Ferguson Beaches the Ridley Series Opposition.
Words: John McComisky.
Scottish Cyclocross, is not just about the racers pinning a number on, and giving it full chunder when the gun goes, it is also the behind the scenes course preparation and organisation that make the events what they are today.
In the most challenging of circumstances Neil Walker and his die-hard Walkers Cycling crew battled against every conceivable obstacle to put on what will be remembered as possibly the hardest event that many a cross rider can ever expect to clip in and take a splintering, battering in the dunes and climbs of the Irvine Beach Park venue.
With over 380 riders signed on and ready to battle in the most tempestuous of circumstances, Mother Nature well and truly spat he dummy out and puked rain, hail and gale force winds on all concerned for that duration of the third round of the Ridley Scottish Cyclocross Series.
The dunes and slick off-camber sections are normally a test of strength enough for any rider, but the sight of riders shot out by the wind and squalor riding gamely into the the gully of grimace, hunting to hold a wheel, forced some clever riding and a pack mentality that is very rare in a Cyclocross race.
While so many were flailing in the conditions, Scottish Cyclocross fans were treated to the oh so rare appearance of British Under 23 Cyclocross Champion Grant Ferguson (Brentjens), who lined up against series hot shoe Rab Wardell (Orange Monkey Pro Team), James McCallum (trainsharp.co.uk) and a glut of riders and fancied podium riders in the shape of the gritty Stevie Halsall (VC Moulin) as well as the young guns Callum MacGowan (Alpine Bikes) and Harry Johnston (Team Thomsons).
Ferguson, a World Class Mountain Bike rider, was more than happy to take to the sand, and a set of curly bars to give the series regulars a master-class in beaching the opposition in a fraught and trying trying race.
From the get go, he was joined by an on form Wardell, and the pair set about ripping the backside out of the race early on.
Wardell who was well aware that grabbing series points, would be key to his race, clung on limpet-like in the early laps until Ferguson decided to drop Wardell's anchor and ride solo in the latter part of the race to suck up not only his pursuers, but incredibly put in a lap to all but the remainder of the podium boys by the time the chequer came around.
Wardell rolled home in a safe second, ahead of Halsall, and a spirited ride from McCallum (Last weeks Doonside Trofee Winner), who was one of the first to admit the the boy Ferguson is simply on another level.
After the race Ferguson, despite shivering in the wind and rain gave his take on the race “ I have always really loved the sand sections of this course, even when I was a Junior, it is a hard event, but I really enjoy coming back to race in Scotland when my schedule allows” On the subject of racing in Scotland he had this to say “I would really like to take in more events (Scotland), and on a bigger scale had hoped to ride at the World Cup in Milton Keynes, but there is no class there for me, that is a real pity, but I may be able to catch a few more races up here and the odd National Trophy before the end of December, the racing up here is at a really good level now”
There was the usual ego bashing and chest puffing before the start of the Veteran Forty class, with all of the usual series riders on grid, as well as a welcome visit to the dunes from Kevin Ashbridge (V.C Cumbria) to add a little more seasoning to the ninety strong field.
After the usual scrap from the start, Paul McInally (Evans Cycles) managed a full on effort early doors to lead the main riders up the zig-zag climb, before the full affect of the omnipresent, heaving storm blew the pecking order to smithereens, and soon small cluster groups were forming all the way down the order.
Stevie Jackson (Glasgow United) is well worthy of merit for taking on the race and managed to batter his way to the front in the race in the early laps pursued by the combined efforts of the Leslie Bikes/Bikers Boutique squadron, Messrs: McCaffery, Porco, McCrae et al, these guys along with Colin Bain (EKRC) and an impressive Ashbridge would soon be hurling themselves, but not any abuse into the midfield flotsam of the race by the time that last lap bell came a clanging.
McCrae was first to falter after the last climb of the day when well positioned, and was seen sadly trying to unhinge his chain as the main group of five riders continued back into the brutally boisterous headwind and along the harsh foamy scab of sand before entering the arena. At the flag Ashbridge muscled out a win from a brave Jackson, who was running on empty at the line and a welcome podium from John McCaffery.
The Veteran Fifty Class again saw Brenden Roe (Leslie Bikes/Bikers Boutique) put the boot in early on, and gapped the thirty strong grid too fight among the dunes and headland for the final poduim places. Roe who is never content just racing the Veterans was soon keeping the best Juniors honest in the shape of West Lothian Clarion's Jamie Mason and Fifer Conor Nally (Hardie Bikes). Mason more than did himself justice taking his Junior first win of the year, along with Roe who has now a trio of victories to show for his efforts.
The very harsh nature of the race meant that there would be plenty of last gasp lunging and diving to the line as riders circulated together for much of the race, sussing out weakness and sucking in the sea haar. Closest podium of the day went to Graham McGarrity (Dooleys) who swooped in ahead of Bill Young (Leslie Bikes/Bikers Boutique) to grab second Veteran on the day.
The hardy Women of Scottish Cyclocross who were in and out of the sand parcour with the men, often had to work hard to avoid the traffic and try and set a race up for themselves. Anne Ewing (WV Breda) who confesses to not like technical courses was riding gamely with Isla Short (Team Thomsons) at the helm of the race with erstwhile stand in Commentator Maddie Robinson (VC Moulin) unable to bridge over to the duo, who played it tough in the ruts and climbs. Short was able to dispense with Ewing at race end with Robinson a solid third. The Veteran Wqomen class continues to hold no fear for Sian Tovey (Dooleys Cycles) who racked up her third win on the bounce from a very impressive ride from local Walkers racer Lorn Sloan.
Winning races and being at the top of the heap meant little to Isla on the day however, as she dedicated her win on the day to the unfortunate passing of one of East Kilbride Road Clubs finest John Gordon. I am sure all of you reading this will join in offering heartfelt condolence to the Gordon family at this time.
For some Great images and video of the racing just click the links.