While a late change in venue from Musselburgh to Clydebank meant the Monarchs from the east were temporary tenants of the Titans in the west, there was much to cheer for the large contingent from the nominal home side in the latest round of the Scottish Power BMX Series.
Driving through two large rain showers to get to the track, and enduring a couple of brief hail showers waiting for racing to start, it was something of a relief to see the sun make an appearance just moments before the gate dropped on the very first moto. And save for one more short return to winter during one round, and a persistent stiff breeze, providing two tailwinds and two headwinds on the snaking course, it remained set fair.
Proceedings were opened by the Novice 9-10 category, with Vinny Murray, victor in the previous round, meeting his match in the shape of John Marshall, who finished first in all four races. Zane Aitchison rounded out the podium, but plaudits (and the perhaps the biggest cheers) were handed out to young Reuben Bill who, in the fourth and last race, made it up and over the steepest ramp with just the merest of shoves on the saddle.
What had been clear in the practice was that those in attendance, while knowing they were there to race, were enjoying flinging the bikes up and over the obstacles in their path. A chat with the Chief Commissaire revealed this to be an important qualifying event for bigger things, and yet despite this, even during the heat of battle, there was a jocularity to proceedings that shone through, with every rider getting vocal encouragement from those positioned around the tops of the berms.
Both the Novice, and the Female, 13-14 categories were figurative two-horse races, with slight mismatches in the actual ages. Callum Ballantyne triumphed in the former, though Joseph Haylor (competing in the 9-10 category in the previous round, but now an 11-12 rider) looked in each round like he might catch the leader over the final pump section. Robyn Paton, meanwhile, was untouchable in her heats, though Megan Higgins (another 11-12 rider) was given plenty of encouragement from her fellow Monarchs, a mixture of determination and enjoyment on her face throughout.
The Cruiser 45 field was larger, but in the end was dominated by Ian Archibald, coming out ahead of the chasing pack in each of the four races. David Lindsay assumed second place as his own, with Sean Boyle slotting into third. At least for the first three rounds, then in the fourth Lindsay met with calamity on the final bend, rolling in 7th and last, to give up his place on the second step, though he still managed to retain third overall.
The youngsters weren't to be outdone by the old guard when it came to determined racing, however. The Male 8 category saw Logan Taylor in imperious form, although Hakeem Vemmie (second) and Nathan Young (third) kept him honest, with Nathan seeing his challenge for overall second thwarted by a slip in the second race leading to a painful slump onto the grass before having an ice pack applied so he may sit in comfort once more.
The racing got faster, and the jumps higher (despite the high winds), as the day moved through the age categories, but it was also proving to be a day for rider domination. In the Male 10 category it was Finntan Doyle, sporting gold hubs, who ran out the winner in every race, ahead of the year younger Harrison Bell, and Eli Shearer, resplendent in black and yellow, taking second and third respectively. A year up in the Male 11 category and it was Daniel McCrory's turn to dominate (whilst also providing some of the most vertical manuals of the day), ahead of Daniel Kelly (second in all races bar one third place), and Austin Goldberg (whose consistency in three races allowed a blip of 7th place in one).
By the Male 16 category racing the pace was becoming frantic, but Louie Craig was the obvious class of the field, clearing doubles with apparent ease. Behind him Cameron Reid (a Male 12 rider) was just as in control of that second step, with Jack Baillie finding the right lines, often lower in the corners than his competitors, to wrap up third place.
And so onto the Championship Men, a mix of Seniors, Masters and Vets, with a field big enough to be split between two separate motos in each round. Those motos had all but one of the six first places taken by three men who wound up competing in the winner-takes-all final. Before all of that took place there was the small matter of a B Final, the win taken by Kenny Scullion, unmissable in shocking pink, ahead of Neil Morrison, in equally eye-catching yellow and purple, and David Goldberg, whose black and blue seemed positively sombre until you factored in the graffiti helmet.
So the scene was set for the last race of the day. Martin Ogden had just edged the three heats with two wins and a second place. Ian Archibald, of the host club Musselburgh Monarchs, had two seconds and a first, which matched moto points perfectly with Stewart Campbell's two firsts and a third. But all of that was to be forgotten. Ogden and Archibald matched each other out of the gate, manualling over the first double together. But Ogden had the inside line on the first bend, and sweeping round, then high, Archibald was forced even higher, and Campbell took the opportunity to get into second. However Archibald's legs proved stronger round the next bend, but the move into second was quite a distance behind Ogden. That ground got eaten up with a more efficient manual over the next set, and by the time they had exited the final corner Archibald had half a length of a lead. From there it was a straight sprint over the pump section, and Archibald managed to maintain his speed out of the corner, again making use of a faultlessly smooth manual technique, to open the gap out a length and a half, and take the win for the Monarchs. With Campbell, also from the east coast club, holding onto third it was something of a champagne moment for the men in blue and white.
Undoubtedly Musselburgh Monarchs would welcome the chance to host at their own track, but for the time being, given the results on the day, I'm sure they're more than happy with their second home.
Next up the series returns to Cumbernauld for Round 4 on the 17th of May.