On a day of sun and strong winds, with speeds touching 45mph but plummeting to 15mph, it was yet another quiet man of Scottish Time Trialing, Alan Thomson, who took the top step of the podium to win the Scottish National 50-Mile Championship. In the women’s race, a new name on the Team Thomsons Cycles roster, Catriona Gunn, took a superb win ahead of favourites Lynsey Curran and Toni McIntosh.
Heading into Lewis Grassic Gibbons country we were pleasantly surprised to see the sun shining and there was a very relaxed atmosphere around the village hall in Fordoun. It’s an area of big landscapes and lush colours but once again the main feature of the day was the weather…this time though it was the wind rather than the rain.
Out to the right hand turn on the road to Fettercairn, we just had time to set up before the first rider came through the junction. This is a course based around the A90 and it starts at the layby just outside the village, heads north for just under a mile before turning off the dual carriageway and doubling back on itself. It then heads off towards Fettercairn in order to get a few miles out of the way before returning along the same road and rejoining the main highway towards Stonehaven.
This would be the tailwind section and some riders were hitting very high speeds. Of course, there’s always a price to pay and the route eventually left the carriageway and rejoined heading south…right into the face of the strong, blustery headwind. What a grind as the riders fought this wind for the next 20 miles before eventually turning back to head north again and finish at the same start/finish point.
There was good representation from the northern clubs like Deeside Thistle and the Ythan, Elgin CC and Granite City CC but it was also nice to see that the weather, and the chance of a medal, had brought riders from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ayrshire, Peebles and Kelso all the way to Fordoun and this makes a pleasant change for the clubs that normally have to travel south.
The wind was having an effect and while most of the women riders were posting times anywhere between 2:12:17 and 2:27:10 the first rider to come in under the 2:10:00 mark was Catriona Gunn riding in a white skinsuit but representing Team Thomsons Cycles with a 2:08:48. This was a phenomenally good time and took the national title from the riders that started behind her. Next in was Toni McIntosh who also got under the 2:10:00 mark with a 2:09:57 and she was closely followed by Lynsey Curran with a 2:09:18.
This settled the woman’s podium and for all three riders to finish within 69 seconds after 50 miles was exceptionally close. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Catriona and of course, two more fine performances by Lynsey and Toni. In fact, Toni McIntosh collected her medal, made up a little doggy bag of food for the journey south and headed off to complete a full shift at work but we just heard that she was hit by a car on Monday morning and now has a broken collarbone. Get well soon Toni!
Onto the men’s race and we saw more aggressive cornering through the Fettercairn junction. The road had dried and some riders were trying to keep their rhythm as they powered away towards the first turn. One rider lost his bidon as it rolled off the bars through the turn but we were ready on the way back in TdF feedzone-style and he lost no time at all. This corner also saw the end to some riders’ races as one mistook it for the turn and did a 180˚ before heading north again and another, Craig McGowan (Pedal Power), rolled to a halt on the way back, just not feeling it in his legs.
Last man through this junction was Iain Grant (Fullarton Wheelers CC) and he was riding in his usual determined fashion. We passed him again on the run north and there was nothing to suggest that he might end up as a non-finisher. In fact, speaking to Iain afterwards he said he was feeling good but he got a sudden spike in his heart rate and decided that discretion was the better part. He took nothing away from the eventual winner and said that if you have to lose to anyone then it would be the man that rode a perfect race to win by a margin of 2 minutes and three seconds.
Alan Thomson (Sandy Wallace Cycles) has been on the podium at so many races over the last couple of years so it was perfect to see him take the title on what was described by many as challenging conditions. We spoke to him as he came into the hall, eyes still rimmed with salt, and he had no idea at that point that he’d won. He said,
“That was hard, one of the hardest races I’ve done. The wind was just relentless on the run south. You could be doing 27 mph and suddenly the wind would gust and you’d be down to 18 mph and having to put the effort in again and again to get back to the right rhythm.”
Surprise was the name of the game. Speaking to Callum Finlayson (Moray Firth CC) moments before he had no idea that Iain Grant had DNF’d and he was in with a chance of a podium place,
“Don’t say that…I knew I was going well but a podium? That would be great!”
He was covered in salt, literally covered, his blue Impsport skinsuit turned almost white by the effort. He’s been advised to take extra salt to stave off cramps so, “I put it in my water bottle and I put it on my porridge this morning. And now look at me but I never cramped!”
Callum’s time of 1:52:31 was also two minutes ahead of the bronze medal position that suitably was taken by another rider from a northern club. Tom Broadbent (Elgin CC) has looked fast and smooth all the way around and returned in a time of 1:54:16 and he was super happy, especially as he’s taken the final spot from Mark Skilling (Icarus Racing) by just one second. In fact, the top-ten riders had all finished within five minutes and a handful of seconds of each other and it was a 50/50 split between north and south…if you count Inverkeithing as north.
The men’s team prize was taken by Sandy Wallace Cycles and the women’s by Ayr Roads CC and it worth mentioning that while there was no Junior prize the special award went to the only junior in the field Jordan Stronach of Spokes Cycling Team.
It was a superb running of a long distance TT and bodes well for the 100-mile title which is run on the same course, with the riders tackling it twice…it will be savage if the wind is blowing and it will be interesting to see just how much salt Alan Thomson and Callum Finlayson will be able to expel.
Lastly, and just before the prize giving, there was a round of applause for Janette Hazlett who has decided to step back from her role as Events Officer at Scottish Cycling. We wish her well and bet she’ll still be helping out at future races.
Full gallery can be found by clicking here.
Women’s Top Ten:
1/ Catriona Gunn (Team Thomsons Cycles) 02:08:48
2/ Lynsey Curran (www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk) 02:09:18
3/ Toni McIntosh (Ayr Roads CC) 02:09:57
4/ Lynne Wardrop (Ayr Roads CC) 02:12:17
5/ Kirsty Anderson (Billy Bilsland Cycles) 02:12:41
6/ Janet Erskine (Ayr Roads CC) 02:15:34
7/ Emily Middleditch (Deeside Thistle CC) 02:17:00
8/ Sandra Tulloch (Leslie Bike Shop/Bikers Boutique) 02:22:54
9/ Jacqueline Laing (Deeside Thistle CC) 02:24:19
10/ Aileen Clyde (Fullarton Wheelers CC) 02:27:10
Men’s Top Ten:
1/ Alan Thomson (Sandy Wallace Cycles) 01:50:28
2/ Callum Finlayson (Moray Firth CC) 01:52:31
3/ Tom Broadbent (Elgin CC) 01:54:16
4/ Mark Skilling (Icarus Racing) 01:54:17
5/ James Cusick (www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk) 01:54:26
6/ Edward Addis (Peebles CC) 01:54:46
7/ Philip Kelman (Deeside Thistle CC) 01:55:00
8/ Alan Holmes (Paisley Velo RT) 01:55:09
9/ Kenneth Armstrong (Ayr Roads CC) 01:55:19
10/ Keith Robertson (Granite City RT) 01:55:39