The City of Discovery once again played host to a great edition of the Scottish National Cyclocross Championships, with thrilling, close fought racing the order of the day.
The showpiece Senior Men’s and Women’s races both came down to the final few corners, with racers in every category leaving it all out there on a physically demanding course that had evolved since the 2021 edition of these championships.
The Senior Women’s race had drama from start to finish, as younger sister Elena McGorum pushed the pace early on the first lap, gapping the field, whilst elder sister Anna dropped her chain having to stop and fix it before continuing. It wasn’t long before Elena was joined by her fellow MTBers Grace Inglis and Jane Barr at the head of the race, whilst Anna had embarked on a chase, passing riders left, right and centre as she made a speculative bid to re-join the battle for the medals.
Up at the sharp end the trio of McGorum, Inglis and Barr would swap places, Velocity 44 rider Barr doing the lion’s share of the work on the front, however as none of them wanted to take the wind lap after lap, the pace lulled, allowing Anna, who had already climbed into the top ten, and then top five, to get back to the front, setting up a four-way battle for the medals.
Inglis was the first to put in a meaningful attack on the long climb from the sand trap at the bottom of the course, and replicating that move on the final lap she would distance the younger of the two McGorums, and then Barr, setting up a head-to-head battle for gold. And whilst Inglis proved strongest on the climb, Anna would hang tough despite her race long chase back, and showed superior power on the flat to pull clear in the final few corners and take a memorable victory.
Afterwards Anna explained:
"It was probably one of my best races to date, to be honest. I had a really good start and then dropped my chain, which was a bit frustrating, but I never gave up and just kept pushing and gradually caught up time.
"I was feeling really good and thought I would test them [leading trio] and see where they are, so I did a couple of little attacks and gauge who could stick with me, and then I went for it on the last uphill and flat section and managed to get the gap."
Inglis would come home in second place, backing up the Scottish XC Mountain Bike title she took in August, with Barr bagging bronze.
The Senior Men’s race followed a similar pattern with a trio of leaders putting distance between themselves and the rest of the field, Gary Macdonald and Lewis Martin joined by Sam Chisholm early on lap two. That trio would stay together until past halfway, when injections of pace from Martin and Macdonald caused The Cycling Academy youngster Chisholm to fall away, but ultimately he was good for bronze in his first year in the age group.
That left Nevis Cycles’ Macdonald and Studio Velo’s Martin to attack each other, with McDonald eventually gapping his younger rival and holding a gap of around six seconds for well over a lap, before he’d be reeled back in. This happened again on the penultimate lap of the hour-long race, before Martin made contact once more and it was game on. Neither man then wanted to lead until the final couple of minutes of racing when they went shoulder to shoulder, vying for position into the final corners. Perhaps drawing on all of his experience, the elder statesman Macdonald held both his nerve, and his position at the front to race round the final corner into the short finishing straight, before sitting up and punching the air.
The final race played out amidst the infamous Dundee haar closing in, which only added to the atmosphere, a thrilling climax to a great day of racing.
Of the victory, a delighted Macdonald said:
"It feels amazing. I didn't think I was going to be do it this year, just with the way thing have been. But the last few weeks have been great, and I’ve managed to get some fitness and some strength. It feels amazing to be Scottish Champion, I'm 39 in two days’ time, so next year I'll be in the Vet 40s, so I'm chuffed to win it before I'm too old!"
In the Junior races Deeside Thistle’s Millie Thomson was a runaway winner in the Women’s contest, which was incorporated into the Senior Women’s race, with Isla Easto (Edinburgh RC) and Aileigh Easton (Discovery JCC) picking up the minor medals. Thomson rode over a lap without a functioning saddle, making her victory all the more impressive.
Meanwhile in the Junior Men’s race it was two horse race for a large part, Finn Mason of The Cycling Academy and Sam Barbour of SteppingStanes Youth CC to the fore, before the former pulled away to take victory by a handsome margin. Evan McKenzie (Rotor RT) would show incredible staying-power to pass long time third placer Milo McIntosh in the final half a lap to snatch bronze.
Of his Scottish title, Mason said:
“We had a battle ‘til about halfway, and then I made a move into the single-track section over the log and just ripped it all the way up the climb. This is the third National Champs I've won the year, and it's still as special as the first one - I wouldn't have been able to do this without the support of my coaches and the team."
The Veteran racing was just as thrilling, Davie Lines crashing on the first corner to go from first to last in the V40s, before enduring a race long chase to eventually overhaul Malcolm Bain and David Ogden to defend his title. Gary McCrae was good value for his win in the V50s, whilst Brendan Roe was a class above as he won yet another national title in the V60 Men’s. On the women’s side Sian Tovey took the spoils in the V40s, Anne Murray in the V50s and Fiona Paton in the V60s.
Earlier in the day Edinburgh RC’s Innes McDonald did what he did at the British National Trophy in Falkirk last month, showing everyone else a fresh pair of wheels to storm to U16 Boys victory, Gus Lawson of Pentland Racers following suit in the U14 Boys race. Deeside Thistle enjoyed further success in the U16 Girls race as Arabella Blackburn took top billing after a good battle with runner-up Daisy Wilkinson, whilst Blackburn’s teammate Olivia Poole took gold and the Scottish title in the U14’s, with Millie Boothman second and Ava Luce third. Victory in the U12 championship races went to Guy Rorke and Eilidh Dotchin respectively.
Thank you to organisers Keith Stocker and Martin Harris as well as the army of volunteers from Dundee, as well as the commissaires and all the racers for a brilliant day of cyclocross action.