I was thinking we had reached peak ’cross at Callender Park, I was wrong. It seems that cyclocross in Scotland is still growing with a massive field of over 600 entries at Strathclyde Park. Guto, Michael and the rest of the East Kilbride organisers surpassed themselves in putting on a great day’s racing with such large numbers.
Words: Eric Easton
Photo: Scott Jessiman
The last few years at Strathclyde Park have seen some tough conditions - snow, ice, dogs, deer, rain and jaikies. This year - perfect ’cross conditions; blue skies, cold, but clear with only light winds. The organisers set up a familiar course with only a few tweaks - all improvements. Gone was the mass sprint on the hard standing with its attendant crash risk, gone was the gloopy grassland riding that sucked the life from your legs early on. In was a much improved uphill start on a wide and only slightly muddy grassland area, spreading the big fields out early on. Much loved features such as the blaze hill (!), the bridge run up and the swoopy rollercoaster single track through the back end of the course were all still present. Drier ground conditions made this edition much faster and better grip allowed the strong and skillfull to ride up the bridge run-up. The stairs off the car park have been neglected by the cooncil of late and nature is reclaiming allowing the skillful (Kerry MacPhee) and the foolhardy (myself - puncturing) to ride them.
Harry Johnstone repeated last year’s triumph with a master class in aggressive ’cross racing. Attacking from the off and taking the hole shot, Harry piled on the pressure early and soon established a gap that never looked like coming down.
Behind, Gary MacDonald and Davy Lines worked together to try to bring Harry back until it looked hopeless whence Macdonald shook off Lines to finish second at 1.45 in front of Lines at 2.21.
Male Vets 40+
I never see much of the sharp end racing in this category as I’m dodging about the back trying to avoid rolling tubs and punctures. Gary MacRae maintained his recent winning ways but by a mere 4s from an improving Stephen Jackson who was tailing him closely the entire race. Hans Forhaug rode strongly to take his third third of the season. The ride of the race though was the rampaging Crawford Carrick-Anderson who came from no where in the closing laps to take a fourth place in front of some serious competition.
Juniors’ racing has always been well-organised and taken seriously at Strathclyde Park. The course was fast, still technical and made for some tough racing. A big entry with a wide range of ages and abilities meant there was plenty traffic for the leaders to negotiate. Melanie Rowe of the Ythan continued her strong form, running away with the win by 1 minute 53s from 2nd Sarah Tait and 3rd Isla Cameron. Finn Crowther attacked right from the gun and didn’t stop smashing it for his entire race winning his third race of the series by 11 seconds from 2nd Harry Holmes and 37 seconds from 3rd Conan Holmes.
Under 10s and 12s
Some excellent organising and commissaire decisions resulted in a staggered start for the Under 12s and Under 10s. Under 12s were gridded in front of Under 10s and started first. Under 10s knew who they were racing and the faster riders had an exciting race making their way through the slower under 12s.
In the Under 12s, Patrick Barnes (Glasgow Riderz) rode a very impressive race to win by 11 seconds. His chasers jousted on the line for second with Corey Whiteford just edging Elliot Rowe (Ythan) for second. Finlay Taylor (EK), in his home race, put in a fantastic performance to take fourth just three seconds between 2nd and 3rd.
Emily Carrick-Anderson began a really successful day for this sporting family taking first place in the Under 12s from a consistently strong and constantly challenging Christina McGorum at 14s. Katie Galloway rode an excellent race to take third from a disappointed Rudie Shearer (ERC) who finished off the podium for the first time this season after tangling her handlebars and crashing in the final laps.
Anna Birrell (Carnegie Cyclones) ripped the field apart in the Under 10 race lapping all riders including Anna MacKenzie (2nd) and Niamh Waters (3rd). Niamh really is a phenomenon on the bike, always riding hard and always racing.
In the boys Under 10s, Innes McDonald (ERC) took the hole shot closely followed by Alasdair Easton (ERC) who managed a cracking start. Innes put the head down and rapidly built a substantial lead even though he was well up on his rivals, Innes loves racing and chasing down under 12s and pushed on throughout the race. Finn Johnstone, Struan Shaw (Glasgow Riderz) and Alasdair Easton (ERC) challenged each other throughout before Finn made his escape in the latter laps to claim 2nd (31s). Alasdair and Struan continued to battle it out until Struan lost his front wheel and slid out allowing a gutsy Alasdair Easton to take 3rd at 31s.
So far this season, we’ve seen some of the most competitive racing in the women’s and women’s senior races. Fields have increased in size to such an extent that the organisers felt they would try to split theses categories as an experiment. The downside was that more races had to be squeezed into limited daylight so the course was open for shorter periods of practise. The upside was uncluttered racing for both women and Vet 50+. Personally, I felt that the racing was more exciting and initial responses from participants was also positive.
Kerry McPhee (Rock and Road) totally bossed the women’s race with strong assertive riding right from the start. The four main contenders in the women’s race all have different strengths with Jane Barr and Anne Ewing perhaps having the edge on speed, and Isla Short having the edge in more technical courses. Kerry is simply the best allrounder at the moment coming off a season of international xc racing. Kerry won by 30s from the improving Isla Short with Jane Barr and Anne Ewing both lapped.
In the Vet Women, Brenda Callander maintained her great form to finish in front of her traditional rivals: Sian Tovey and Lindsay Branston. These three riders are consistently strong right through the season.
Sean Flynn returned to SCX in totally dominant form in male juniors after recently racing in Southern parts and totally justifying his inclusion the BC academy. Cameron Mason did his best to stay on Sean’s wheel but he was soon distanced and finished 1.12 down but not out and in fine style. Struan Pryde is riding well and took a good third place behind two classy riders at 3.37. Megan Wilkinson is similarly dominant in female juniors finishing nearly two minutes up on Eleanor Strathdee (2nd) and 5.30 up on Katie Allen (3rd).
Under 16s and 14s
In the Under 16s boys race, three riders stayed together for much of the race until Charlie Aldridge (Wallace Warriors) started to pull out a lead from the chasing Jamie Johnstone and Aaron King. Charlie Aldridge maintained this lead to the end from Jamie Johnstone at 35s (2nd) and Aaron King at 57s (3rd). In the Under 14 boys, Calum Reid won by a very decisive margin of 2 mins from Callum Thornley (2nd) and Daniel Kain (3rd) line.
Anna McGorum (Peebles) won the Under 16s by a handsome margin after Ishbel Strathdee suffered a last lap mechanical and came in running for fourth place. Mieke Kalmijn took advantage of this misfortune and got a well deserved 2 nd place from a challenging Estelle Fuller (3rd). There’s consistently great racing in the Under 14 girls with a good six or seven really talented riders vying for the podium. It was Eva Young’s turn to dominate on a course that really suited her putting 1.39 into the always competitive Imani Pereira-James and 2.28 into Elana McGorum.
Next up, Fife College on Sunday. See you all there.