Words: Eric Easton
Photo: Peter JG Smith
The Linesman still first on the line.
The Raleigh Scottish Cyclocross Series kicked off under the usual azure blue skies of Falkirk at the Callendar Park Amphitheatre of ’cross - surely Scotland’s best and most “cross” course. A mixture of fast descents, off camber corners, steep stairs and slidey zig zags makes this a fast and exciting course with plenty of technical challenge. Conditions looked dry but the course was slippier than it looked and most riders dropped their tyre pressures after practice.
Davy Lines’ (Velosure Starley) recent ill health hasn’t seemed to have dampened his appetite for winning. On his home course and in his own race, the fireman from Falkirk romped away from a quality field to record his first win of the season and into the lead in the senior Men’s series. He established an early gap which had stretched to 17 seconds by the half way point. The chasers, Gary McDonald, Mike Nicholson, Alan Clark and Sean Clark, managed to hold his lead for a few laps but couldn’t eat into it despite working well together. Sean Clark soon dropped out of the chasing bunch after losing his chain. In the closing laps, Davy seemed to push on harder and was still driving on when he took the bell. Gary McDonald slipped backward such was the relentless pace of the chase though they never looked like catching Lines. Mike Nicholson (Dooley’s) sprinted for second from Alan Clark (Velocity).
Women’s racing is increasingly popular and there were large fields in both senior women’s and vet women’s categories. Jane Barr came to Callendar Park with some good results in her legs and fresh from taking first women in the Battle of Balloch Castle last week and she was certainly a strong favourite in this first series event. However, Anne Ewing was on fire and quickly set about making her way to the front of the race and staying there. She was pushed hard by an extremely strong-and-getting-stronger Lucy Grant all the way with only three seconds between first and second. Jane Barr finished third 43 secs down chased in by Isla Short who looks to be recovering well from her recent injuries and finished a strong fourth. First female vet was Brenda Callender, from Elizabeth Clayton and Janet Erskine.
The 50+ category also had a massive field. Brendan Roe re-established his 50+ dominance from last season winning from Mark Barnett and Kenny Kentley. There are some long-established rivalries in this category and some good racing down through the field.
The male and female junior start sheets were much shorter and there seems to be a lack of entries in this age group. The racing was still very competitive though. Connor Johnstone managed to get away and put 51 seconds into a strongly chasing John MacLeod (Spokes) in the final laps to take first, MacLeod second and Craig Gow third. All three entrants in the junior women’s race made the podium: Emma Borthwick first from Eleanor Strathdee and Jess Miller.
Despite having the best view of the Vets 40+ race, I have no idea what went on. My improving form was stymied by my tyre choice as my worn and cheapo tubs struggled to gain any purchase on the corners and I fell off five times - all from front wheel wipe outs on grassy corners. There was no such problems for Crawford Carrick-Anderson who barely seemed to make contact with the ground on the fast downhills and who used his wonder bike skills to get round the zig zags in fine style to get sixth place just behind race organiser Franco Porco. Last week’s 40+ podium was this week’s 40+ podium. Gary McCrae sprinted to win by a whisker from Stevie Jackson followed in by a tiring James Melville at 50 seconds.
This season promises a good contest in the male Under –16 category between Sean Flynn (ERC) and Cameron Mason (Thomson Cycles). In this first instalment, honours went to Cameron Mason though these pair look quite evenly matched. Sean Flynn was well in the lead in the early laps before succumbing to a clogged cassette and thrown chain and he lost nearly a minute to Cameron before climbing on and riding out of his skin to try to close the gap. Cameron was just too classy to allow Sean back into it though and Sean finished strongly but still chasing Cameron Mason. In third place was Charlie Johnstone. Callum Cooper won the Under 14 boys race but finished just behind Sean Flynn - this lad is a real talent and is riding so strongly against much older competitors. He was followed in by two other really strong lads who also were capable of competing at the level above: Jamie Johnstone was second with Callum Reid third.
In the Under 16 girl’s category, Ishbel Strathdee was first, Anna McGorum second and Estelle Fuller third. Anna Flynn is extremely dominant in the Under 14 category, winning by 3 and a half minutes from Eva Young and lena McGorum.
Under 12s and Under 10s raced together in a massive field though the stramash of the first few hundred meters soon developed into the familiar comet’s tail. Freddy Fuller (ERC) had a wonderfully aggressive start, striking out hard and fast from the whistle and building up an impressive and growing lead. With Fuller so far out in front, the racing interest was in the battle for second and third between Euan Walkingshaw (ERC) and Ben McMullan (Thomson Cycles). McMullan chased hard for lap after lap and looked to be the match of Walkingshaw, but the ERC rider pulled away strongly in the final two laps to take second place.
A similar situation developed in the girls race. Imani Pereira-Jones (Glasgow Riderz) starts this season in the same commanding form as she finished last year. She attacked hard from the start and worked her way through most of the male field to win the girls’ race by a convincing margin. Eilidh Shaw (Stirling BC) chased well and had a good battle with Morven Yeoman (East Kilbride RC) to take second and third respectively.
There were many notable rides in this wide spaced age group: Under-Ten Innes McDonald had a characteristic bad start but road very aggressively on his new cross bike to finish well up the field in front of many older riders despite never seeming to take has hands off the tops. The two far-travelled lads from the Ythan CC ( William Cooper and Elliot Rowe) also put in impressive performances. In the girls’ race, the competition for fourth and fifth is very hot this season with Emily-Carrick Anderson, Anna Reid and Rudie Shearer all racing hard with real commitment for these places, this is going to be an interesting developing situation through the series.
There was some cracking racing in the Under-eights. Bethan Kitchin (ERC) smashed the first few hundred meters and built up a good lead by half way round the first lap but crashed hard and lost about a minute whilst she sorted herself out. Joe Barnes (Glasgow Riderz) seized the initiative and pushed on to take the lead. Bethan must have been fired up by the crash and raced harder than I’ve seen her before to take back a good many places to finish first girl and third overall. Niamh Waters and Melanie Rowe (Ythan CC) took second and third respectively. Joe Barnes finished thirty seconds up on Oliver Bain who beat Isaac Beard into third by forty seconds. Finn Watt rode very well in his first “away” CX race to put a smile on the faces of his proud father and grandfather.