Words; John McComisky
Ridley Scottish Cyclocross Series Round Two.
After all the fervour and success of last weekend's Falkirk race, the Ridley Scottish Cyclocross Series moved westward to the the second round held in the parkland and gravelly trails of Strathclyde Park.
The event organisers at the East Kilbride Road Club, have modified the course over the last few years to accommodate the larger entries that cross is now experiencing, as well as adding some technical features with rooty adverse camber and every conceivable change of surface to challenge the great and the good of the sport.
With a healthy three hundred and fifty odd competitors signed on swiftly the race card would go very much to plan. The organisers, should be credited with having to deal with errant dog walkers on the morning of the race, as well as a few nasty prangs, the biggest of which involved a curious deer, who hoofed it's way onto the course and collected a rider in the process, a first and hopefully a last for Scottish Cyclocross.
The main Ridley Senior race saw last weeks victor Rab Wardell (Orange Monkey Pro Team) take to the grid, but he was without the likes of David Lines and James McCallum, both of whom had prior commitments at home and abroad. He would however have a bunch of young Scottish development talent more than able to roll him for his dough, and the seasoned Senior hordes who circulate the lowers steps of podiums and who will gasp and grab any opportunity of a win.
From the arena and start area, the clunk and scream of the omnipresent helter skelter and funfair gave way to the crack of the gun and Senior race blasted out into the lower end of the circuit. Wardell was soon grabbing the race by the throat, and had dispensed with the attentions of a very impressive Mark McGuire (Bicycles.com), Callum MacGowan (Alpine Bikes) and Steven Halsall (VC Moulin)
With the gap stretching out to fifteen seconds, the gurgling chat at the Railway Bridge run and ride up, was all about who would be finishing second, but by lap three Wardell seemed to be in some distress, and it was clear he had hit the deck smashing his shifter.
With now only two gears and no front disc brake, the character of the race looked set to change. Change it did, and for the better with regard to Wardell, he set about blowing the race apart and was soon gapping the field by over a minute.
McGuire who had been riding gamely, also had an altercation in the woodland section but was back on it battered and bloodied, but by race end he along with the rest of the young team had to give best to Halsall, a rider who is one of the most technically gifted riders in the sport up here, and simply revels in the ruts and roots of more traditional courses. The final step of the podium went to MacGowan, the young rider, has shown well in the first two Ridley events this season, and is one to look out for future success.
At race end Wardell had this to say about victory number two “There is never an easy Cyclocross race, it throws every variable at you, wether you are at the front or the back. After my crash, I just figured on getting the head down, I was getting good split information, and it worked, I don't know how the race would have went if Davie (Lines) and James (McCallum) has been in there, but am sure they will be back to keep me company at Irvine”.And quizzed on his plans for the year “I am hoping to fit as many cross races in this year, I will be away at the end of the year to Paris for track coaching, so will miss events, but I really do love getting up on a Sunday and heading to a race, the sport is growing here, there are more and more spectators staying on to watch the action, and it is a good scene, I think it is time I tried to get over to Belgium” he quipped.
The Veteran class is the biggest supported class we have here in Scotland, and the battle for even a series point further down the ranks, is of as much interest to the onlooker as the sharp end of the race itself.
Gary McCrae (Leslie Bikes/Bikers Boutique) was the man with the target on his back after drawing first blood on the plains of Callendar Park the week previous, but as the grid was forming amid the overhanging smell of frite fat wafting and hanging across the grid, he was well aware that the Glasgow United and it's three amigos James Melville, Hans Forhaug and Stevie Jackson would be cooking up a plan for him when the gun was triggered.
From the off, there was chaos at the bottom corner with McCrae entangled in a mess of riders, with this the United “Wrecking Ball” swung into action, and before long this trio had smashed down the ramparts of the race.
Jackson so often the nearly man of the Veteran class, was in powerful leg ripping form, and his Swedish Shadow Forhaug was more than happy to keep the pace high alongside him. Melville had to make do with consolidating third place, and despite a gutsy ride from McCrae, to charge back through the traffic, he was going to have to re-group for the sand dunes of Irvine beach in a couple of weeks time.
Off the podium but a spirited ride came in the shape of Colin Bain, the home club East Kilbride rider further changing the shape of the top positions in fifth place, and adding a new rider to watch for a possible podium in later events.
Onward to the Veteran Fifty Class and first round winner Brenden Roe (Leslie Bikes/Bikers Boutique) had the fastest pit crew in Scotland in the shape of British Women's Circuit Race Champion Eileen Roe who despite recovering from a bout of illness was on hand to keep her father on the right track, and also to keep an eye on her bike which he is using to great effect.
The classic motorcycle loving Fifer was trully revved up for this weeks race, and despite being run close the previous week, was soon ploughing his own furrow in the glore and leafy glades of the Strathclyde venue. In his wake came a strong ride from Malcolm Dunlop (VC Edinburgh) who continues to go about the job of trying to wrestle a race win out of the series. New to the Veteran Fifty this year Mark Barnett (Leslie Bikes/Bikers Boutique) scored a first podium of the year in third, and is sure to be a proverbial thorn in the side of the main players, Mark has won at Scottish as well as British level in mountain bke racing, and used this experience to good use in the more natural setting of the venue
The Women of Scottish Cross never fail to put on a fine show in the Ridley Series, and the scene was further bolstered by the addition of Jane Barr (Velocity44) and the return of Isla Short (Team Thomsons) who both joined the proceedings for the first time this year, the pairing would have an on form Anne Ewing (WV Breda), Kerry McPhee (Rock and Road) as well as 2013 Series overall winner Maddy Robinson (VC Moulin) to deal with however, and it was going to be a sort out for even a podium position.
The early laps saw the cruel mistress that is Cyclocross, deal a deflating blow to Ewing though who was out of the running with a puncture. Up front there was a cracking battle between Robinson and McPhee, with this pairing knocking lumps out of each other for the race win. Robinson showed that she is well and trully back on form after her energy sapping ride at the Three Peaks earlier in the year, and was able to ride Kerry off her wheel for her first win of the year. The diminutive Short had to make do with the final step on the podium, but is sure to take a race to the girls as the series unfolds and can never be discounted.
The Veteran Female class again saw a strong performance from Sian Tovey (Dooleys Cycles), who looks like she is going to be a tough skull to crack this year, and proved it again by rattling to her second win of the year.
The youthful exuberance of the Junior class, again saw the boys ride off the front of the eighty strong field, and control proceedings for the duration of the race. Where most of the entry were off and running, these guys are blasting up the climbs, carving out the turns as well descending with fullgas. You always have to double take at the lap times of these firebrands who are more than capable of taking a race to the Senior men. At the flag Pierce Somerville proved victorious on the day from Hardie Bikes rider Conner Nally.
While we are on the subject of young talent showing a strong presence in Scottish Cyclocross, a vote for rider of the day, should go to ConnerJohnstone (Leslie bike/Bikers Boutique), this lad is no quitter, and despite having to deal with punctures, a bike change and having to ride himself back into the race from sixth place only to puncture again on the run to the line, managed to snatch a fine win in the Youth Class, possibly his hardest day in the saddle to date.
The Ridley Scottish Cyclocross Series now takes a couple of weeks out before we head to Irvine and the nearest we get to Koksijde or Joksijde as the Cross fraternity name it up here. If you want to be part of the Dune race organised by Neil Walker and Walkers Cycling mob, you can get an entry here:
If however the last couple of lung burning series cross races have now, still got you wanting more of the same, the Doonbank Trofee, superbly promoted by the Ayr Roads Club have a new to the fixture list non series event this coming weekend details here,
These non series are the future of the sport up here, and need supporting.