With the sound of cowbells still ringing in our ears, Ayr Burners rider Harry McGarvie shares his experience of Scotland's first ever National Trophy Cyclo-cross race in Irvine.
"The British National Trophy is the UK’s premier cyclocross series, and for years the races have stuck to the confines of England and Wales. This has meant that Scot’s looking to race in these prestigious events usually have to travel hours to compete – this had to change. A Scottish round of the series seems long overdue; Milton Keynes has hosted a World Cup so the next logical step was surely to bring the series north of the border.
The event has been in the planning for well over a year now – Scott Kerr and Brian McCutcheon of Walkers Cycling Club have worked tirelessly to make the event a success. And despite much speculation over field numbers and weather conditions, it turned out to be incredible. Throughout the weekend there was nothing but blue skies and fresh, sea air – a stark contrast to the test event; the Super Quaich round at Irvine, in February. Following the event the team responsible have received nothing but praise for their efforts, and most riders and spectators alike are already thinking ahead to next year!
The course itself was fast and challenging, featuring many slippery off-camber sections, tight box-turns, steep punchy climbs and most importantly, the feature Irvine is best known for – sand.
There were two fairly technical sandpits on the course; one was very fast with a tight left hand turn on the exit, and the other straightforward looking, but with two massive ruts on either side. This turned out to be the courses most challenging feature thanks to its alarming ability to send even the most technically gifted riders ‘over the bars’. These sections turned out to be a popular spectator point thanks to the increasing number of OTB incidents occurring as the ruts grew deeper. By Sunday’s races’ the two sandpits were lined with dozens of cheering (heckling) spectators, and it resembled a Belgian cyclocross race.
Saturday featured all of the Veteran races, which were very fast as was to be expected with the likes of Nick Craig, Scottish Veteran Road Race Champion Davie Lines and Paul Oldham – four time winner of the worlds hardest ‘cross race, the 3 Peaks competing. There were also several British and World Champion jerseys on display on Saturday. As to be expected it only got faster on Sunday as the course dried up and the Elite, Junior and Youth races took place. The elite womens race was dominated by Storey Racing, who swept the podium wit Ffion James coming out on top, ahead of teammates Beth Crumpton and Anna Kay. In the elite mens race Ian Field outsprinted Neon-Velo teammate Yorben Van Tichelt, who stayed clear of a large group including first place U23 Callum Macleod and Scottish favorite Cameron Mason.
I had been looking forward to the race for months as I live 15 minutes away from the course and train at Irvine Beachpark every weekend. This meant I had practiced the course more times than I can count – which may have only added to my nervous anticipation for the race. I knew I would be gridded somewhere in the second half of the 60 strong junior field, but was unlucky to be gridded on the very last row. However I was prepared for this to happen and was ready to bury myself to try and move up.
The starter gun fired and we’re off. I had a great start and managed to find the gaps, so I began to move up through the field. We arrived at the first sandpit and there’s a huge bottleneck, as everyone is gunning for the same racing line, but I made it through unscathed.
Once out the pace was high but I felt strong. However, I made a slight mistake on the trickiest off-camber, my wheel skiped and I slid out. I jumped straight back on though and settled back into a rhythm. Due to the fast nature of the bone-dry course the race mainly separated into large distinct groups, similar to a road race or crit. It was difficult to attack due to the slipstream effect gained off rivals, so our group remained together. I continued to feel strong until one lap remaining when I eventually popped and was spat out the back of the bunch, left to stare into the distance as my legs gave up on me. I managed to keep the pace high enough to avoid being overtaken by the rest of the field. The race was super tough and although I died a slow, painful death in the final lap I was happy with my mid-field finish.
The effort put into making the event something so special was incredible, and truly showed off Scottish Cycling and Ayrshire in a great light. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the wonderful event sponsors and army of volunteers who gave up their weekend. But now I’ve had enough of these dry races – bring on the mud!"
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