They say the Inuit (politically correct terminology) have 50 different words for snow but the Scots have at least that, and more, for all the different types of rain in this country.
Anyone out practicing on the West Ferry course on Saturday would have been forgiven for thinking that they’d set off on a completely different course as they left the timekeeper at the start of Sunday’s National 10-Mile Time Trial Championship. Saturday’s sun and summer temperatures had been replaced by the kind of rain that feels as if it’s hardly falling, but falls relentlessly nonetheless and kicks up the densest spray on the dual carriageway course.
With 120 riders set to contest the championship, and a very large number of unfortunates unable to get a ride, it was always going to be a popular event and the race HQ at Bishopton was fairly buzzing beforehand. We were due to have all the riders currently in form as well as a visiting world champion and, in Iain Grant, a defending champion who has rarely been seen this year racing in his new Fullarton Wheelers colours. In fact, it seemed strange to see both Grant and Tam Gordon racing in the yellow and black of the Ayrshire club and this was bound to play into the hands of Sandy Wallace Cycles in relation to the team prize.
Last year’s winner Lucy Coldwell (Holden) is currently winning tours in Australia and Tasmania so there was going to be a new champion on the podium this year and a good number of female riders had entered. With the women traditionally starting first we didn’t have too long to wait until we saw the first serious time and it came from Deeside Thistle’s Emily Middleditch who returned with a time that was just 20 seconds away from the 24-minute mark. This time would hold for almost twenty minutes until the in-form Toni McIntosh (Ayr Roads CC) bettered it by 18-seconds which was enough to eventually get her the bronze medal position.
Louise Borthwick (Project 51) and Claire Hamilton were not far away with a 24:44 and a 24:39 respectively but it was always going to come down to the recently crowned Olympic TT Champ Lynsey Curran (www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk) and the rider who’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric, Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International). And it shows the benefit of riding at a higher level as Archibald set off in determined style, disappearing into the spray as she headed out past Langbank. Two minutes later and Curran chased after her but Archibald had set her pace just right and came back in a time of 22:17 that would better Curran’s time by 65 seconds and take the title on home roads. It’s also worth noting that the Commonwealth Games athlete Laura Cluxton tackled the course on her tandem, this time piloted by Joe Cluxton, and returned a time of 24:58.
Next up it was the Juniors and with only eight riders ready to take on the course this prize would be decided quite quickly. There’ve been calls to have a proper junior category, complete with national title, incorporated into the senior event and with the breadth of talent coming through at this level it would seem to an excellent proposition. When the spray cleared it was last junior rider off, the multi-talented Andy Brown of Glasgow Cycle Team, who came back in a time of 21:32 to better his teammate Fraser Knox by 90 seconds. Had there been a junior women’s title it would have gone to another member of the successful Borthwick family, Emma riding for the Edinburgh Road Club.
And now the Men’s senior event got underway as the rain came and went…not in squalls as such but more in greater or lesser intensity, and at times it was difficult to make the riders out through the spray. With everyone braving such conditions we felt it was only right to be out on the course in the midst of it and we watched the riders as they came through the Langbank roundabout…a good opportunity to see them heading out and heading back.
First man away was David Baird of Walkers Cycling Club and he returned a respectable time of 22:50. Next to better that was Stephen Donaldson of Sandy Wallace Cycles and he was just over the 22-minute mark but that was soon to fall when Duncan Ewing (TheBicycleWorks) posted a 21:32. With only a couple of riders getting close this would hold for 40 minutes until Ewan Taylor of Velocity 44 posted 21:22. Peter Ettles came close to taking the lead back for Sandy Wallace Cycles but it was Robert Martin of Gala CC who eventually bettered it with a 21 dead.
Again this mark would hold for some time until Graeme Cockburn, now riding for Glasgow Nightingale, came home in 20:38 to be the first rider inside 21 minutes. With 80 riders now back with the timekeeper you would be forgiven for thinking that the times would fall rapidly but Cockburn had set a great time in the conditions and he would see it hold for another 30 minutes until Alan Thomson (Sandy Wallace Cycles) came back in 20:32.
Tam Gordon (Fullarton Wheelers) was next home but he finished 37 seconds behind Thomson so it was down to the next man, Harry Bulstrode of VC Edinburgh to get inside the time of the Sandy Wallace rider with an excellent 20:13. Next in were the sparring partners in the shape of Silas Goldsworthy (Sandy Wallace Cycles) and the recently crowned Olympic TT Champ Chris Smart of Paisley Velo but neither of them could better Bulstrode’s mark. Goldsworthy posted 20:42 and said afterwards that he’s getting over the frustrating year that he had in 2014 and is finding new motivation to train, aided by a shiny new Giant machine. Smart was just 2-seconds quicker and it was all down to the last three riders.
Ben Peacock (Billy Bilsland) was turning himself inside out on the final 900-yard drag from the Langbank roundabout and was trying to make up for an early ‘baulking’ at the same roundabout on the outward leg…by our estimate he easily lost about 10 seconds. This would prove decisive as he eventually finished in 20:33, just one second down on Thomson.
And now there was a gap where Arthur Doyle (www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk) should have been and we can only imagine it was a puncture out on course…a not unexpected occurrence on such a day. Having made our way back to the finish we waited for a sight of last man Grant to materialize out of the murk. The seconds ticked by and then he was there, back wheel spraying water like a jet-boat as he quickly closed the gap towards us. Someone said afterwards that Iain Grant looked as if he was hardly trying but this smooth style belies just how hard he’s pushing. As he came towards us there was a small moment when we wondered if he’d actually seen us especially as he brushed past so close we could see the look of determination in his eyes. He would seek us out back at the community centre to apologise as he was so focused on finishing. Standing talking us he was physically shaking with the cold and a number of the competitors said it was really hard going through the miserable conditions.
The time was up and Grant had posted a 19:58 to retain his title and set a fantastic time on such a difficult day. Back at Race HQ organizer John Davies called for a minute’s silence in honour of young Stuart Turvey from Sandy Wallace Cycles who died during the week. It was fitting then that the team prize went to the Sandy Wallace trio of Ettles, Goldworthy and Thomson. The Women’s prize was taken by the Ayr Roads pairing of Lynne Wardrop and Toni McIntosh. Then it was onto the prize giving for the individual positions and Iain Grant once again called for a round of thanks for all of the marshals and helpers who had made the day such a success. It will be interesting to see how the positions play out when we get to the 25.
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1 Iain Grant (Fullarton Wheelers) 19:58
2 Harry Bulstrode (Velo Club Edinburgh) 20:13
3 Alan Thomson (Sandy Wallace Cycles) 20:32
4 Benjamin Peacock (Billy Bilsland Cycles) 20:33
5 Graeme Cockburn (Glasgow Nightingale CC) 20:38
1 Katie Archibald (Pearl Izumi Sports Tours Int’l 22:17
2 Lynsey Curran (www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk) 23:22
3 Toni McIntosh (Ayr Roads CC) 24:02