Last Ride of The Highwayman

Words and images: The Press Room

It was the 50th and last ever running of what’s often been called ‘the toughest one-day race in Scotland’…the Davie Bell Memorial road race, hosted by Ayr Roads CC and it had been specially chosen to include the 2015 Scottish National Road Race Championships.

The Ayrshire Alps climbs of the past may have faded into the distance, along with the Girvan Three-Day, but the circuit based around the foot of the Doon Valley still throws up some seriously challenging terrain…especially when the wind blows. And this last edition of the popular race turned into a classic.

First up it was the women’s turn to tackle three laps of the 17-mile circuit and the heavy overnight downpour had turned to intermittent blustery showers. The women’s race definitely saw the worst of the weather but the common factor of the day was the wind…which was coming in off the coast and swirling around as the riders made their way out of Alloway and off down the coast. We say down but mostly they were riding uphill away from the Heads of Ayr, past Craig Tara Caravan Park and on through Dunure, down (or is that up?) the Electic Brae and on past Croy before finally making the turn inland towards Maybole.

Away from the wind they then made another left to take a shortcut onto the Alloway Road and head back to town with a decent dip down to Culroy Bridge and a short, sharp climb back out. Into Alloway and across the line before circling left and heading out for a second time.

The bunch stayed together for the first lap with only three riders off the back, one of them being Sarah Bradford of the Johnstone Jets who is stepping up to senior level and is going to try her hand at being a fulltime racer. She’d lost her water bottle (a common feature over the day as some sections of the road surface were just patches upon patches) and was suffering a bit.

Next time down the coast and Lorna Ferguson of Glasgow Green CC was forcing the pace with Seonaid Thompson of Albarosa CC hot on her heels. The others though weren’t far behind and by the time the riders headed out of Alloway on the final lap, the selection had been made.

Up front it was a group of four containing Chloe Fraser (Team Rytger), Julie Erskine (IKON-Mazda), Jane Barr (Velocity 44) and recent winner of the Sharon Argue Memorial, Lynsey Curran ( They were being chased by another three riders with Thompson, Ferguson and Ashleigh Fraser (Deeside Thistle) doing their best to bridge the gap.

It was not to be and as we waited to see who would appear at the end of the finishing straight it could have been any one of the four. Julie Erskine had been second twice before and Jane Barr was the defending champion but somehow it seemed right that the rider who had broken away and was heading for victory was Chloe Fraser who is coming back from an injury-hit season. She crossed the line with obvious delight and was chased home by Julie Erskine who had to settle for a hat-trick of seconds. Playing the sprinter’s card perfectly Jane Barr came around Curran and took the final podium spot in a hard fought finish.

Ashleigh Fraser and Lorna Ferguson had left Seonaid Thompson in the run-in and despite a spirited fight from Lorna it was Ashleigh who powered to the line first with Seonaid coming home on her own later.

The winners were whipped off to the pavilion for the prize ceremony and then it was onto the men’s event.

As the men readied themselves to head out on the first of their five laps the rain hit heavily but by the time they came up the sequence of climbs the sun was making an appearance. The riders though were sticking together with only a couple of skirmishes off the front and most still had their gilets and warmers on as they got a look at the course before starting any fireworks.

Second time around and a group of twelve was clear and the riders were just starting to discard their extra layers. This group contained the two Neon-Velo riders Steven Lawley and Peter Murdoch as well as the rider who would eventually claim the second spot overall and the under 23 prize, Jack Barrett of Team Moda-Anon.

As the riders came down the back of the course on the third circuit running towards Culroy Bridge the lead group was largely unchanged and had a gap of approximately 75 seconds over a strong following chase pack containing Craig Wallace of Zirauna-Infisport and defending champion Evan Oliphant of Raleigh GAC. Scott McCrossan of Paisley Velo RT and David Lines of Velosure Starley Primal were also present but some riders had slipped out the back and were soon to come into the grip of the main bunch which was losing time to the lead groups on each circuit. By the end of the race what was left of the main group came home some 9-minutes back with sprints for honour only.

It was looking like the lead group had made the decisive coming-together and as they came through Culroy for a fourth and penultimate time it was down to 7 riders: Jack Richards (Deeside Thistle CC), Jack Barrett, Ruari Grant (Velo Club Edinburgh), Steven Lawley, Peter Murdoch, Peter Anderson (The Racers) and Sean Noon of Spokes RT. They were being tracked by the second group of Wallace, Oliphant and Lines but there was a large deficit to be reduced.

Final time out on the circuit and Oliphant and Wallace had made the junction but on the uphill section before the Electric Brae it was Steven Lawley who took the bit between his teeth and made a break for home. He just seemed to climb away from his former companions and with Murdoch watching the wheels the gap began to grow. The last lap seemed to go by really quickly and in no time Lawley was making his way up the finishing straight to take a hugely popular win in front of large crowd that was lining both sides of the road. One minute 54 seconds later Barrett, Oliphant, Kieran Brady (Richardsons-Trek RT), Anderson, Noon, Murdoch and Wallace fought out the sprint for second with the win going to the Moda-Anon rider on this occasion and last year’s winner Oliphant in third.

The rest of the field would come home in small groups over the next 30-minutes or so with sporadic but spirited sprinting for the minor placings.

Everyone agreed that it had been a hard race but an excellent credit to the memory of the man in who’s name it had been run for 50 years. The Highwayman may have gone but he’d have appreciated this year’s event over some of his favourite roads and he’d have recognised in Steven Lawley and Chloe Fraser worthy winners…you never know, maybe The Highwayman will ride again some day.

2015 Champions



Name: Steven Lawley (31)

Team: Neon-Velo Cycling Team

Home town: Hamilton, Lanarkshire



Name: Chloe Fraser (21)

Team: Team Rytger

Home town: Dingwall, Ross-Shire



Name: Rosa Martin (16)

Team: PH-MAS VCUK Women's Cycling Team

Home town: Preston, Lancashire 


Top 5 Results – MEN







Steven Lawley

Neon-Velo Cycling Team

Hamilton, Lanarkshire


Jack Barrett

Team Moda-Anon

Kingussie, Inverness Shire


Evan Oliphant

Raleigh GAC

Tranent, East Lothian


Kieran Brady

Richardsons-Trek RT

Ely, Cambridgeshire


Peter Anderson

The Racers

Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire


Top 5 Results – WOMEN







Chloe Fraser

Team Rytger

Dingwall, Ross-Shire


Julie Erskine

IKON - Mazda



Jane Barr

Velocity 44 Stirling



Lynsey Curran



Ashleigh Fraser

Deeside Thistle CC

Alford, Aberdeenshire


Top 5 Results – JUNIOR WOMEN






Rosa Martin

PH-MAS VCUK Womens Cycling Team

Preston, Lancashire 


Lulu Bartlett

The Racers



Emma Borthwick

Edinburgh RC



Sarah Bradford

Johnstone Wheelers Cycling Club

Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire




FULL Results can be found here

For more information on Scottish Cycling National Championships please visit