It was the final Scottish National Championship of 2016 and the riders were ready to do battle one more time. The Meedies race at Lochore Meadows has a very unique feature: The Spiral of Doom!
The riders feed into a wide circle in an anti-clockwise direction, spiraling round and around into the very centre where a clever switchback sees them spinning out following the clock this time. They finally break free from the centrifugal forces and are thrown into the next section of the course. This feature is at its very best when the race has covered a few laps and riders are spread all around the many loops, travelling backwards and forwards as they spin in and then out of the spiral.
This year the weather has been excellent on Championship days but surely our good luck couldn’t hold? Well, not only did it come good, Paul Zarb (Scottish Cycling’s newest Regional Development Officer) and his team laid on quite possibly the best day of the year, and perfect weather for cyclocross. The sun was out, always a bonus, and was slanting low through the trees creating beautiful views and long shadows. The overnight frost was doggedly holding on in certain parts of the course and the grass was crunchy underfoot. The little rock garden proved to be quite slippy still and was taken out of the loop after the first couple of races. There were also two sets of monumentally high barrier hurdles (right on the money as checked by the Comms team) but one set was removed as per the technical regulations.
There was mud, and quite a lot of it, but as this course is predominantly grassy, the slippy stuff was quite fibrous and the course held up well despite some riders experiencing mech hanger issues caused by jamming gears. Apart from the spiral this is normally quite a featureless course, with no sand, climbs or fast twitchy downhills. It’s this very ‘sameness’ which makes it so relentless, with no where to recover apart from the short tarmac section…but this is where riders try to take, or recover, time. At the end of each race some riders had given their all, with at least one youngster seeing his breakfast again from the effort.
First up and it was the Under 8’s, riding for prizes and honour as this category doesn’t qualify for the championship. The first three girls covered the same number of laps of the 0.6km shortened course as the winning boys but it was Orla Burn (West Lothian Clarion CC) who took the win by 46 seconds over Effie McGhee (Glasgow Riderz) with Jenny Candlish finishing in third a further 47 seconds back.
In the Boys’ race Finn Crowther gave the host club (Meedies BC) their first win from Iain Rae (Royal Albert CC). Third spot went to Isaac Beard who had to fight for the podium and just managed to beat Harris Holmes by one second.
In the Under 12’s Females it was another commanding performance from the all-conquering Peebles CC with the Carrick-Anderson and McGorum clans fighting it out. Emily Carrick-Anderson came home clear of the field but it was another three-way battle for the remaining positions. Christina McGorum fought it out with Anna Reid (Stirling BC) and Katie Galloway (West Lothian Clarion CC) and with only the superb timekeeping from Mark Young being able to place the Peebles rider in second, the Stirling rider in third and the Clarion rider in fourth. This was a great race with 26 riders in total so this category looks good for the future.
Onto the Under 14’s and it was yet another quietly understated performance from Eva Young (Pedal Power RT) as she set about the task of taking the field apart. Wrapped up with a scarf around her face to ward off the cold she stretched her lead over Elena McGorum and finished 1:49 ahead after completing 4 laps of the 2.6km course. Coming home a further 20 seconds back in third spot was Eilidh Shaw of Stirling BC to claim the final podium position.
In the Boys’ race Callum Reid (Rock and Road), who seems to have stretched in height this year, was made to work for his title taking the win from a fast-finishing Corran Carrick-Anderson (Peebles CC) by a mere 6 seconds. Rounding out the podium it was another Peebles CC rider taking home a medal, this time in the shape of Callum Thornley.
In the Under 16’s Boys’ event there was a little controversy as Charlie Aldridge (Stirling BC) missed his call to the grid and ended up several rows back when the race got underway. He was soon close to the front and chasing the Leslie Bike Shop pairing of Jamie Johnston and Rory McGuire. This trio set about challenging each other as the race developed with first one leading then the others trying to break the elastic. Into the home straight for the final time and Aldridge made his move finally getting some daylight between the wheels but as we waited for the riders to come round the final bend it could have gone to almost any of them. In the end, Aldridge took the win with McGuire finishing close behind and Johnston just a little way down having pushed hard and just faded towards the end.
In the Girls’ race it was a more straightforward affair with Ishbel Strathdee (Edinburgh RC) steadily nipping seconds from her chasers and by the finish she had gained just over 20 seconds to take the title from Anna McGorum (Peebles CC) with Estelle Fuller (Edinburgh RC) taking third.
Next we had one of the most anticipated races of the day and following some discussions, and some comparative timing data from Mark Young, it was decided the Women riders would start ahead of the V50 Men, with the Junior Men setting off last. This proved to be excellent and the women were well away and not having to battle it out in the opening sections of the race.
Fully recovered from last year’s injuries, it was a superb performance from Isla Short (Novus-OMX Pro Team) to take the title once again. She didn’t have it all her own way though as Kerry MacPhee (Rock and Road) and Jane Barr (Velocity 44 Stirling) stuck with her from the start. She slowly began to eek out a lead with MacPhee and Barr taking it in turns to lead the chase. Eventually Barr began to lose a little ground but Short had it in the bag and produced yet another fine ride to finish the race and take the win by 28 seconds from MacPhee, with Barr a further 22 seconds behind to round out the podium.
In the Mens’ V50 we had one of the closest races of the day as Brendan Roe fought it out with his Dunfermline CC teammate Mick Nally. There was nothing to split this pairing throughout the six laps and over 40 minutes of racing and it came down to a sprint finish with Roe taking the final turn and dash to the line to get the win. Nally was second and then we waited over a minute to see Kenny Kentley (Velocity 44 Stirling) come home just ahead of Martin Ferry (Scotia CC) to claim the final medal.
In the Mens’ V60 Alexander McAllister (Ayr Roads CC) took a fine win ahead of Sandy Wallace (Fife Century RC) who managed to hold off Ronald Mill (Leslie BikeShop) to take silver, with Mill getting the Bronze.
In the Veteran Womens’ event Sian Tovey (www.Dooleys-Cycles.com) was forced onto another lap and easily took the title from Caroline Harvey (Edinburgh RC) with Janet Erskine getting Bronze to add another medal for Ayr Roads.
Also forced onto another lap it was the superb Brenda Callander (Stirling BC) who took the V50 Women’s title completing 6 laps of the course in 48:08 and claiming Gold. Grabbing the Silver was her teammate Elizabeth Clayton with Anne Chisholm (Perth United CC) taking Bronze.
With the Junior Females also mixed up in this race we saw another fine display of riding from Megan Wilkinson (Peebles CC) as she took the title over 5 laps in a time of 42:06. Finishing 1:33 down was Eleanor Strathdee (Edinburgh RC) to take Silver with Peebles CC rider Louisa Watt claiming Bronze.
Starting at the back and picking their way through the field were the Junior Men and it came down to a straight fight between Cameron Mason (Leslie BikeShop) and Sean Flynn (Edinburgh RC). Both riders have won big races this year and they set about leaving the rest of the field in their wake…although new signing for HMT by JLT Rapha Condor Struan Pryde did his best to keep them in sight.
But it was always a race between Mason and Flynn with the young Leslie BikeShop rider being the only one to bunny-hop the not inconsiderable hurdles. Timing it to perfection Mason attacked into the final lap and entered the in-field ahead of Flynn. Coming around the final bend he had time to sit up, check across the park to see where his opponent was, and salute the crowd as he took the title. Flynn finished just 15 seconds down but this was the biggest gap of the entire race where they had been separated by nothing more than a handful of seconds.
Talking to Cameron Mason after the race he hopes to gain selection to the Mountain bike Worlds next year and with performances like this he should be well on his way. Coming home in third was Pryde to add yet more medals to his trophy cabinet.
And now we had the hotly contested V40 Mens’ race with Stephen Jackson (Glasgow United CC) making his usual fast start. Not getting flustered he was tracked by Gary McCrae (Leslie BikeShop) who set about chasing him down and moving into the lead. There were several fast men in this field with Graeme Cross (SR Albannach) and Craig Hardie (www.Hardie-Bikes.com) ready to take the race to McCrae but in the end the Leslie BikeShop rider was in top form and no-one could get near him as he gained time all through the race.
Coming into the finishing in-field it was clear he had the race in the bag but ever-professional he powered all the way to the line only sitting up and taking the salutes in the final metres. Jackson finished 20 seconds down but he was chased home by a fast-finishing Cross to end on the podium.
Craig Hardie had promised a finish line wheelie if he won but finishing in 4th was possibly the worst spot as he later said and so we never got the wheelie, despite a number of calls from the spectators.
One final race of the day and it was the Open event with several big names vying for the title. Rab Wardell (Dirt School) was making a rare appearance as was James McCallum (One Pro Cycling). Davie Lines (Wheelbase Altura MGD) was in serious mood before the race and was in the zone and concentrating on the ride ahead. The one rider they all were focusing on though was the quiet medical student Harry Johnston (Leslie BikeShop) who has been in unbeatable form this year.
From the gun it was a battle for supremacy between Lines and Johnston with the younger rider faster on the straights initially and his Wheelbase opponent catching through the corners. Eventually, the elastic began to give a little and Johnston forged ahead. Staying in contention, Gary MacDonald (Hope Factory Racing), sporting the nattiest kneewarmers, was chasing in third but there was no catching the young rider from Rhu. The loudest noise though was when McCallum’s carbon rim let go with a sound like a gun shot and afterwards the One Pro Cycling rider claimed he was “just riding along.”
Eventually covering 9 laps of the course in a time of 57:53 the final Scottish National title of 2016 went to Harry Johnston with Davie Lines finishing second 1:22 back. Coming home in 3rd spot almost a further two minutes later, and popping a wheelie over the line, the Bronze medal went to MacDonald.
With the light fast-fading, and the cold beginning to seep into the bones all that was left was for the medals to be presented and for Jammie to give Harry Johnston a Yellow card for handing out a beating to his two more senior opponents.
With that everyone headed off from another superb event. The Spiral of Doom had looked fantastic and we only wish we could have some height to show it in all its glory. There’s a Strava film showing the unique trail but you’ll have to hunt around for that.
That’s all the championships done for this year but we hope to be back next year for another host of Scottish National Championships. We’ll see you then!”
Full results can be found here.