Words and images: The Press Room

Two superb rides by the 2015 Scottish Olympic TT Champions saw them retain their titles for this year over the very testing Tour of the Meldons circuit based on Eddleston in the Scottish Borders.

In the men’s race Chris Smart (GTR) came home over a minute ahead of the 2nd placed rider Kyle Gordon (Sandy Wallace Cycles) but in the women’s event it was a much closer call with Lynsey Curran ( running out the victor by a mere 14 seconds over Catriona Gunn (Sandy Wallace Cycles).

It’s often said that the mark of a good TT rider is their ability to pace themselves at the start of a long race and to maintain a smooth composure where other riders end up fighting the bike, the terrain and the wind. Both champions prove the rule with Chris Smart even taking the time to say hello as he went past at the top of the long, excruciating Shiplaw climb.

The course is beautiful, if you’re not actually riding it, and the wind was coming from a direction that saw it’s negative effects cancelled out by the topography. The riders are hardly out of the village of Eddleston before the left-hander which takes them onto the 2.5 mile climb of the Shiplaw…an ascent that twists and turns, hitting nasty little ramps before smoothing out, only to rear up again. The climb actually sheltered the riders from the northwesterly wind and once over the top it was running more or less behind them as they sped down the valley towards Blyth Bridge.

“It was a much nicer day than last year and the section towards the bottom end was really fast. The climb back over the Meldons was as tough as always but the work had been done on that run down. This finish always gets me and the extra little rise to the line is a killer.” Chris Smart

Climbing back over the Meldons again saw the riders tackling a relentless, undulating ascent before finally cresting the hill and coming back towards Eddleston on the tricky single-track descent, made more hazardous by frost damage on the road surface. Swinging back into the Barony Castle Hotel grounds the riders still had to climb passed the lamas next to the driveway before swinging first right and then left and the savage rise up to the top service area finish.

First rider to leave the starter was Jane Emslie of the host club Edinburgh RC, riding a road bike with aero bars. However, she was passed by her minuteman Amanda Tweedie (Velocity 44 Stirling), on her tt-bike, before the final rise of the Shiplaw and Tweedie would come home in 1:08:28. Next up was Claire Martin (Team 22) who had also opted for a road bike and she would finish in 1:11:16 to take the best rider on a road bike prize.

Hot on her heels was Team Jaden’s Sarah Bradford and her 1:09:55 won her the Junior Female title. In quick succession we had Christina Murray (Glasgow Green CC), Sonya Drummond (Dundee Thistle RC), Laura Nicolson (Moray Firth CC) and Ingrid Kidd (Angus Bike Chain) but the first of the big hitters was Catriona Gunn riding for Sandy Wallace Cycles who was looking strong and would finish in 1:05:45 to take the silver medal. Following her through was Mireille Captieux (Edinburgh RC) and her 1:06:48 was good enough for the final podium position.

Toni McIntosh (Ayr Roads CC) would come home in 4th spot while the second to last women rider to set off, Louise Borthwick (Edinburgh RC) would get passed before the top of the hill by the deceptively fast defending champion Lynsey Curran.

In the men’s race a couple of fast riders had been placed early in the order and the first rider to come through and finish inside the hour was Lewis Duff (Glasgow Couriers). His time of 59:56 was one of only 15 riders to break the hour but he wasn’t in the hot-seat for long as Jamie Kennedy (GTR) returned just over two minutes later in 59:06 despite a last-minute clothing issue. The GTR team (George Town Racing) is riding in plain skinsuits but Kennedy’s black colours contravened the regs’ and so he rode with his bibshorts over the top of a racing jersey leading to some laughs about leotards…

He wasn’t the only rider to fall foul of his clothing as Rob Friel (Pro Vision Cycle Clothing) wrapped an oversock around his pedal not long after the start and by the time it was free his race was over. Having only just reached the outskirts of the village he opted to chalk this one up to experience,

“I’m normally so careful when I’m racing mountain bikes and I’m meticulous about preparation. I’d borrowed a set of skin oversocks and everything was fine during the warm-up but I must have nicked them when I clipped in at the start. Before I’d even got to the other end of the village it was flapping about and then jammed on the pedal spindle and that was that.” Rob Friel

Alan Dean (ERC) was also an early starter and his 59:40 would see him fit between Duff and Kennedy until Andrew Underwood finished five minutes later in 58:50 to sit at the head of affairs. Next rider in under the hour was David Lines (Wheelbase/AlturaMGD) in 59:28. His is not a regular face at these sorts of events as he explained before the start:

“It’s not really my type of event but with the climbs I can use my power to try and take back some of the time I would normally lose to the fast tt-riders. Trying to fit training in for time trials is difficult and I think I’ve only had two hours on the tt bike this week.” David Lines

His time of 59:28 would see him just outside the top ten. Now we had a 15 minute wait as rider after rider came close to the hour but it was Wilson Renwick (Parentini Test Team) who would be the next to go under with 57:53 to ultimately take 6th overall. However, just behind him was the always-quick Jon Entwistle (Team JMC) in 57:25 and this would earn him 3rd spot and the Bronze. As always, before the times had been posted, Entwistle wasn’t sure how well he’d done and said he was looking forward to the 50 and 100 mile championships as they are more his distance.

Fighting up the final rise Edinburgh RC’s Calum Kennedy came home in 1:02:44 to take the Junior Male title.

Douglas Watson (Icarus Racing) wasn’t far behind Entwistle and his 57:43 would see him just off the podium in 4th. This was just one second ahead of Glasgow Cycle Team’s Andy Brown with Liam Beaty (Hawick CC), Tom Broadbent (Elgin CC), James Cusick ( and David Griffiths (Pro Vision Cycle Clothing) being the other riders to break the 60-minute mark.

Now it was down to Kyle Gordon to take the fight to the defending champion and he screamed his way up the final rise to the line coming home 10 seconds ahead of Entwistle in 57:15.

All eyes were on the left-hander and sure enough Chris Smart swept round to hit the last section. James Cusick, on his way back down, stopped to cheer Smart on and his time of 56:08 must surely be a new course record.

Chatting on the way back to the hall you would never think that he’d just smashed the field on what is undoubtedly a difficult and, at times, very technical course.

With the 10-Mile Championships coming up Chris Smart and Lynsey Curran will once again start as favourites and it would be a foolhardy person to bet against them. We’ll be there to bring you all the action and we can only hope that the monsoon conditions of last year stay well away this time.

Full results to follow.