With 600 riders on the start sheet, it was always going to be a fantastic day of racing at the Callendar Park's Coliseum of Cross. Conditions were bright and sunny, winds were light and minimal rain on the preceding days had left the course dry and fast. This is a well-honed race - Franco and Davy know what they are doing with the venue - and the course manages to be fast, technically interesting and flowing with some features to challenge all riders. Big fields means plenty of back markers and cutting through traffic was a big feature of all the races.
Words: Eric Easton
Photo: Anthony Robson
Harry Johnstone returned to his winning ways taking a well deserved and very convincing win by nearly a minute from a strong Gary MacDonald fresh from a great result in the Three Peaks.
Last season Davy Lines was uncatchable in race after race and whether it was the training lay-off pre-race or the exertion of organising the race, Davy wasn't in his usual flying form. Right from the gun, a group of five riders escaped the following melee and soon built up a substantial lead. Gary MacDonald, Calum Magowan, Allan Clark, Harry Johnstone and Davy Lines worked together for the first few laps each trading the lead for half a lap or so to establish the gap. At the half way mark, Harry Johnstone started to force the pace and gradually opened a growing gap over the next three laps. Behind, the group of four rode hard in the chase and in doing so dropped Lines. With a lap to go, the chasing group of three splintered and Harry Johnstone won by 58 seconds from Gary MacDonald, who was a further 20 seconds in front of Callum Magowan.
This may prove to be the most interesting category to watch in the series. Isla Short is undoubtedly in flying form after a successful xc season and was leading the race until the penultimate lap when she suffered a mechanical and dnf'd. Behind was a great two-up tussle between road rider Jane Barr and World Cup XC rider Kerry MacPhee. Entering the final straight, Jane Barr was a bike length in front and managed to maintain this slender gap from flat out sprinting MacPhee. Maddie Robinson took third.
With Sean Flynn racing in England, Cameron Mason (Leslie Bikes) was without his usual sparring partner and won in convincing style by 2 minutes 37 seconds from his team mate Connor Johnstone who was well in front of Craig Dobbins.
Whilst this was a rather small field, it was filled with strong quality riders who had to work hard to get through the comet trail of traffic of slower Vet 50+ riders. Megan Wilkinson took a wonderful win from an exceptionally strong Eleanor Strathdee who had to work hard and use all her race smarts to work her way through back markers to take second place from Kate Allen.
Vet 50+ Male
Mick Nally, wearing the distinctive yellow and blue jersey of the Dunfermline CC and thankfully not his fur trimmed halter neck baby doll, is back on winning ways taking his first 'cross win since his 2014 Santa Cross victory. Fellow Fifer, Gary Beall (Team Leslie Bikes) took second from Brian Nicholas (Moray CC).
Vet 50+ Female
Racing in this category was very competitive with slim margins between first Sian Tovey, second Lindsay Branston, and a chasing Brenda Callender.
Vet 40+ Males
I saw most of this race whilst running round the course having rolled tubs on laps 2 and 3. There were few surprises as those who were strong last season continue to dominate in this: Gary McCraetook the win from a resurgent Hans Forhaug and third placed Stephen Jackson.
This race started fast and the leading three soon settled into the podium positions and never changed throughout. Jamie Johnston lead throughout though finished a mere 15s in front of Callum Cooper (Provision) and a full minute in front of Rory McGuire (Team Leslie Bikes).
Anna Flynn (ERC) and Anna McGorum (PCC) slugged it out last season in race after race. No change this season, in lap after lap these two knocked lumps out of each other before Anna Flynn took a narrow sprint finish from her PCC rival with the third Anna Shackley only 46 seconds behind.
The Peebles CC rider Corran Carrick-Anderson won by a very convincing manner from the ERC's Freddy Fuller and a fast improving Ross Birrell (ERC).
Some familiar names continue to dominate in this category. Racing was once again closer in the girls' category. Eilidh Shaw won by only 7 seconds from a closing Eva Young and very strong Elena McGorum.
This was a huge field for this age category and bodes well for junior racing in the near future. Emily Carrick-Anderson refused to be outdone by her brother and won for the PCC by 9s from Christina McGorum with a rapid Rudie Shearer taking third for the ERC.
Some great racing saw a very narrow victory for Patrick Barnes from Finlay Taylor (East Kilbride). The battle for third was no less thrilling with an in-form Elliot Rowe of the Ythan narrowly missing out on third to Jamie Thomson.
Finn Crowther (Meedies BC) rode away from all and sundry and finished first with both hands in the air in the first race of the SCX season. Angus Fraser-Moodie chased valiantly to beat Conan Nicholson into third place in a race run with a fantastic sporting spirit.
The Ythan's super-strong junior club took its first win of the SCX series when Melanie Rowe left the rest of the field minutes behind. Effie McGhee was second and Georgina Bark third.