Words: Eric Easton
Photos: Gordon Watt
Raleigh SCX6 - Cross at the Castle
Many of us wondered as we queued up at the ferry terminal in Oban on the Friday whether we would get to Mull …. and whether last year’s brutal conditions were to be repeated. We needn’t have worried - Davie Graham is a wonderful organiser and making sure the Sound of Mull calmed down for a wee while to let us cross was no bother to him. Moreover, he arranged for a fantastic weekend of weather to mark the tenth running of this race.
The course was not much changed from 2014: the same Hobbit Hole run up, the same exposed headland with its off-camber turns, the same downhill into the pit of mud; maybe an extra turn or two on the headland section but ostensibly the same course. However, the racing, to me, was totally different, without the horizontal sleet of last year and the sub-zero temperatures we could look over to the Rum Cuillin, enjoy the scenery and race in shorts. The course was fast, the grassy bits held up well and the intentionally muddy bits were well … muddy.
As so many of the series categories were still up for grabs, racing was competitive (at least on the Saturday) and exciting. David Lines continued his great form and sewed up the series with another win over Gary MacDonald at 21 s and Neil Walker at 2.33. The series podium reflected these placing with Lines on 370 points, MacDonald on 322 and Walker on 319. Lines has raced from the front in all his wins following exceptional starts. He’s always well warmed up and focuses on the first half lap. Despite Davy’s dominance, Gary MacDonald has raced inspirationally this season, he has chased hard, race after race, and has held Lines’ lead in the last third of the races. To younger riders, he is a good example of resilience and dogged chasing.
Going into this race, Lucy Grant and Anne Ewing were tied in first place in the series with Jane Barr not far behind. This was the decider. Jane Barr went off very hard from the gun and built a short lead over Grant and Ewing. The course was a power course with little technical challenge - more suited to Ewing and Barr than to Grant - but Grant worked her way back to Barr with Ewing in tow and managed to pass Barr mid-way into the race. After a wilderness lap, Jane Barr began the fight back and gradually overhauled Ewing. She was closing on Grant before running out of race and finished only 13s behind the victorious Lucy Grant who won both the race and the series. Despite a fantastic performance from Jane Barr, Anne Ewing managed to secure second in the series with Jane Barr third.
Vet 40+ Men
This was a big field for Mull but lacked the series leader Gary McCrae who was untouchable after four wins in the series. Stephen Jackson won - 17s in front of James Melville and Mick Nally. Mick has carefully planned his training to peak for Mull and this was his best result this season and a good strong ride. Graham Cross was fourth and a rapidly improving Crawford Carrick-Anderson fifth. Jackson and Melville were 2nd and 3rd in series respectively.
Vet 40+ Women
This category was already decided as Brenda Callander had won the first four races and was well in front. Elizabeth Clayton took a well deserved win a nail biting finish with Callander only 4s behind in 2nd. Clayton’s win secured her a joint second place with Janet Erskine in the series - tied at 341 points to Brenda’s 370 points.
He nearly did it last year but Brendan Roe clawed his way back and thwarted Colin Shearer on the last lap. This year, Shearer was imperious and rode a cracking race to beat his closest rival, Neil Raitt, into second at 31s. Rob Bloor took a well deserved third place eventually justifying the expense of his lovely Niner frame. There’s been great racing in this category with a handful of riders all very similarly competitive and racing hard. In this series category, the series was already decided: Brendan Roe first on 365 points, Mark Barnett on 327 points and Gary Beall on 289 points.
Innes Johnstone took a good win by 30s from an improving Ross McMurtrie and third place went to Logan Dow. Only three riders took the start line with many of the big hitters choosing not to race at the Castle. John MacLeod has added the junior series win to his Scottish Championship win at Irvine, with Conner Johnstone second despite only doing four races and Craig Gow third.
Eleanor Strathdee has won the overall series from Jess Millar and Rhona Callander. However, it may have been a different story had Rhona entered more of the races - she has won both of the races she has entered in the series and shown some fantastic Advent form to win at Irvine and Mull. Jenny Holl was second and Eleanor Strathdee third.
Under 16 Male
Cameron Mason continues to impress. He was the fastest rider over all categories on the Saturday and easily won by 7mins 26s from Max Bloor and Harry McGarvie. Cameron rides with deceptive power (where does it come from) and evident skill. He won the series by 50 points from Max Bloor who must be cursing his luck at winding up in the same age cohort as Cameron. Despite this, Max has raced with great heart and with real determination to improve and reel in Mason.
Under 16 Female
The closest contested category - a Strathdee/McGorum head to head for the series with each rider having three wins apiece. Anna McGorum had an unlucky 2nd lap and lost lots of time to the eventual winner Ishbel Strathdee. In trying to remedy the situation, Anna McGorum put in the fastest lap of the race as she surged again and again to try and catch Strathdee and win the series outright. This wasn’t to be and she finished third, 33 s behind Strathdee and four seconds behind second place rider Polly Henderson. The series was drawn with both Ishbel Strathdee and Anna McGorum on 365 points with Megan Wilkinson third on 305 points.
Under 14 Male
Callum Cooper has been so strong all season - winning by big margins and capable of keeping with the top Under–16s. He won again in this race but only by 7s from an aggressive Corran Carrick-Anderson who was racing out of his skin. Louis Moore was third - getting his best result of the series and showing some great form. Cooper (370) wins the series from Rory McGuire (341) and Corran Carrick-Anderson (314)
Under 14 Female
Elena McGorum won by a convincing 2 mins. 53s from Emily Wilkinson and Katherine MacLeod to take the overall series.
Freddy Fuller went out with something to prove after finishing second to Ben McMullen in the Scottish champs at Irvine. Fuller reasserted his dominance in a strong win over Ben McMullen and Patrick Barnes. Imani Pereira-James continued her dominance of this category by winning from Morvern Yeoman and Emily Carrick-Anderson.
Santa CX World Champs
Sunday was a more relaxed affair with John McComisky more relaxed than most. Racing took a wee while to get underway as the Tobermory Saturday night gradually eased out our systems.
Traditionally the course is reversed from the day before but some hard frost overnight meant that a few wee detours and gritting were required. The start was a brutal uphill on broken up road for 300m (a bit like Spa) before turning into a short muddy singletrack section that links back to the previous day’s course though in the other direction. There was scarcely a puncture on the Saturday but the muddy single track was mined with large rocks and many riders ran a half lap to get to the pits and take their chances with the the dubious service on offer from JMC.
Costumes were increasingly ornate. There were a good few puddings racing and some of them even wore costumes. Mick Nally had the sound track to hell playing whilst he raced round imprinted brains with images that can never be unseen. A great day’s racing and fun - they don’t always go together.
- Under–12s: Freddy Fuller was hugely supportive of Alasdair Easton to persuade him to finish the race after a hard fall. Freddy gave up his chances to win and Archie Ellen took a well deserved first place with Imani first girl.
- Under–14s: Callum Cooper made it a double win was did Elena McGorum.
- Under–16s: Cameron Mason was racing against himself and managed to win. Anna McGorum made up for her disappointing third the day before to take first.
- Juniors: Innes Johnstone and Jenny Holl won in a most relaxed style - plenty carol singing going on.
- Vet 50+ Men: This was raced hard with Santa Shearer repeating his win.
- Vet 40+ Men: Mick Nally failed to repeat his jaw dropping performance last year - maybe it was too warm - he finished 6th. Stephen Jackson took the win
- Vet Women: Brenda Callander re-asserted herself.
- Senior Men: Davy Lines tok the win from Tom Owens and Daniel Whitehead.
Special thanks must go the the Commissaires who made for great sporting racing and to Davie Graham and his team of helpers. It’s not easy putting a National Series on in the Hebrides but Davie makes it look easy.