Cyclocross Preview: Irvine Beach Park, Sunday 24th of November

Cyclocross Preview: Irvine Beach Park, Sunday 24th of November


Published: 22 November 2013

On Sunday the 24th of November the Ridley Cycles Scottish Cyclocross series continues, as racers make their way to the South West Coast to experience arguably one of the toughest cyclocross courses in Scotland. This weekend it’s the turn of Walkers Cycles to host, with the racing heading to the infamous Irvine Beach Park and that mandatory sand. In a race which could reduce grown men to tears, with sand dunes to be negotiated alongside grass, mud and off camber sections to test bike handling skills. Costa del Irvine is an experience each year, with racers and baying spectators enjoying the racing in a way saved only for the sadistic love of racing cyclocross, on a beach, in Scotland, in November.

The course stays true to its routes, with course organiser Neil Walker ensuring plenty of challenging sections which can be enjoyed by the top-end racers and first-timers alike. In a slightly revamped course for 2013, the wide open start will allow riders plenty of time to find position before tuning into the narrow trails. This year the course will take on a climb to sort the racers, avoiding the set of stairs from previous years. Dropping into the Big Dipper, riders are treated to a rollercoaster-like experience as stomachs turn somersaults over the multiple humps. The racers will then be tested with a long off-camber section, with wheels being forced to squeeze every last inch of grip from the tyres to stay upright. Turning into the climbers section of the course, a series of steep climbs are punctuated by the hurdles. Then comes the main event, and the scene of some iconic Irvine Beach cyclocross photos. First racers will shoulder the bike and take on one of the longest run-ups in Scottish cyclocross to the very top of the sand dune banking. A brief respite to circle the dune then it’s onto the notorious sandy section on the beach front where wheels fly out from under bikes, great sandy chasms open and the bike slowly and painfully starts to make it’s gritty moans heard. For spectators it’s a fantastic viewing section to experience the ‘pain face’, watching riders push themselves to the limit. Then it’s back to the start/finish line to complete as many laps as possible in the allotted time.

Over 80 racers under the age of 12 will set off first at 9.50am, split into Under 8s and Under 12s. Such large numbers of children on bikes is testament to the success of the Scottish Cyclocross series in attracting young riders to take on their shortened version of the course.  In the Under 8s Gavin Gronkowski (Mukyriderz) will be the lad to watch, fresh from his victory at the last round at Strathclyde Park. In the Under 8 girls category it looks set to be a battle between Kristin Peil (Edinburgh RC) and Sarah Aitken. The top 3 girls in the Under 12 category: Elena Mcgorum (Peebles CC), Niamh Doherty (Glasgow Riderz) and Anna Flynn (Edinburgh RC) will be set for yet another showdown. Young Rory McGuire from Perth United and Kier Robb of Team Bicycles look set to continue their duel from Strathclyde Park, and with the absence of Jamie Johnstone (Thomsons Cycles) from the start list, the duo will hope that this time it’s for first place.

Moving up through the age categories and out onto the full course, and with only one of the current series leaders missing, there will be high level racing across all categories. In the girls, the Strathdee sisters Ishbel and Eleanor (Edinburgh RC) are pulling clear at the top of the Under 14 and Under 16 categories respectively. Ishbel will have to be wary of track rider Ellie Park (Glasgow Riderz), while Eleanor will be looking over her shoulder for Katie Allen (Thomsons Cycles) who chased her to the line at Strathclyde Park, with second place in the series Jenny Holl from Stirling Bike Club also looking to consolidate her position. Sean Flynn (Edinburgh RC) has won every race of the season, though  Thomsons Cycles’ Cameron Mason will look to challenge him. The Under 16 boys category should provide some epic racing, some of the top youths in Scotland all competing, and that’s without series leader Calum Shackley (Glasgow Riderz) on the starting sheet. Strathclyde Park victor Conner Johnstone of Team Leslie Bikeshop will take on Joe Nally (Hardie Bikes), who won at Knockburn Loch and is sitting second in the series.

The elder of the Nally brothers, Conor, will be hoping to consolidate his series lead in the Junior boys category, however the appearance of Jamie Mason (West Lothian Clarion CC), who has beat Nally on every occasion this season, could shake things up. Brendan Roe looks set to make it five wins from five at Irvine, however he should be aware of the challenge faced by the returning Sandy Wallace (Sandy Wallace Cycles), and the home advantage for Robert Earp (Walkers Cycles)

In the women’s events, Senior series leader Maddy Robinson, riding for Velo Club Moulin, will aim for another clean run to the finish, having only been beaten once this season by the formidable Eileen Roe. Robinson will have to fend off attacks from second placed Lyndsey Carson of Thomsons Cycles and the extremely consistent Elizabeth Adams (Glasgow Green CC) who is currently third in the series table. Another rider looking to challenge Robinson while taking top spot in the Junior category will be Isla Short (Thomsons Cycles), having won on every occasion in the Ridley Cycles Scottish Cyclocross series, and edging closer to Robinson in the process. Short’s teammate Erika Allen will be challenging for position and also looking to make her mark on the senior women’s race. In the Veteran women’s category, the tireless Brenda Callander (Stirling Bike Club) is never off the top step of the podium, and a strong ride from her will seal the series. Anne Chisholm (Perth United) will be hoping that home advantage doesn’t play too strongly for Lorna Sloan (Walkers Cycles) who is closing Chisholm down for second in the series standings.

With a massive field of 72 entrants, the lunch time race at 12.30pm, will see the Veteran 40-49 men head onto the course for forty minutes of fiercely competitive racing. However, with some of the other series contenders missing, Gary McCrae (Team Leslie Bikeshop) will aim further cement a victory in the overall series standings. The remaining podium spots will be up for grabs, with any one of a number of racers all capable of getting a prize. Sandy Wallace’s John Woodrow is the highest placed in the series standings, third, however with the unpredictability of the course and the weather, the race could be turned on its head as riders attack, challenge and jostle for position.

In the final race of the day, close to sixty Senior men will have to do battle with the legendary Irvine course for a full hour of racing in the red zone. The main battle looks set to pan out between David Lines (MG-Maxifuel ProCycling) and Sean Clark, who duelled for the duration at Strathclyde Park with Lines coming out the eventual winner. These two men will have to be wary of getting too focussed on one another, with Roger Campbell-Crawford (Thomsons Cycles) the man to watch on a mountain bike friendly course and any one of a number of other riders strong enough to get their feet onto the podium.

With some 312 riders pre-entered across all categories, there will be some excellent racing as the Ridley Cycles Scottish Cyclocross series continues. Irvine, being the prequel to the Scottish Cyclocross Championships at Dunbar on the 8th of December, here riders will have a last chance to pit themselves against the competition and stretch their racing legs before the Championships.

Events begins at 9.30am at Irvine Beach Park, with racing continuing through to 2.45pm, with stalls and catering to keep racers and spectators entertained.