It was a pretty damp morning as the riders rolled away from Larbert High School on the neutralised section of the Scottish National Veterans Road Race Championship 2015…in fact this was a race that incorporated three different titles; the aforementioned Vets race, the SVTTA championship and the Tom Anderson Memorial.
Tom Anderson lost his life just a few short years ago in a cycling accident and it was fitting that the race which bears his name should also be chosen to as the national event, hosted by his beloved Falkirk RC.
As the riders passed the crossroads that marked the entry-point to the circuit, racing quickly got underway. A number of riders animated the front end as they came up the climb just outside Cowie and David Dalziel (Glasgow Nightingale CC) and Stuart MacGregor (Pro-Am RC) built a little gap. They were being chased by a strung-out bunch with James McPake of GJS Cruise Racing well to the fore.
Onto the long exposed, flat section at the beginning of lap 2 and the two escapees were holding a gap of 30 seconds. John Gartland (GJS Cruise Racing) had clipped off the front of the main bunch and Jason Roberts (Pro Vision Cycle Clothing) had got onto his wheel as they attempted to make contact with the lead pair.
Another lap around and as the lead four hit the climb it was clear that there had been a shake-up…the fourth rider was now Ricky Sutherland (Icarus Racing) with Gartland back in the main bunch. However, Rik Von Minted unshipped his chain at the bottom of the climb and it took him 20 seconds to get going again, adrenaline pumping as he started the long chase back. It would take him the best part of a lap to get back on terms but as they headed out of Cowie next time around he was back on.
They were being chased hard and GJS Cruise were attempting to get across to the break in the form of James McPake. Unfortunately, this is where the defining moment of the race happened. McPake broke a spoke and was quickly serviced by the service vehicle. He was chasing hard to get back, head down and trying to catch whatever shelter he could, when disaster struck. Service saw another rider in need of help and slowed but unfortunately McPake didn’t notice and went straight into the back of the van.
Coming across the accident shortly afterwards, it looked pretty nasty as there was a huge McPake-shaped dent in the back of the van and the fork blades on his bike had both snapped completely. The rider was on the ground being attended to by Paul Rennie (www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk), the guys from the service van and one of the motorcycle coms. Fortunately, he was conscious and coherent and was made as comfortable as possible while an ambulance and the race doctor were called.
Now it was a matter of time to try and square everything away before the race came round again but by the time the ambulance arrived, the race was less than half a mile away and the coms made the appropriate and correct decision to halt the event. There was no way the race could have passed safely and the five-man breakaway, Cameron Fisher (Glasgow Nightingale CC) having made the join, was quickly flagged to a halt. Only 36 seconds later, a fast-charging bunch was also brought to a standstill and most riders took the opportunity for a nature-break.
All in, it took about 15 minutes before the five could be released and to their credit they managed to survive almost a complete revolution of the circuit before being caught just before Cowie. It was the last lap and the bunch was charging but they may have stayed away if things had been different.
That’s racing though and as the spectators gathered near the finish line just outside Larbert it became clear that we were going to be treated to a bunch sprint…and what a sprint! The riders were spread right across the road as they charged to the finish. Graeme Cross (The BicycleWorks) looked to be ahead as he checked over his shoulder to see Ross Crook (Edinburgh RC) reeling him in. As they flashed across the line it wasn’t clear who had taken the win with both riders thinking it may have been the other. What was clear was that Gary McCrae (Leslie Bike Shop/Bikers Boutique) had finished in the bronze medal position but it would take a certain amount of discussion back at Race HQ before Graeme Cross was announced as the 2015 Scottish National Veteran RR Champion.
In the V50 category it also came down to the width of a tyre as Dominic Hines (VC Edinburgh) took the title ahead of racing legend Graeme McGarrity with Malcolm Dunlop in third making it two medals for the Edinburgh club.
Graeme Cross received the Tom Anderson trophy from Tom’s family and all that remained was to find out the condition of crash victim James McPake. Happily, he reported through social media that he was doing well and was convinced that, without his helmet, he wouldn’t be in such a good state. His bike on the other hand will need replaced but that’s an altogether different battle.
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