If an uphill finish can be described as a sprint then Ross Birrell (Spokes RT) showed his junior counterparts how to do it, as he put in a fantastic finish to claim the Scottish National Junior Men’s Road Race title at the Battle of the Black Loch.
On a course that saw the riders head out from Slamannan and come back through the village five more times before finishing at the top of the Boxton Road climb on the opposite side of the course, it was a tough day of racing as the road racing season continues into the autumn months.
Heading south from Slamannan, the riders climbed up to Limerigg before turning left and along the top of the ridge on the road towards Avonbridge. The pace was hot, as early on several riders were shed from the main group not helped by the headwind that faced them after the climb through the finish line.
Lap two saw some notable moves - Callum Twelves (Team Ohten Aveas) got away, followed by Alan Dean of Edinburgh RC, but the bunch was not far behind and keeping a watchful eye. By the end of that lap however, what would turn out to be the overall race winning move, given seniors were also present in the race, went up the road, a strong trio of Gavin Dempster (Torvelo Racing), Angus Joshi (Edinburgh RC) and Jamie Mackenzie (META Bike Division) putting distance between themselves and the rest.
Each time up the finish climb the bunch threatened to splinter, but once into the headwind they would regroup, with the lead riders staying away, lap after lap. It looked as if the peloton was just letting them dangle out in front but there was actually a concerted effort to chase them down, Callum Thornley (Spokes RT) was putting in hard turns to bring the breakaway back into the fold, and ensuring nobody else was getting away, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
With that trio out front all seniors, it didn’t affect the outcome of the championship – Jamie Mackenzie having attacked on the final lap to come home a clear winner of the race outright, backing up his Scottish National Criterium Championship title – a fine debut season.
It wasn’t long before the bunch came charging into the finish, Ross Birrell leading the charge. Although he was passed by a couple of senior riders just before the line, he held on to take the junior title, just ahead of a fast-finishing Callum Twelves, with bronze going to Elijah Kwon (The Cycling Academy).
Huge thanks go to Matt Ball and The Cycling Academy for being wonderful hosts of the final Scottish Championship on the road this year, although we still have the mud of the Scottish National Cyclocross Championships at Camperdown Park, Dundee, to come