On quite the most perfect day of the year so far weather-wise, we christened the new Fife Cycle Park with a host of new Scottish National Champions. In most cases, they were names already familiar to us as they already held titles in other disciplines.
In the men’s race, current National Road Champion Mark Robertson (ARMY Cycling Union) executed a perfect race to add the Circuit Race title to his palmares whereas Anna Fairweather (RT23) took the women’s title to compliment her National Hill Climb win. In the junior men it was the Spokes RT sensation of the year Dylan Hughes who triumphed while Team 22’s Anna Shackley added yet another win to her tally in the junior women.
We thought we’d made a mistake wearing shorts as we headed for Fife and plunged into the cold and mist around Harthill but coming down off the new Forth Crossing the sun made an appearance and by the time we’d come through Lochgelly and arrived at the brand new Fife Cycle Park it was shining brightly and there were happy faces all round.
The centre was officially opened during the week by Provost of Fife Jim Leishman, with Eileen Roe and Mark Beaumont in attendance, and this was the first Championship racing it had seen. Emma Broadhurst, Kirsteen Torrance and the team at Fife have done a marvelous job and the result is truly spectacular. The park straddles the summit of a small hill and uses the natural bowls at either end to mix up a variety of different possible courses and lengths. There’s shelter from the wind at some points with the clubhouse nestling in some trees and while it can be quite still there, yesterday there was a stiff breeze on the course itself…most noticeably affecting the uphill sections. And these would prove crucial in the races that followed.
In reverse order, starting with the final title event, the men were off and running with some likely candidates for the title. Gary McCrae (Leslie Bike Shop/Bikers Boutique) held the course record but that would fall several times during the day…firstly to the Dylan Hughes and then ultimately to Cameron Oliver in the junior event.
It was a fractuous race with several riders trying their hand. Andy Bruce (Leslie Bike Shop) was leading the bunch but he was still smiling so the pace couldn’t have been that hard. Other riders made attempts to shake things up with Moray Firth CC’s Lewis MacFarlane, Bioracer-Team Project Go’s Jason Roberts and Velocity 44’s Chris Main all making attempts to get things going.
Eventually the race would settle into a lead group of five; Mark Robertson, Kevin Barclay (Spokes RT), Gary McCrae, Ross Clark (Dooleys Cycles) and Andy Bruce being chased by a group of four, Jason Roberts, David Lines (Wheelbase Castelli MGD), Andy Brown (Metaltek Kuota RT) and Edinburgh Road Club’s Ross Crook.
Behind these two groups, the remains of the bunch continued to chase but with the headwind on the back of the circuit, they could make little impression.
The chase group was not working well and with internal attacks it became obvious that the lead five would stay away to the finish. The smart money was on Mark Robertson to win a sprint to the line but the ARMY rider had different ideas and made a break on the back straight, quickly gaining time and not looking back.
Ross Clark tried to get across and then Gary McCrae eventually left the group with Andy Bruce not working against his teammate. It was a superb performance and Mark Robertson had read the race perfectly. He had time to sit up and straighten his jersey before coming across the line on his own, with Gary McCrae off in the distance heading for second spot. Andy Bruce beat Ross Clark to the line and an obviously delighted Bruce celebrated as he crossed the line.
In the women’s race it was more straightforward…at least to begin with. The strong riders looked to be Anna Fairweather and Helen Wyld (Edinburgh RC) with Wyld making up ground easily in the turns and Fairweather coming back on the climbs. But the pace was on and Fairweather took advantage on one of the climbs to distance the Edinburgh rider, taking Gemma Penman (Glasgow CT) and Anna Shackley with her.
This was a formidable trio with all riders working but Fairweather was keen to push it on and make sure Wyld wouldn’t come back. The Edinburgh rider had decided that her chances had gone so she fell into the role of domestique and worked with her teammate Estelle Fuller. If it came to a sprint, the smart money was on Penman with her track experience but Fairweather either knew this too or had other ideas. She attacked the last time up the back straight and it looked like she’d managed to distance the Glasgow rider but coming up the hill to finish they were sprinting it out on either side of the track.
Fairweather wanted this win and managed to hold on, her face twisting in delight as she realized she’d won. “I worked harder for that win than any I can ever remember,” she said.
Penman took silver and Anna Shackley cruised in with some lapped riders to take third and win the junior title in the process. The sprint was on though with Estelle Fuller taking on Team 22’s Abby Stewart for the silver and bronze medal positions in the junior race. Fuller had come off Wyld’s wheel 300m out and the two juniors were sprinting it out while Wyld had a grandstand seat to watch the action. The ERC rider narrowly won the sprint with a delighted Wyld coming home next…and claiming the Bronze in the senior event.
The preceding race had been the Junior Men’s with a strong field featuring another powerful turn out by Spokes RT and Glasgow CT. Cameron Oliver (Glasgow CT) would drive the field early on with Morgan Bown (Spokes RT) and the Edinburgh Road Club duo of Logan Maclean and Christopher Hordon helping to shake it up. Cameron Mason was there for Leslie Bike Shop and Jamie Penny and Matti Dobbins (Glasgow CT) were also looking strong. Eventually a small break formed and then Dylan Hughes simply stretched his legs and rode away from the bunch. He made it to the group and more or less rode straight through them with only Logan Maclean being able to put up any resistance and continue to chase.
It was another easy victory for Hughes with the Spokes rider able to sit up and celebrate some 300m out. Maclean appeared up the hill to claim second with Scott Howieson making it two Spokes riders on the podium.
It’s in the Youth races where we see the transition from everyone going flat out in the younger events to the beginnings of tactical positioning in the under 16’s. Squadra Scozzese was well represented and their lime green kit certainly stands out. The West Lothian Clarion was also there with EKRC and the ERC also well represented. Leslie Bike Shop had Rory McGuire and he would almost pull off a blistering attack but it ended in a wipe out around one of the fast curves…skin lost but no real harm done.
Surrounded by the ever-stretching riders of Squadra Scozzese was the diminutive cross-border reiver Adam Mitchell (Sportcity Velo) and it was this rider who would triumph on the day. Several riders attempted to get away, either in small groups or in pairs or simply alone. Kyle Thomas (ERC) and Daniel Kain (Squadra Scozzese) tried as did Rory McGuire, Ross Birrell (ERC) and Daniel Kain once again.
Eventually though, crouched low over his bars, Adam Mitchell chose his moment and broke away with Aaron King (Squadra Scozzese) chasing and then looking to his teammate Oscar Onley for help. It all came back together but the damage had been done and Kain was trailing off the back and wouldn’t get on again.
The attack of McGuire came to nothing when he skidded out but he was back on again and made it to the finish. Altogether for the bunch as they headed towards the final sprint and as they appeared over the brow it was King and Callum Reid (Squadra Scozzese) sprinting side by side. But they weren’t alone and in the middle of the track Adam Mitchell had his head down and was going for it,
Towards the line he began to pull clear as King moved just ahead of Reid and five meters out the Scozzese riders knew they had been beaten. Mitchell took Gold by a bike length from King with Reid holding on for Bronze.
In the Girl’s race, the Youth A and B’s were run together and once again it looked as if Eva Young (Pedal Power RT) and Imani Pereira-James (East Kilbride RC) would battle it out for supremacy, albeit they’re in different categories.
The riders were not hanging around with Anna Flynn (ERC) and Eva Young stretching the field as some riders began to lose contact. The main bunch was intact though but it slowly began to split into several groups with the lead group made up with quite a few Youth B riders such as Pereira-James and her teammate Morven Yeoman and Eilidh Shaw from Stirling BC.
The lead group was slowly being whittled down and as the race drew to a conclusion it was comprised of Flynn, Pereira-James, Yeoman, Young and Iona Moir (Welwyn Wheelers CC). Flynn made a strong move on the back of the circuit but as the riders came over the brow of the finishing straight it was a straight fight between Imani Pereira-James and Eva Young, both riders sprinting side by side. Both riders had gritted teeth but Young had just enough to hold off the younger rider with Anna Flynn just behind this pair to finish third overall and second in the Youth A category.
Iona Moir claimed the final podium spot in the Youth A’s with Morven Yeoman taking silver in the Youth B and Kirsty Johnson (ERC) taking Bronze from the bunch. Exciting racing from this mixed group.
In the Youth B Boys, they were racing from the whistle and it eventually settled down with the ERC pairing of Alfie Atterton and Archie Ellen teamed with East Kilbride RC’s Finn McHenry. This trio would dominate the field but it was Archie Ellen who would eventually leave the others and solo to a fine win 20 seconds ahead of his teammate Atterton. He finished another 13 seconds ahead of McHenry to take silver while the EKRC rider claimed Bronze.
In the Youth C the Boys and Girls were run at the same time with the usual tactic of one large group being continuously clipped as riders began to fall away and chase on their own. Even in this category riders were watching each other even if they didn’t always make best use of race tactics. Once again it came down to a sprint on that final hill with ERC’s Luis Ryder up against Deeside Thistle’s Eliot Rowe.
Oliver Kelly was also there for Johnstone Wheelers but was momentarily distracted as his teammate Isla McCutcheon crashed heavily as she raced towards the line. The fight was between Ryder and Rowe with the Edinburgh rider just taking the win by a wheel and Kelly following Rowe in to claim third.
It was a shame for Isla McCutcheon as she was on for the win but that’s racing and the other girls came past with Mollie Evans (Grampian Tigers) coming home in first spot with Millie Thomson (Deeside Thistle) and Rudie Shearer (Edinburgh Road Club) claiming second and third respectively. Isla McCutcheon looked to have a nasty scrape to her chin and knees but we wish her well and there’s always next year…she’ll be back!
And so ended a fantastic day at the new Fife Cycle Park. We’ll be at Forfar for the Scottish National 25 Mile TT Championships next week and we can only hope that Dundee Thistle RC has the same influence with the weather…sun cream ready!