone out for all but a few riders.
Gary Hand, clearly frustrated at having missed the move of the day, along with Matt Kipling (Velo29 Events) and Colin May (VC Edinburgh) made a good effort to try to escape the bunch and at least finish closer to the break.
Last lap, eight miles to go and the guys in the break were working out their strategy for the win – Tom Bustard’s was to go for a long one.
At the top of the first climb on the circuit he had a lead of 16 seconds on his companions, and he looked strong, saying ‘no thanks’ to the offer of a feed from helpers at the roadside.
Gary Hand and Matt Kipling soldiered on in the gap behind the break, now almost two minutes down on the leader but were bravely putting time into the bunch, which was a further 43 seconds down the road.