The weather gods were in benevolent mood on Sunday as the crit’ season draws to an end for yet another year. Howard Park in Kilmarnock was the venue for Round 7 of the Scottish Power Series and Walkers Cycling had the place looking really sweet. Tapes were in place, a base had been set up just inside the gates and there was even the addition of a lovely little van that would have a successful day selling teas, coffees, soups and cupcakes.

Throw into the mix the appearance of a former World Champion and World Hour Record holder and we were ready to race.

First to take to the track were the D and E’s and what the youngest riders lack in tactical nous they more than make up for in outright effort. Some give everything from the whistle and then hang on until the end while others are just like the Duracell Bunny…they just go and go and sometimes don’t even notice that the race has finished.

The star of this first race was definitely Cormac McConville (East Kilbride RC) who led from start to finish and laid down a dominant display of race power. Taking second spot in the Boy’s D was Owen Moran (North Argyll CC) who rode the race with his jacket on but had determination written large on his face as he crossed the line. Third spot went to the always-consistent Oliver Kelly to give the Johnstone Jets their second podium spot of the day…with more to come.

In the Youth E Boys Adam Murray made it two for two for East Kilbride RC with Neal McShane of the Clydesdale Colts in second and Fraser Anderson of Glasgow Riderz in third.

In the Youth D Girls it was Isla McCutcheon on the top step for the Jets with Anna Reid of Stirling BC in second and another EKRC rider Fiona Hay in third. Great racing also from the D Girls with the win going to Ella Dickie from Eilish Gaffney.

Onto the Cat C Race and Callum Reid of Rock and Road Cycles, fresh from the hill climb the previous day, was in fighting mood. He tried and tried again to get away from the group but showing a maturity well beyond his years Fraser Gault (Ythan CC), the Scottish Power Series Leader, refused to be drawn. Attack after attack from Reid and Alexander Gibb (Edinburgh RC) as they tried to get away but by the final lap it was all together and Fraser Gault outpaced his rivals in the rush to the line.

Impressive as the win was, the real battle was the sprint for third between Gibb and Eva Young (Pedal Power RT) who had been up in the attacks throughout the race and narrowly missed the third spot by the width of a tyre. It meant that she easily took the win in the Girl’s C Category with Imani Pereira-James leading out the sprint for second from a determined Skye Donnelly (Glasgow Riderz) in third and Morven Yeomen (EKRC) in fourth.

The B Boys race was an exercise in control by Series leader Jack Cruden (Glasgow Riderz) as he easily matched any attacks made on his position. He played a waiting game, ever watchful, and left it to the sprint for the line where he was easily three bike length’s clear and able to celebrate in style. Fighting it out for second were Hamish MacLaren (Johnstone Jets) and Jamie Penny (Discovery Juniors) but the Jets rider had the edge and finished in second spot with Penny in third and the rest of the group hot on their wheels.

The Girls A and B races were run together and a group of four quickly established itself. The two A girls from the Jets, Gemma Penman and Series Leader Lusia Steele had Anna Shackley and Abby Stewart of the Glasgow Riderz along for company and they moved away from the field. Into the finishing straight and it was Penman who led out the sprint and held it to the line. Finishing a length behind was Abby Stewart who had the awareness to check under her arm to see if she was clear of Steele who was 5 metres back. Anna Shackley finished in fourth to take second spot in the B’s and Georgia Speake came home in third spot in the B race.

And now we were into the A Boys race and some excellent attacking. Rarer than a rare thing (according to his dad) Danny Mulholland (Johnstone Jets) went out on the attack with Lewis Martin, one of the strong contingent from the South West that had made the trip to Killie. They led the field for a considerable portion of the race before finally being reeled in by a very watchful bunch. Jonathan Hillbourne, Series Leader, was being very attentive as the South West riders were looking really strong. They’ve been riding in the English NW region races in big fields and the experience has proved a good one.

Unfortunately for Danny Mulholland any thoughts of the win went out as Tom Ashley went down at Turn 1 as the race was reaching its conclusion and Mulholland was brought down in his wake. This meant a bunch sprint for the win and Joe Reilly (Studio Velo) led out of the final turn and easily took the win. Fighting for second were Calum Shackley (Glasgow Riderz) and Lewis Gray (Peebles CC) who had met just the day before at the hill climb but this time it was Shackley who finished ahead with former escapee Lewis Martin coming home in fourth.

Tactical racing was the order of the day in the Women’s race with the Jets using their team to maximum effect. Sarah Bradford, riding her last race for the club and searching for points to get her Cat 2 licence, broke away early and set off on the long quest to lap the field. With her Jets teammates Lusia Steele and Gemma Penman running interference at the head of the bunch it was left to Dundee Thistle rider Rachel Crighton to break away in pursuit.

The time gap between Bradford and Crighton remained the same for most of the race but together they both gained on the field and Bradford caught and passed the main group. Crighton also latched onto the back of the bunch as the race reached its conclusion. First across the line, Bradford took a great win to celebrate moving to the senior ranks next year and a place on the new Jayden Team. With Janet Erskine (Ayr Roads CC) having spent too much time pulling the bunch along in pursuit of the lead pair she was taken in the sprint for third by a fresher Lusia Steele (albeit that this was her second race of the day). Also riding her second race the next rider home was Gemma Penman ahead of the Lyndsey Carson, the first of the Team Thomsons riders with her teammate Peggy Series just behind. The Thomsons riders admitted that they have to get better in their race tactics and Janet Erskine also re-examined how she’d run her race. Rachel Crighton finished just behind (in the same lap as Bradford) to take second and it was yet another impressive performance from her.

Onto the 4th Cat race and yet another event for Danny Mulholland but it would prove a race too far and halfway through he ended up having a nap on the grass, too exhausted to go any further. It was a fast race of attrition with a number of riders dangling off the back and riding their own races. It came down to a bunch sprint with Graham Watters of Synergy Cycles easily taking the win for the Auchterarder Team. Coming home in second place, and just as happy, was Adrian Dow (Road Club Cumbernauld and Kilysth) with Dieter Visser of Stirling BC in third spot.

And now we were onto the final race of the day, the E/1/2/3 and a rare appearance north of the border for Kieran Brady (Richardson-Trek RT). With not a lot happening down south, and points on offer, he had made the trip back to his native Scotland. He quickly established a race-winning break with Ryan Fenwick (Moda-Anon) and Jordon Doig (Pedal Power RT) who was sporting his mis-matched sock combo. These three moved steadily away from the field which was now separated into several groups.

Eventually, the attack would have to come and first to make the move was Fenwick who put in a spirited move on the back straight. Doig went after him bringing Brady on his wheel only to see the Richardsons rider counter attack and move away on his own. He put small amounts of time into the others each time around as they continually tried to get the other to work but inevitably all three lapped the field which by this time was having its own race.

Onto the finish and near-tragedy. As the riders crossed the line onto the last lap, and with Brady fast approaching the finish, a young child was seen to wander onto the course about 50-metres beyond the finish. Alarmed shouts from the spectators at the line and the child ran off, only to suddenly reappear 15 seconds later, and run right into the path of Marc Anderson (Loudoun RC). There was a sickening crack as bike and child collided at close to 30-mph but miraculously the toddler appeared to suffer no more than bruising and cuts. The rider was understandably shocked and was very concerned to see that the kid was okay…almost as shocked to find out that he was a DNF as he didn’t cross the line to finish the race.

Kieran Brady took a well-deserved win on what was a very classy performance. In the sprint for second, Fenwick held the inside line and forced Doig to come the long way around but the Pedal Power rider couldn’t overhaul him and Fenwick claimed second by a bike length. Jordon Doig will announce soon who he’ll be riding for next season.

It was a top day with some excellent performances and an all-round superbly run event put on by Walkers Cycling…it even had Neil Walker taking part in his first criterium for 15 years. An appearance by legendary Champion Graeme Obree to hand out the awards to the younger riders went down well with the parents, even if some of the kids didn’t know who he was.

The season isn’t done yet and the sun is shining…happy days!

Full gallery can be found here.