Words: Owen Phillipson.
Photo: Euan Lindsay
This year cyclocross returned to Plean Country Park for the first time since 2011, when Stirling Bike Club ran a round of the Scottish Cyclocross Association series.
As Andy Rafferty highlighted on his blog the course had changed quite a bit from previous editions of the race, with more tarmac and hard-packed paths interspersed with an offroad section with hurdles and a downhill offcamber corner and a muddy, rooty technical section. Feedback seen on Facebook suggested that the previous course was a bit of a slog with too much singletrack and it was hoped that the changes would promote closer racing.
The race organiser promises the 2015 edition to be a fast and flowing parcours, incorporating elements of the old course with some new additions. The stronger riders can expect to get off the bike for the hurdles, but should be able to complete the rest of the route without having to resort to running. This means the dreaded slither-up does not feature this year. Conditions in certain sections are muddy but not too claggy, but we will see how things develop between now and race-day.
At 6am, before most of the racers were out of bed the volunteers were out setting up the course and it was a mingin morning with heavy rain and cold temperatures. Before the race had started some riders had gained a place or two from the ones who decided not to start.
U10 / U12
The events kicked off with Under–12s at around 10am and some icy heavy rain made it really challenging. Several youths decided not to start and others pulled out shortly after but with bitterly cold precipitation biting the fingers and toes it was no surprise - hopefully these youngsters won’t put off in the future by the harsh conditions today but kudos to the ones that carried through to finish.
Freddie Fuller of ERC continued his unstoppable form to win the under 12 boys, following on from wins in all but the first race of the season. Fraser Thomson (Glasgow riderz) was 2nd with Harvey Kay in 3rd for ERC.
Eilidh Shaw ( (Stirling Bike Club) won the under 12 girls and was 2nd overall after getting the better of Imani Pereira-James (Glasgow Riderz) who finished ahead of Fraser Thomson for 3rd overall. The girls will no doubt take pride in taking the scalp of some of their male counterparts. This may have been the first CX this season (in Scotland, but possibly further afield) that Imani hasn’t won her age group - so a hat tip is due to Eilidh rising to the challenge she has lain down this season.
Eilidh's brother Struan made it a good day for the Shaw family picking up third in the under 10 boys. He was beaten to 2nd in that age category by Alexander Crombie while Rhys Edwards of ERC won his third U10 race in a row, giving as good as he got against many of the U12s, only narrowly losing a sprint to older rider Fraser Thomson. Well done to Anna Birrell representing U10 girls.
U14 / U16
Callum Reid of Rock & Road was first overall in the U14/16 race winning the U16 category and has been looking very very good in cyclocross races in Scotland and south of the border recently. Logan McLean Stirling Bike Club won the U14 boys and was 2nd overall in the race not far behind Reid – local lads carving it up. Estelle Fuller flying the flag for girls in this race.
The bitter cold and rain early in the day means that the grit shown by all the U10 and U12 riders in particular out must be recognised. It was a tough day for the adults, but the youngsters suffered some of the worst conditions of the day - smaller bodies lose heat so much more quickly and there were plenty of tears as they braved the circuit. To stick it out, anyone who got round was a winner on the day …..
Women and V50 men
In the Women-Junior-V50 race, Eileen Roe was out for a win in one of her final outings in the Wiggle Honda kit, along with her father Brendan and the like of Jane Barr, Alistair Dow, Kenny Kentley and Colin Shearer all putting in strong showings recently and will be keen to get in the mix on Sunday.
Stirling rider Kentley started strongly with the Roe family on his wheel and Jane Barr following a few seconds behind. The gap from the leaders to Barr quickly began to lengthen but meanwhile up front the battle between the three leaders remained closely fought. Kentley suffered a mechanical, putting him out of the race, which must have been a sore blow as he was looking strong after having won at Strathclyde recently. Eileen Roe then dropped her Dad and pushed on to win the event overall and take first female, not to mention ‘muddiest face of the day’. Brendan Roe was second (1st Vet), with Alan Mclean and Euan Ritchie on the podium in the V50 class. Jane Barr was third overall in this race (second female), with Elizabeth Adams taking third on the womens podium. Brenda Callander was first V40 female continuing her fine form with Catherine Logan first V50 female.
As the day wore on the sections of course after the hurdles and before the ‘rooty bit’ became extremely muddy but in a very different way to the previous week’s race at Lochore Meadows. The rain and passage of riders had resulted in a deep, soupy mud that could be powered through by riders with strength and bike handling skills. It was a little more forgiving to equipment than the sticky stuff in the Meedies Madness Spiral of Doom, which broke the rear mechs of many riders.
With Gary McRae not racing the V40, it fell to the likes of Crawford Carrick-Anderson, Franco Porco, Steve Jackson and Alister Watt to light things up in this category. Jackson (Glasgow United) and Watt (Granite City RT) continued their strong and consistent form finishing first and second. Graeme Cross (Albannach) has had a strong season was sitting in third but had a crash and finished 5th - the battle for 3rd podium spot was closely fought and taken by Crawford Carrick-Anderson with Franco Porco (Leslie Bikes) only a few seconds behind him in 4th.
Ahead of the Senior men’s race, there was talk of a few shandies having been taken at the Leslie Bikes team dinner the night before, and a small doubt was cast on whether this season’s dominant force Davie Lines could continue his form in the Scottish CX scene. Gary Macrae was testing his mettle against in the Senior class for this race, perhaps in preparation for the Scottish championships. Lines, Gary MacDonald and Michael Nicolson broke away early and by the half way point were starting to lap the field. A gap was opened up on McDonald (Hope Factory Racing) and after another lap or so Lines (Starley Primal) put in a dig up the climb from the long start straight to the hurdles and got a gap on Nicolson (Dooley’s) which he was able to extend until the finish. MacDonald kept his podium place. Lines was suffering from the cold and possibly a sair heed after the finish but will surely be on best behaviour for the rest of the week ahead of the Scottish championships at Irvine Beach, where the likes of World Cup mountain biker Grant Ferguson and last year’s champion Rab Wardell are coming out of the woodwork.