Preview - SXC Round 2. Cathkin Braes

13th April - Preview

Words: Morven Brown
Photos: Alastair Ross

On the 29th of July, in the full flow of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, some of the top mountain bikers in the world will be racing around Cathkin Braes. The chosen few, lucky enough to pull on National team kit, will be equally excited and nervous and in for a real treat on a world-class course. On Sunday the 13th of April, the lap times may not be quite as fast, but the racing will merit the same spectacle as the Scottish Cross Country (SXC) Series descends on the venue.

Riders will be treated to a thrilling course, with few moments of rest between the well-built man made features. A spectator favourite will be the Double Dare – a dual slalom running down the hill to Castlemilk, with berms, jumps and rocks. A quick breath and there’s the Clyde Climb and Heartbreaker Hill to test leg and lung power. For 8km the course twists and turns its way between the trees and rocks, a mere 15 minutes drive from the centre of Glasgow.

With 150 riders already entered and many more set to enter on the day, there will be large competitive fields, with open and fast racing. That’s not to say that everyone will be lycra-clad whippets – for 2014 the SXC have introduced a Taster category. It’s a non-prize winning category, where competitors will be taking (on average) 30-40 minutes to complete a lap, and having a friendly go at mountain bike racing.

In the first race start of the day, at 11am, riders will set off in the Youth, Juvenile, Grand Veteran, Super Veteran and Taster categories, alongside all the female categories. Despite being the youngest and oldest riders on the full course, these riders are no less fast!

In the Women’s categories, Juvenile rider Anna McGorum (Peebles CC) will be looking to improve on her second place at SXC1 at Forfar, while Youth rider Ella Conolly (Ben Wyvis CC) will be hoping to make it two wins from two. British Junior Champion, Erika Allen (Thomsons Cycles) will be hoping for better fortunes at Cathkin, following her puncture at Forfar, with Eve Hanlon Cole (Peebles CC) also entered. Anne Murray (Team Jewson MI Racing- Polypipe) will be going for her second win of the 2014 SXC Series in the Veteran category. In the female Elite category, Round 1 winner, Gillian Pratt (Team Leslie Bikeshop) will face stiff competition from Northern Irish rider Claire Oakley and returning racer Hannah Ferguson.

For the Juvenile boys, a strong field will line up, including the top 3 racers from Forfar; Sean Flynn (Edinburgh RC), Tam Munro-White (Ben Wyvis CC) and Tim Shoreman (Deeside Thistle CC). It’s a similar situation in the Youth boys, with current Scottish Champion and SXC1 victor Conner Johnstone (Team Leslie Bikeshop) entered alongside Forfar podium finisher Finn Crockett (Ben Wyvis CC). However, for both these categories in such a short race, one mistake or one clever line choice could make all the difference between winning and losing, so the racing will be fast and furious. In the Grand Veterans, a large field will line up, with Mark Barnett (Team Leslie Bikeshop) hoping to take his second victory in his first year in the category. John Newton (Pearson Cycling Club) will be hoping to replicate his Forfar success in the Super Veteran category at Cathkin Braes.

The Under 12 racers will be set off at 12.30pm, in a slight amendment to the Round 1 race schedule, to allow more time for these races. With three separate race starts, and huge fields expected in the Under 8s, Under 10s and Under 12s, everyone is encouraged to cheer these young riders on. All entry for the Under 12s races is on the day, so we can’t make any predictions yet – but we can tell you for certain that the racing will be fast, fun and entertaining!

The final race of the day will include the Elite and Junior men, the Sport, Master and Veteran Men. After an enthralling sprint finish in Forfar, Rob Friel (Glasgow Wheelers), will be looking to claim another victory, perhaps without such a nail-biting finish!  At Cathkin Braes, on the Commonwealth Games course, Rob will have more than fifteen fellow competitors all jostling him for that top spot. In an international field including riders from Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man, with so many unknowns, any one of a number of riders could take the win. In the Junior race, the money would be on Conor Nally (Hardie Bikes) for the win; however with an international field there too, he could be stopped in his tracks. Graeme Warren (Velo Club Moulin) will be looking to claim his second victory of the 2014 SXC Series in the Sport category. With only one of the podium finishers from Forfar pre-entered in the Masters category, Scott Logan (The Bicycle Works), it will be all to play for. With a Team Leslie Bikeshop one-two at Forfar, reigning Scottish Champion Gary McCrae and teammate Damien Slorach will be hoping for similar fortunes at Cathkin Braes. However with 25 other extremely fast riders entered, competition will be tight.

The second round of the 2014 SXC Series at Cathkin Braes will also play host to the Scottish Student Sport Championships, with championship medals on offer for students in the Junior, Sport and Elite categories.

Entries on the day are still possible for all categories (except the Student Championships), with more information available on

Everyone is encouraged to come along, to participate and to get involved with supporting the racers as they take on the challenging Cathkin Braes Commonwealth Games course.

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Ice Breaker 2014

Words and photos by MM (Editor)

'Race of Truth' Season is Here!

Michael Allen of the host club, Fullarton Wheelers (Derek Skinner obscured)

Last Sunday saw the traditional season-opening TT, the Ice Breaker 2-Up, take place at Irvine and for the second year in a row the weather gods smiled on the event. Fullarton Wheelers once again put on an excellent event and clubs from all over the Central Belt had travelled to Ayrshire to take part. Although The Press Room hasn't officially been going for a full year yet, we covered the 2013 event for VeloVeritas ( and this year's event was every bit as good.

One half of last year's winning team, Ben Peacock (right) riding with new Paisley Velo signing Gerry McGarrity

The time-keeper waved away 55 teams of two and two single riders and all but three teams (and a single rider) completed the course within 30 minutes. The title was wide-open this year as the winning team from last year, Stevie Blom and Ben Peacock (Paisley Velo) were not paired for this event. Ben Peacock was teamed instead with new Velo rider Gerry McGarrity who moved across from Inverclyde Velo in the off-season. They were the last team off and returned in a final time of 20:54 but unfortunately this was only good enough for third spot on the day, albeit within the same minute as the winners.

Top Team: Silas Goldsworthy and Alan Thomson (Sandy Wallace Cycles)

The undoubted stars of this year's event was the pairing of Silas Goldsworthy and Alan Thomson riding for Sandy Wallace Cycles and they completed the course in a time of 20:21 to take the race from the second placed team of Steven Lawley (Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes) and David Griffiths (Glasgow Wheelers) who finished 17 seconds further back. The Women's race was taken by the very talented pairing of Toni McIntosh and Lynne Wardrop for Ayr Roads CC in a time of 25:40.

Winning women: Lynne Wardrop and Toni McIntosh (Ayr Roads CC)

The course is a tried and tested one with the base at Eglinton Country Park in Irvine. Away from the starter, up onto the first roundabout and then down onto the duel carriageway, taking care where vehicles can exit as well as enter. Then it's due south to the Papermill Roundabout and return to finish just before the exit back up to the first roundabout again. The sun came and went as the odd cloud passed overhead but this had a noticeable effect on temperatures and the slight breeze. By the end, the breeze had turned around and was a slight headwind for the final runners but even just 30 minutes earlier riders were reporting the breeze in the opposite direction.

Early pace-setters Gary Bratt (Lomond Roads CC) and Nick Tryon (Dooleys Cycles RT)

The early pacesetters was a composite team of Gary Bratt (Lomond Roads CC) and Nick Tryon (Dooleys Cycles RT) who came back with a time of 21:59. Off so early in the field meant that they had to wait just over an hour before they saw their time bettered by Neil Walker and Charles Vincent (Walkers Cycling) by 8 seconds, bringing the time to beat down to 21:51. This was good enough on the day for 4th place overall and it was satisfying for the team from Kilmaurs as Charles Vincent had punctured on the way to the start line in last year's event. It was a good day for Walkers Cycling as they also took 2nd place in the Women's event with Lorna Sloan and Lorna Todd in 28:05, with an honourable mention for the composite team of Catherine Logan and Russell Mowat finishing in 27:57.
To much applause, the 'lantern rouge' prize went to Fiona Walker and Fiona Wallace in a time of 33:32.

Clockwise from top left: Alan McAulay/Colin Gillespie (St Christopher's CC), Neil Walker/Charles Vincent (Walkers Cycling), Steven Lawley (Herbalife-Leisure Lakes)/David Griffiths (Glasgow Wheelers) and Jason Fogarty/Lauri Peil (Edinburgh RC)

Other random 'honourable' mentions go out to the pairing of ever-popular Jocky Johnston (Icarus Racing) and Tony 'Spider' Nugent (East Kilbride RC) in 25:09, John 'The Slab' Campbell and Steven Smith (Royal Albert CC) in 25:27 and the pairing of Jen Mason and Jill Morton (unattached) in 30:27. We won't go into detail about Steven Smith's 'clothing' malfunction just before the start and Jen and Jill appeared to smile all the way around the course. Special mention also to Michael Robb (Ayr Roads CC) who managed a very creditable time of 22:40 riding on his own and Jennifer Nicol (Fullarton Wheelers CC) in a similar predicament returning in 32:38. And extra special mention to Neill Kemp (Glasgow Nightingale CC) who took a slight tumble but still finished in a time of 24:27 with Gavin Thomson. It was also great to see former stalwart of the old Erskine RC John Craig who has returned to racing and came home in a time of 22:53 with Greg Kerr both now riding for Team Thomsons Cycles. Greg only started cycling when Thomsons Cycles re-opened so we'll keep an eye on him. Their race was good enough to take second spot in the vets race and 9th overall.

Clockwise from top left: John Craig/Greg Kerr (Team Thomsons Cycles), Jen Mason/Jill Morton (unattached), Neill Kemp/Gavin Thomson (Glasgow Nightingale CC), John Campbell/Steven Smith (Royal Albert CC) and Tony Nugent (East Kilbride RC)/Jocky Johnston (Icarus Racing)
In conclusion then, this year's Ice Breaker lived up to its reputation as the first true test of the season. It was another fine example of organisation from the host club with the top three teams all looking ahead to a 2014 which should see some blistering performances…but the day belonged to the popular team of Alan Thomson and Silas Goldsworthy. Well done!

Race winners: Silas Goldsworthy/Alan Thomson (Sandy Wallace Cycles)

Full photos on our Facebook page:
Results list:

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Strathpuffer 2014 – Team Age B4 Beauty Re-United

Taking part in a 24 Hour race is physically exhausting…that's a given! The mental exhaustion though can often take a toll which is harder to see, and takes longer to recover from. After a year out Morven Brown returned with her teammates to the Strathpuffer 24 and rekindled a love for one of her favourite races.

Saturday the 18th January 2014 saw the ninth Strathpuffer held at Torachilty Forest near Contin. Out of those nine Puffers, I’ve competed in and loved every second of eight as part of a mixed quad team – Age B4 Beauty. For family reasons I chose to miss Strathpuffer number 8 in 2013…at the time it was the right decision, made for the right reasons. However, as it turned out, even before the 2013 race had begun I was champing at the bit to take part. Seeing ‘my’ team taking part with a replacement rider standing in for me was a blow; up until then I’d taken pride in having ‘ridden every Puffer.’ I knew that while the reasons for my withdrawal could not be changed, my attitude could…and would have to. The time had passed for making a point and living in the shadow of others’ decisions. It was time to get back on my bike and to ‘puff’ away for 24hours in the way that I know and love.

The lead-up to the 2014 event followed the usual plan. Up the road from Glasgow on the Friday morning (considerably less distance than when I flew home from living in France to take part in 2010), pick up the campervan from the rental company and then fill it to the brim with bikes, gazebos, gas canisters and enough food to feed a small nation. Over the years we’ve learned the secrets for survival at the ‘Puffer. It’s become almost like snobbery, but each time we discover a new trick that works we keep it. It began with the oversized camper van. Like. Then the homemade bike rack made from a carved log. Like. Next, a wee dram of whisky at midnight. Like. Don’t forget the fairy lights to string from the van. Like. Without a doubt the ultimate little luxury is the gazebo set-up with a blow-heater in it, providing a super hot changing area and instantly warm and dry clothes for the next lap…and it stops the camper getting filthy inside.

Friday night is for getting set up, unpacked, organised, eating, walking the course and sleeping. An early night on the Friday is absolutely imperative; before you know it, it’s quarter to 10 on the Saturday morning and you’re lining up for the rider briefing. I had chosen to line up at the start and take the first stint for my team again this year. I’d done this in 2012, challenging myself to be first woman around and to then stay strong after the run. For purely selfish reasons I wanted to start 2014 and aim for the same targets.

Trapesing along to the ‘Le Mans’ style start line 300m from the bikes I bumped into an old friend from Youth XC racing days. It’s the wee moments like this that make the ‘Puffer so special for me – meeting rarely-seen friends and feeling relaxed enough while racing to have the time to chat. I got myself onto the fourth row of runners and took a deep breath, steeling myself for the next 24 hours.

Bang! Off we went! Swathes of runners, dressed in various states of warmth; those deciding that it was a ‘race’ and shorts and T-shirt would do – wise – and those who were planning on doing a longer, steadier stint, wrapped up in jackets, overshoes and ski gloves. Jogging along a smile spread over my face. The ‘Puffer is my thing; I love it! Being back in the madness certainly is good for the soul. Scrambling around to find my bike at the side of the track I jumped on, my team cheering me on and friends further up the track giving me a shout. First lap for me really is about racing. It’s a short, fast one, that you really can go for, before a few hours off and relaxing into the 24hour race rhythm. Powering up the fire track I was pleased to see the campervans of friends at the side of the course and supporters standing outside. It’s amazing the boost that this gives you in the wee small hours that lay ahead.

The Strathpuffer circuit is a bit of a classic. I’ll be totally honest: until 2012 I hated it. Point blank - hated it! It’s a rocky, challenging course with a whopping great climb to welcome you right from the start. Once you get to the top of the fire track ascent, it’s across the rickety wee bridge and onto the undulating single-track. The trail is tight and twisty, littered with rocks ranging from small obstacles, to whaleback slabs to be negotiated. Following this energy-sapping track for 2km or so, your legs, back and arms start to burn, before you’re spat out onto a short landrover track. A sprint to the top of the pallet-chair and the view of Strathpeffer opens up. It’s the best spot to be for a dawn lap. A few more downs and ups before the short, steep climb leading to the top of the final descent. Swooping down the berms and jumping the culverts, this descent gives the feeling of invincibility – it’s like wearing a superhero cape. At the end of every lap, dropping back into the timing marquee, the ladies and gents on the dibbing stations offer friendly words and encouragement; their smiles are a shining light in the dead of night.

On lap one, by my reckoning I was first woman. I knew I’d only overtaken on the run, and once I jumped on the bike, the only people to pass me were blokes. Feeling pretty confident I’d meet my goal I smiled my way to the top of the fire-track, not even slowing down for the icy sections; thankfully they turned out to be grippy! Passing the marshal point they congratulated me on being first woman up the climb, and that’s not even my strongest section! Swooping through the trees I enjoyed pushing to ‘race-pace’ as I pedaled hard up the climbs and pushed it to the limit on the descents. It’s always a scary situation having to ride a course at race pace without having done a pre-ride. Even when you know the course quite well, have done many laps previously, there will always be a nervous moment or two. I had a wobbler on the last descent of that first lap. With many culverts and drainage ditches, it’s imperative to stay switched on and remember when to take the weight off the front wheel. Screaming down the hill, out of nowhere a culvert appeared in front of me. Eeeeekk!! Slamming on the brakes I just got over it safely, but with a racing heart I figured I’d better cool the speed a little bit. Smiling my way into the dibbing station I’d achieved my goal of first woman around the first lap and was delighted to discover when I passed to my team-mate (my Dad) that I’d done a 42 minute lap. That was until my Dad finished his first lap in 36 minutes. Let battle commence!

Another delightful wee treat being the rider who starts the race, is that you will be guaranteed to get the most laps completed before darkness falls. This year, as a team we were going so quickly that I managed a lovely three laps in daylight. With only a very light drizzle of rain on my lunch time lap, conditions were as close to perfect as a 24hour race, in January, in the north of Scotland, could ever hope to be. By lap 2 I was warming up and feeling good, overtaking slower riders on the climbs and feeling like a racer again. I knew I’d felt good, but I almost fell over with shock when I clambered back into the campervan and looked at our lap counter chart. I’d done a 39-minute lap! In 2012 when conditions had been pretty near perfect, I’d been delighted with a 49-minute lap and consistently lapped in the low 50’s. This year the course was fast, oh so fast. My third lap followed suite with a low 40-minute time, as my teammates all put in equally impressive lap times and made the most of the favourable conditions. In fact, everyone I met was complaining that it was too warm!

By now it was getting dark, and the true Strathpuffer was coming into play. This is why people travel for hundreds of miles to take part – it’s all about the joy of taking off into the forest, just yourself and your bike, lit up by a few small lights to go as fast around a testing mountain bike trail as possible. My first nighttime lap was at half past 7 in the evening, with each of my teammates having already completed a night lap. Near the top of the fire-track I was delighted to see the lovely Julie from Velocity bicycle café whom I had bumped into every lap previously. I was even more delighted when she turned to me and told me that I was a “machine” for the speed at which I was going up the climb. Result! This was our thirteenth lap as a team, and I wouldn’t ever proclaim to be especially superstitious, but landing up in the dibbing station unscathed and turning up the fire-track to see our campervan with fairy lights on the first corner was a relief. The first lap in darkness can truly be a different kettle of fish. After learning the course in the daylight, knowing which line to take, where to push on the climbs, the world shrinks and you’re operating on a few metres of pinprick brightness searching for the trail in the pitch-dark forest.

As a team, our primary goal is always just to finish. To keep going all night, and to all get to the finish line safely. There’s been more than one occasion that we’ve not managed this. The first year we all went to bed in the back of a transit van at 2am as the cold, darkness and lack of batteries had put paid to our efforts. Other years we’ve had teammates end up in hospital, or bikes end up in multiple pieces unable to continue. So as the night wore on, and in a race with sixteen hours of darkness, team spirit comes to play a major role. Teammate finishes a lap; you offer to wash their bike – secretly hoping that they say no and do it themselves! – but always get them a cup of tea and some food to keep energy and motivation levels up. One of the greatest challenges in a 24hour race is to keep eating…and eating the right things.

After my lap at 8pm, I had decided that it was probably dinnertime and that I should have something more substantial. I’d been feeling my legs tiring on that lap and I knew as we neared the halfway point I would need some extra sustenance and nutrition. I tucked into a cheese and ham roll (with extra salt), some fizzy energy juice, salty crisps, jelly babies and even took half a gel for good luck, all washed down with a cup of tea with sugar. Which all added up to a massive rookie mistake, and I was left doubled over with stomach cramps and feeling sick. 12 hours of eating plain rolls, and all of a sudden the salt and sugar overload sent my stomach over the edge. Luckily my Dad agreed to switch laps with me so that I could have a lie down and a wee nap.

By the halfway point at 10 pm, we’d completed sixteen laps, which put us on-target for a record lap haul as a team. All we had to do now was keep going through to morning. Revitalised, I headed out on a lap that took me over midnight, avoiding any mishap in the witching hour. I’d gone with a cunning strategy of wearing a light jacket for the first time – it had been a long sleeve T-shirt up till now – to try and slow me down so that I could get my body back to rights and not burnout before the finish. I managed to slow down to a 49 minute lap – still under that magic 50 minute marker. The conditions were still brilliant, and the course was holding up to the trauma of hundreds of wheels passing over it. Sadly this year though, clouds shrouded the trees and there were no stars or moon to light the way along the trails.

Despite the halfway point of the race being 10 pm, for me, the most significant marker is always midnight. Crossing into a new day it begins to feel as if the race is moving towards daylight hours and that’s a huge psychological boost. Getting off my bike at half past 12 in the morning, when most other young women my age are stumbling in from pubs in high heels and dresses, I was buzzing. Sitting down in a camp chair outside the campervan (yes it really was warm enough to do that) I made the most of our latest Puffer luxury. One of my teammates, Ian, works with trees and wood and often brings a random gift to the Puffer for the team. This year it was two humongous ‘Swedish Candles’. A log stood upright on its end, cut vertically with a chainsaw into a star shape, a fire is lit on top and will burn, looking like a giant candle. The warmth it provided, coupled with the twinkly fairy lights gave our campsite a truly magical feel, and many a delirious soloist gave a grin as they wobbled past in the wee small hours.

Stirring myself, it was 3 am and time to get ready for my next lap. By now, Ian was starting to suffer, and my Dad had long since beaten me in our own wee family ‘who can go the fastest’ competition. We were into the ‘survival’ stage of the race. The early hours before sunrise is when the race is won or lost. Unfortunately, for team Age B4 Beauty, we were out of medal contention. It was the first year that we’d not been either challenging for the podium or comfortably on it, and for us it was a bit of a let down. We were holding fifth place, but quite close to fourth, and knew that a few solid laps before the end could see us move up the ranking. The course was starting to get more cut up now, with rutted holes in the descent and phantom rocks appearing along the way. I safely completed another lap, feeling tired and mentally having to dig deep to get around.

I was getting excited, I had done the maths and knew that my next lap would be the dawn lap, and that as a team we would complete that hallowed figure of thirty laps. As it went, neither of my fantastic 5am prophecies materialised! As a team we were barely slowing at all in our lap times, a great achievement for a team who suffered so much in the first year of the Strathpuffer.

Slogging my way up the fire-track, which was covered in a layer of sticky, gloopy mud, I was disappointed that I still had my lights illuminated. When does the sun even rise?? When you’ve been awake for 24 hours and riding your bike for the best part of that time, concentration becomes a real challenge. Physically my body felt surprisingly good, I could keep the legs spinning quickly up the climbs. I would like to apologise to the chap I overtook on the fire-track on this, my seventh lap. As I bounded past with a bright and breezy “hello” he questioned my cheeriness and speed. “Oh, I’m in a quad, it’s really easy actually”, I bounced back, assuming that he must be a despondent soloist. “I’m in a quad too, I can assure you, ‘easy’ is not the word.” Oops!

We were now sitting on 26 laps and were going back and forth each lap with the Dulnain Bridge Garage team, our rivals for many years now, for fourth place. Dawn had finally broken, and the Strathpuffer was greeted with light again. All of a sudden the course seems shorter, you can see the big rock on the track before hitting it, you know which of your friends you’re meeting out on the course. By 8am we realised that with the bonus hour provided up ‘til 11am to complete laps started before 10am, we could do 29 laps. Not quite my hoped-for 30, but a remarkable achievement for our team. We worked out our strategy, and I took on some food and fizzy juice as I would have a shorter gap between laps this time.

Jumping on my bike and shooting off up the fire-track away from the campervan for one last time in the 2014 Strathpuffer, I felt good: great in fact. The team had told me just to complete the lap. Times may have been tight with the Dulnain team, but we were most interested in completing the race safely and enjoying it – there were to be no heroics on the last lap. Chugging around I paced myself – eight laps may not seem like a large number, but when you factor in sleep depravation, it takes its toll. Counting down the climbs in my head I kept it cool on the technical sections. My bike with its ‘kooky’ look and big wheels just ate up the ground, rolling over the rocks like they were flat asphalt. Hitting the top of the pallet chair climb I looked out over Strathpeffer and knew the most fun bit of the course was to come. Zooming along the downhill, I let the brakes go and enjoyed that descent, knowing that was it almost all over for another year, almost time to pack up and go home. Dropping out into the dib station, I smiled to the cheers from friends and teammates, before they turned serious. “So… did anyone overtake you that lap?” Racking my brains, I could only remember two people passing me, one of whom was a friend of mine. As it transpired, the Dulnain team had only been 30 seconds behind us going into the last lap, and if I’d been passed they would have claimed fourth place ahead of us. There was a tense few moments while we checked the results screen – and we’d done it! Pulling out another minute over our rivals I was delighted that we’d stayed ahead. Obviously it’s all about the participation, the achievement, the survival, the team spirit, and the warm fuzzy glow. But ultimately, it’s a race, and they’re always all about winning!

So, it was back up to the campervan to dismantle our site for another year. Packing up, I realised how much I had missed the event the previous year. It’s a bit like Christmas lunch, when something has been part of your life for so long, it doesn’t feel right without it. The Strathpuffer gets under your skin, becomes a way of life, a force of habit, and to all those people who say “Never again!”…I’ll see you next year…

In general, the Strathpuffer 2014 provided some exciting racing and brilliant results. I had hoped to do a report of the race as a whole and write about the podium contenders throughout, however, when racing that becomes, essentially, impossible! Here’s a low-down of the main results.

In the male solos, Jason Miles from Team JMC/Exposure completed a fantastic 31 laps to be crowned 2014 Champion. Guy Martin (Hope Factory Racing), of motorbike, mutton-chop fame, passed early leader Keith Forsyth (i-cycles) to claim second place on 30 laps with Forsyth taking third having completed 29 laps. For the women soloists, Morven Mackenzie-Flemming (Ben Wyvis CC) put in a stunning performance to improve on her second place last year (in her first ever ‘Puffer) to take the victory on 15 laps, with Emily Hulley (Manchester Mountain Bikes) one lap down in second place. Third spot on the podium went to Lisa Cross (Osley Tyres) with 11 laps.

The bigger the team, the more laps, and winning the Male Pairs were Team JMC/MSteel Cycles with an impressive 36 laps, two clear of nearest rivals ‘Roscoes Rescue Squad’ and four ahead of third placed ‘Mojo on Ice’. The top female pairing from the ever-strong Deeside Thistle claimed 10th place overall in the pairs category, finishing on 27 laps. In the mixed pairs, ‘Julie and Bosco’ completed 27 laps, ahead of second placed ‘Mud, Sweat and Beers’.

An incredible 43 laps saw team Flat Out Cycles/Lupine Lights take top spot in the Male Quad competition, two laps clear of their nearest contenders, Nevis Cycles RT. Mukyriderz/Leslie Bike Shop finished in third place on the podium, with a team containing the youngest rider in the entire competition. The top Mixed Quad, ‘Wild Scottish Pussies’ finished 15th overall, with 33 laps and only 20minutes ahead of second placed team GDSM Racing. Third place went to ‘Chaffing the Dream’ on 30 laps. The first Female Quad team was the Velocity Café team, who completed 29 laps, ahead of ‘Ben Wyfies Cake Club’ on 26 laps and ‘T-pot and the Trouts’ on 25 laps.

The 2014 Strathpuffer was, as ever, an excellent event, which ran like a dream, thanks to the event organisers. Square Wheels bike shop put on a great race year after year, with their small army of willing volunteers to help out at sign-on, marshaling right through the night, and to keep the event running. (Results here:

It’s the tenth year next year and I’ve got my mojo back; time to get training for the big one!

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Support Your Local Bike Shop

Words and photos by Anthony Robson
Introduction by MM (Editor)

Use It or Risk Losing It

Cycling has been on an upward spiral for a number of years and the reasons are numerous and varied. There's the Hoy/Wiggins/Cavendish effect; there's an increasing uptake of government 'cycle to work' schemes; it can be argued that the recession has forced some commuters onto two wheels and others have chosen cycling 'stay-cations' over lying basting on a foreign beach as the exchange rate makes international travel more expensive.

Whatever the reason affecting individual cyclists they all have two main concerns when getting new kit: they want excellent customer service…and the best price possible for their hard-earned cash. Our retail industry is now comprised of internet/national outlets and small independent shops. The online and multi-outlet stores have enormous buying power and, in some cases, they can stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap. With another customer around every corner they can often, although not always, fall down on providing a quality customer experience and suitable technical back-up. The small shops that have survived this onslaught have done so by providing an excellent personal service and have built reputations that bring them repeat transactions from a loyal customer base. Most run or support clubs but the one area where they can struggle to compete with the giants is price or levels of stock.

All too often we see comments on social media about the need to patronise the smaller stores but these are often followed by someone posting a link to an obscure company selling cycling kit at really cheap prices. Well, that internet company won't be standing by the side of the road or putting up course markers on a Sunday morning and if your product goes wrong, it's not such a simple operation to get it fixed. Here at The Press Room, we would rather sacrifice the small price in order to keep the local shop open. They are, for our money, more approachable, have a greater understanding of technical issues and usually have a very good reason for providing a great service: it's their business and they stand to lose out if they don't. While price is important in these recession-hit times, nothing is more valuable than retaining the excellent local shops that we have here in Scotland. Think of that the next time you need something for your bike.

Our Guest Columnist Anthony Robson recently built a dream bike which saw its first race at Dig In At The Dock 2014 and he tells us of his own Damascus moment and why he'll favour local shops from now on. (Editor)

Anthony Robson
 I have a confession to make: I'm not as nice to my local bike shops as I could be. This might not seem like much of a self-flagellatory statement to make, but recently I had cause to question what I see now had become an over-reliance on the world of the internet.

You see recently I built a new bike. It was a replacement for a bike that was stolen at the end of last year, and so finding myself in possession of an insurance cheque I simply went out to buy all of the bits and pieces in one go. The desire to upgrade various parts took over, and I started price-matching from the comfort of my lunchtime desk, and soon boxes from Wiggle and ChainReaction and various other places started arriving. For a couple of weeks it was like Christmas joy following every visit by the postman or courier. But then three interconnected things happened in a short space of time that led to a sort of epiphany.

1. Two independent Local Bike Shops closed down

I can't claim the news of the loss of the first shop as a true shot to the system. It happened before I started my spending splurge, and was simply a case of the owner wanting to move onto different-yet-related things. Along with others I haven't been back since it went conglomerate (mainly because one of their other stores is closer to where I work, but, y'know, it felt like I was making a stand), but it wasn't until a shop just across the street from my work closed down that I began to wonder at my lack of loyalty. 

Truth be told it wasn't even a shop that I frequented much or liked; they never seemed to have what I wanted and there was a 'club' feel to the staff whenever I went in. But it got me thinking about what I'd do if something like The Bicycle Works ( was to close down in Edinburgh. That particular shop is on my way home, and open late. I've borrowed an 8mm allen key to tighten a loosening crank bolt, and have had my urgently-needed requirements for that evening's bike fettling fulfilled on a couple of occasions in the last 12 months. The stock list at an LBS might not be the biggest, but to get you out of a jam you simply can't beat being able to walk in and pick something up. Unfortunately not all component purchases can be meticulously planned around store delivery slots.

But I'd already got all the parts sitting in boxes at home, so the LBS is now out of the picture, right? Ah no, because...

2. I needed a headset fitted

I'm a self-taught home mechanic. Books and mistakes took me so far, with YouTube videos a remarkable resource for how to carry out those fiddly jobs. From setting up brakes, to building wheels, I've tried it all. So why did a headset defeat me? It's one of those jobs that I can do, and have done, but faced with my first carbon steerer I have to admit, I was 'feart.' I wanted it done properly, and had a crisis of confidence over my abilities. This was just over a week before the bike's 'cross debut. What on earth could I do?

It was quite easy really. It was Friday at work and I sent an email to the Tri Centre (, being one of the closest local bike shops to my house. Shortly after, I was told I could drop it off the next morning and the work would probably be done that day. Lo and behold.... a (remarkably reasonable) labour charge later and the job was one of perfection, with no personal stress involved, and an addition made to the list of places I'd trust with working on my bikes (no matter how good or bad the home mechanic, if you have a vague notion what you're doing I think it increases your standards sought in others).

The thing is, I know avid cyclists who have to take their bike to the shop if it gets a puncture, they love riding but have no desire to learn how it all works. Why should you when there are people who can do that for you? Not everyone can be a home mechanic, not everyone should be expected to want to be. Lose the LBS and you naturally lose cyclists as soon as a wheel buckles or brakes seize or a chain snaps.

Disaster averted. I had my parts, and now the bike was built. But my LBS thankfulness would hit a triumvirate. One ride in and I had hit...

3. Problem Parts

So the bike was built, the race was run, the bike survived, as did I. But there was a problem. My perch is a rather extravagant special edition Brooks that my other half treated me to for Christmas. Bought online, it was the best price (and more importantly available, given only 500 were made). Pure indulgence that brought a grin once unpacked from under the tree. And after one hour riding it was ridiculously worn at a couple of points.

Bought from a local bike shop the solution would be simple: trundle along on the bike and point out the issue, or just remove the saddle and pop in on a lunchtime or over the weekend. The only solution available to me? Well the seller is based in Swansea, so all I could do was take a few photos and email them to the retailer (who to be fair has said they'll get in touch with their supplier as they've never seen anything like it, but I'm still left sitting in the dark a bit five days after that message).

The problem parts can even go as far as an entire bike. My wife's Ridgeback Hybrid was also stolen, and there was no choice from the insurer, the replacement had to come from an online partner they have. The bike arrived 'ready to ride', with just the bars to straighten and pedals to put on. Of course the reality was a buckled rear wheel, a sticking brake, and hideously under-inflated tyres. Again you're left flying solo having the bike delivered and no ability to take it back to the store. You've got to sort it yourself, or take it to.... Yes.... The LBS. 

This trio of occurrences led to something of a 'seeing the light' moment, as I played back those times I'd needed parts. Just today I went looking for a new set of tyres for the commuter. I wound up at another local place near my work, Bike Trax (, having dodged Evans, and chatted through what might be the best option. They didn't have my favoured choice in the store, but would have in a couple of days, and would call me when they were there. Wiggle would maybe beat that by 24 hours, but if I wasn't in (which I wouldn't be as I had to work) then it would mean a 6am jaunt to the sorting office the day after that, and having the tyres at the exact same time to fit.

So the tyres are a little more expensive than online, but there's that personal touch, that point to return to in case of any problems, no great loss of time, and that feeling that I might have contributed, even in a tiny way, to that local bike shop still being there the next time I need it. Before writing this I had tweeted a simple message, "Be nice to your LBS, one day it might not be there. That is all." Possibly my most re-tweeted message, it seemed to touch a nerve, with most people agreeing. There were, of course, dissenting voices that pointed out unfriendly service at their local shop. But you know what, my shift is such that I'd even rather have that unfriendly shop than a faceless entity at the end of an email chain; somewhere bricks and mortar that I can visit on a whim or in a emergency or with a problem, rather than a screen and a post office separating us.

LBS because I LBS. Local Bike Shop, because I Love Bike Shopping. My next bike will be more personal.  

Anthony Robson at Dig In At The Dock 2014

Anthony Robson aka Blackpuddinonnabike is a writer, poet and undisputed fan of cyclocross and his photo stream can found here:

He also writes for and runs

His t-shirts designs are available here at very reasonable prices:

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Dig In At The Dock 2014

Words and photos by MM (Editor)

Can You Dig It?

Bo'ness, or Borrowstounness to give it its Sunday name, occupies an often overlooked little section of the Central Lowlands and is overshadowed by its seemingly more famous neighbours; Grangemouth with its pipes, chimneys and dramatic jets of flame making it look like a view of Dante's Inferno, and Linlithgow with its castle, loch, country park and cobbled streets with expresso-style cafes. So you could be forgiven then for thinking that Bo'ness was a quiet backwater with nothing much to its name…and, of course, you'd be wrong.

For kids of the '60's and '70's like me the name of Bo'ness was everywhere due mainly to the fact that most of the manhole covers and street stank gratings of Scotland were manufactured there (how many marbles did we lose down them?) and proudly displayed the fact and this was typical of the industrial background of the port. It also marks the eastern end of the Antonine Wall and today is the home of the Bo'ness and Kinneil Steam Railway, a period steam line that has featured in many films and television dramas. But more than that, and fast becoming one of the most important facts, is that it is also the home to the cyclocross phenomenon known as Dig In At The Dock.

Not officially part of the championship series, and coming towards the end of the season, what is it that makes this race so special? It has a nice compact course, a mix of grassland, a couple of run-ups and some obstacles but there are tougher courses out there. It's got some nice dramatic backdrops to the racing but there are definitely other courses that offer better, more picturesque, views and scenery. The racing consists of only one all-in race where Juniors, Vets, Seniors and Elite riders compete side by side so other races cater for a wider range of racers and age groups. Year on year though, this event is hugely oversubscribed and the one defining factor that everyone agrees on is that the enthusiasm and professionalism of the organisers is at least second to none. Dave Hamill and Jon Mccomisky, like many riders, help form the backbone of Scottish CX and they are genuinely likeable characters. They also know how to market their event and produced a promotional video which caused murmurings of a Christmas Number 1 from some quarters. We also liked the homage to Eric and Ernie and would like to point out to younger riders that Ant and Dec pinched the idea from them.

So a host of volunteers from the organising club Pedal Power RT, along with many others such as Walkers Cycling, turned up early on Sunday morning to mark out the course. Essentially the circuit was based on an in-field section incorporating the start/finish line, a section out along the railway line to the west and back again via some obstacles and then the long run along the dock to the east, past the rear of the railway station and museum and into the figure 8 section of the woods. Then it was back in across the dock gate and a run out onto the quay before heading back to the east section in preparation for the final run to the finish.

The sign-on sheet

The weather played its part too in helping to produce the now legendary carnival atmosphere. Those laying out the course early on were treated to some truly glorious sunshine but by 11am it had clouded over somewhat. By the time race start came around at 1pm there were some dark clouds gathering out to the west but thankfully they stayed away for pretty much the whole period of the race, only coming on during the podium ceremonies. There was a complete race village at the in-field section with tents from Lazer Helmets, Endura, and Cannondale to name but a few. There was face painting for the kids, and Maddy Robinson who sported her VC Moulin club colours in a kind of 'rasta-tiger' look, courtesy of Ashley at Flash Facepainting ( The biggest queue however, as we're getting very used to seeing, was the long line of riders and spectators alike who were waiting patiently as Euan Cleland of The Grange Kitchen dished out the burgers and butties!

The Grange Kitchen and the feeding of the five thousand…well, almost

There were spectators milling around, and riders warming up, from 11.30 onwards and something we've been noticing all season; an ever-growing number of photographers sporting very expensive kit, scoping out the best vantage points. Cyclocross, like no other type of event, is generating more and more blogs and photo features and we've seen a lot of the results. Perhaps understandably, we're pretty happy with the shots we produced but for our money the best images taken on the day were the black and white photos that came from Iain MacIntosh of Imacimages …truly beautiful pictures. (

And so to the race. The riders took their positions and the more well known of them were called forward and took the warm applause of the crowd. Rab Wardell was there in his first race for his new sponsor, Orange Monkey, having been picked up almost straight away since it was confirmed that Trek Factory Racing was downsizing. Orange Monkey had rushed a skinsuit to him so he could try for a debut win in team colours. Davie Lines was also there representing his new team StarleyPrimalCycling but was still racing in his MG-Maxifuel kit. The host club was represented by Elite rider Gareth Montgomerie and the stalwart of the season, Gary McCrae of Team Leslie Bikeshop, was looking quietly confident. The women were represented by the phenomenon that is Isla Short and she was joined by her Team Thomsons Cycles teammates Erika Allen and Lyndsey Carson. Maddy Robinson was there for VC Moulin and Emma Borthwick of the Tri Centre was looking strong.

The field heading out on the run eastwards and already the top riders are showing

The race started with a reverse pass through the start/finish and out on to the western leg but by the time the field came back through the in-field and headed out on the long run down the side of the dock in the direction of the station it was already clear that Rab Wardell meant business. He began to stretch the field and only Montgomerie and Lines had the ability to follow. The rest of the field began to line out as they headed into the woodland and by the time they came back around to cross the dock gate the leading trio were off the front with Wardell looking the strongest. The women were spread amongst the men in this all-in race but Isla Short was pulling away riding at her usual metronomic pace.

main pic: Maddy Robinson. l to r: Gary McCrae leads David Lines, Paul McInally tackles the run-up

The next lap saw possibly the move of the race and earned Gary McCrae the admiration of all present as he made a huge move and crossed the gap to the leading trio and the die was set for the next few laps. The field was stretching and as the riders tired the race-faces set in. The biggest upset came three laps from the finish when Wardell punctured and by the time he got going again he was well down on the three leaders. It looked like game-over for Rab but that would have been without counting on his determination to impress in his new colours and his obvious bike handling skills. He chased hard and each lap saw him take a chunk out of the deficit but ultimately he ran out of time on the one hour plus one lap race; he came close though so the disappointment was obvious although he was very gracious in his praise of the top guys and Gary McCrae especially for his efforts.

Rab Wardell gives it everything in an attempt to get back to the leaders

In the women's race Isla Short, by her own admission, began to tire in the last couple of laps but she was still pulling away from Maddy Robinson by the time she approached the finish. As she came across the line, both arms held high in a victory salute, her tiredness showed a little as her bike wobbled off to the right and it was only quick thinking and an outstretched left knee which prevented her from clattering the upright. It was an undoubted triumph for her as she finished five minutes clear of her race rival.

Isla Short takes a fine but exhausting win in the women's race and narrowly avoids the upright

Into the last lap for the men and each of the three leaders tested the others with little digs but it was only in the final section of the lap that Montgomerie made his decisive attack and rode clear of Lines to finish by a clear five bike lengths. Davie Lines had managed to drop Gary McCrae and held second place; McCrae finished 21 seconds clear of Wardell who had eased off a little as it became clear that he couldn't get the podium but it was a close-run thing and at one point he was within 10 seconds of the leaders. Next across the line was Stevie Halsall (VC Moulin) but just over 30 seconds later there was a sprint between Ben Greenwood riding for Team Leslie Bikeshop and Harry Johnston (Team Thomsons Cycles) with the talented junior shading the place. The top ten was rounded out by Neil Walker (Walkers Cycling), Alister Watt (Granite City RT) and the ever-popular Franco Porco (Team Leslie Bikeshop) making it a very successful day from the squad based in Fife. Full results here:

Gareth Montgomerie takes a very popular 'home' win for Pedal Power RT

The riders came home in a steady stream and most received a 'high-five' from an obviously very happy organiser Mccomisky. There were a couple of last lap mechanicals with Sean Gordon of Team Thomsons Cycles carrying his bike in with a broken rear hanger and he looked spent. Steven Turbitt of Glasgow United CC also finished with his bike on his shoulder, but full marks go out to Andy Turnbull of Velocity 44 who had an incident as he started his final circuit; he put the bike on his back and ran the full length of the course to record his finish. The riders who were still gathered around the finish area sportingly cheered home all of the late finishers.

Top: Andy Turnbull. Bottom l to r: Sean Gordon finishes; Steven Turbitt runs in as Mark Forrest and Ross Black sprint it out

All that was left was to refuel by emptying out the last of The Grange's supplies and award the prizes. The rain which had held off now began to make its presence felt and some spectators began to drift off but most stayed to see the presentation and to see if the big cheesy smile on Jon Mccomisky's face would ever fade…we're pretty sure it's still there as this event holds a special place in the heart of the Scottish cyclocrosser and the 2014 edition has only added to that. Everyone will be back with a number of riders promising to take 'cross more seriously…but maybe not too seriously as it's difficult to think of another sport that gives this much fun to all involved, whether riding, supporting or spectating. Special appreciation to Jon, Dave and Doc Pedro!

Jon Mccomisky welcomes the riders home

The 'cross season is not finished though with an event on Feb 1st for the younger riders taking place at Linlithgow courtesy of the West Lothian Clarion CC (details here: and there is the John Muir Winter 'Cross the following day at Foxlake ( with the racing timed to allow everyone to finish and head into the tent in order to watch the World Cyclocross Championship from Hoogerheide on the big screen.

After that riders will be splitting into their respective road and mountain bike disciplines and we'll have Morven covering all types of off-road stuff and I can get back to my comfort zone with the Icebreaker TT.

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Ridley Scottish 'Cross Series Round 5: Irvine

Words by Morven Brown
Photos by Steve Brown

SCX Round 5 Irvine Beach Park 24/11/2013

A Sea of Sand

"The course here at Irvine is epic! It’s so fast and has a nice mix of everything. You’ve got the off-camber grassy sections, the sand, the energy-sapping running sections… It’s what a 'cross course should be like. I love it at Irvine, it’s like a mini-Belgium." Isla Short

Grass and sand; a typical links combination

The racing at the penultimate round of the Ridley Cycles 2013 Scottish Cyclocross Series at Irvine Beach Park was somewhat akin to the beach on which the race took place. Ebbing and flowing, ebbing and flowing, in and out like waves crashing on a beach. Sometimes the sea sucks a swathe of water back and a breath is taken before the wave crashes back to the shore; other times the waves come thick and fast, with the sand barely draining between sweeps.

There were laps where one rider shot past and then we held our breath; the seemingly impossible time between waves where you wait for the next breaker wondering if the tide has in fact turned and it will never reach where it once did. And then, with greater force than before, having had a moment to compose itself far from shore, the wave, like the charging, chasing pack of racers, came crashing onto the beach with all the built-up force of a cork from a bottle.

Racing caps off to the three riders who managed to ride this slope!

Looking along the start line for the Senior Men’s race there was no mistaking that this would be the ultimate show down, with all the big names hoping to be the victor on the legendary Irvine cyclocross course. With top cross country racer Rab Wardell returning to cyclocross action, current series leader Davie Lines knew that the race would be on and with a talented field compromising riders such as Paul Newnham, Colin May, Sean Clark and many, many others there would be no straightforward victory here. With an incredible number of the competitors all capable of a fine top-10 finish on their given day, the Senior race is always one to watch – and not just to see the podium spots.

"The course has to be one of my favourites; the long straights so you can give it everything, the climbs to run up and the climbs you can cycle up, the 'Big Dipper' is so much fun and hurdles straight after the corner which caught me out on every lap." Connor Johnstone

Despite a few tweaks, the course stayed true to its routes, with course organiser Neil Walker ensuring plenty of challenging sections. In a slightly reworked course for 2013, the wide-open start allowed racers plenty of time for shoulder-to-shoulder action before turning into the narrow trails. A sharp right hand turn and the hillside opened up to reveal a brutal switchback climb. Dropping into the Big Dipper, riders were treated to a rollercoaster-like experience as stomachs turned somersaults. A long off-camber section ensued, with wheels being forced to squeeze every last inch of grip from the tyres to stay upright. Then came the main event: throw the bike onto the shoulder and take on one of the longest run-ups in Scottish cyclocross to the very top of the sand dune banking. A brief respite to circle the dune then it was onto the notorious sandy section on the beach front where wheels flew out from under bikes, great sandy chasms opened and the bikes slowly and painfully started to make their gritty moans heard. For spectators it was a fantastic viewing section to experience the ‘pain face’; watching riders push themselves to the limit. 

Davie Lines shows his star quality

Taking off like a greyhound coming out of the traps, Rab Wardell riding for Trek Factory Racing, took the race to the other competitors by opening a seemingly insurmountable 10-second advantage by the end of the first lap. Riding strongly and avoiding mishap through the sand he was chased by Davie Lines (MG-Maxifuel) and Paul Newnham (Team Leslie Bikeshop), with the rest of the field strung out behind. For some time it looked as though the race would be merely a procession with riders passing by, just like waves on the sand below, in a steady procession, Wardell growing the gap to 20 seconds and Lines and Newnham holding strong in second and third. Then with three laps to go, the routine was disrupted and the crowds gathered on the sandy section increased their cheers, first bursting their lungs at Wardell then egging on the closing Lines. The gap was quickly halved; powering through the beach section Lines was closing in on the tail of Wardell. With spectators cheering equally for both men, the race was definitely back on. Stealing the advantage on the last lap for the first time in the race Lines nipped into first place and holding a strong line came around to take the win, a mere 14 seconds ahead of Wardell. Meanwhile an equally epic battle was unfolding for third place, with Newnham being challenged by Colin May and Sean Clark. With Clark unable to hold the pace, it was between May and Newnham, with both riders eagerly attacking the course. A single second split the riders in their sprint to the finish line, with Newnham holding his ground to take a hard-fought third place. Special mention must go to Newnham and Lines, who were amongst only three riders all day to ride, that’s right, ride, the large ‘run-up’ section on multiple laps, with Lines even pulling a wheelie at the top!

Kerry MacPhee picks her line

In the Senior Women’s category the race was also a battle for position, and with the notoriously tough Irvine worth double the bragging rights, the women were not about to let a win slip through their fingers. However, in the overall battle for first women home, one young lady laid down the gauntlet and simply sailed past all the competition.

"The race today was amazing! I went into it knowing that I was on good form, I was hoping to do something special here as Irvine is my favourite course of the series. After a lap or so I had stayed with the leaders, opening up a sizeable gap. As it got bigger I pushed harder, as I knew then that I could win. First woman has been an aim for a while, and to achieve it on my favourite course is pretty cool and rewarding." Isla Short

Prevented from entering the Senior race due to an age ruling, Junior rider Isla Short (Team Thomsons Cycles) claimed the honours of first woman home, a feat that has been her target all season. Incidentally, that also entailed a victory in the Junior Girls category. Over a minute ahead of the nearest rival, eyes turned back along the finish straight to see who would be next. Having battled throughout the race, Kerry MacPhee (Rock and Road Cycles) was hoping to make up for her mechanical issues of the previous weekend, while Maddy Robinson (Velo Club Moulin) searched for the points to seal her Series title. Taking the victory by less than 4 seconds, a delighted MacPhee took her first cyclocross victory of the season, while Robinson cursed a lack of pre-race nourishment. A strong ride from the extremely consistent Elizabeth Adams saw her finish in a comfortable third place.

l to r: Maddy Robinson, Kerry MacPhee and Elizabeth Adams

In the Junior Boys category, early leader Lewis Champion (Perth United CC) put in the fastest lap of the race but suffered from a last lap mechanical. Despite Champion desperately running for the line, the door was opened for Rory Mellis of The BicycleWorks to take his first victory of the season.

Rory Mellis takes a fine win at the beach

He was closely followed in by Conor Nally (Hardie Bikes), the only other rider to ride the ‘run-up’ sand dune through the race. Jamie Mason of West Lothian Clarion CC continued a strong season taking third.

Brendan's five-in-a-Roe

In a resounding result that would have seen him finish in third place in the Junior category, Veteran 50+ rider Brendan Roe stormed around the course to take his fifth consecutive victory of the 2013 Ridley Cycles Scottish Cyclocross Series. Malcolm Dunlop (VC Edinburgh) took second place ahead of Robert Earp (Walkers Cycling) who made the most of home advantage.

Isla Short goes from strength to strength

In the Womens Veteran category one woman has been ever-present on the top spot of the Scottish cyclocross podium this year. Brenda Callendar (Stirling Bike Club) put in yet another strong performance to hold off the chasing Walkers Cycling duo of Lorna Sloan and Catherine Logan, both of whom put in impressive performances in the women’s field – perhaps more of that home advantage! The male Veteran category has been a fantastic race to watch all year and, despite the apparent dominance of one man, the field has often been wide open with the podium positions changing multiple times throughout the race.

'Pain face' of Gary McCrae

Again at Irvine, it was the man from Fife, Gary McCrae of Team Leslie Bikeshop who took a stunning victory, with a performance unrivalled by any of his opponents. A steadily improving John Woodrow (Sandy Wallace Cycles) has, impressively, increased his result at each round by one place, with Irvine being no exception. Moving from third at Strathclyde Park to second at Irvine beach, he fought off the challenge to finish seven seconds to the good of McCrae’s teammate Franco Porco, who will have done his series standing no harm with a fine third place finish.

In the first race of the day on the shortened Under 12’s loop, over 90 kids took to the course on two-wheelers from balance bikes to high-spec race bikes and everything in between. For 10 minutes of fast, multi-lap racing, the youngsters battled it out with Gavin Gronkowski (Mukyriderz) first over the line in the Under 8’s category; a comfortable margin over local lad Findlay Wheeler (Walkers Cycling) and Struan Shaw (Clydesdale Colts) also on the podium. Young Daisy Taylor of East Kilbride Road Club put in a fantastic performance with a time that placed her 5th in the boys category to take the Under 8 girls victory ahead of Isla McCutcheon and Corrie Gilroy (EKRC). Assuming his regular spot on the winner’s step of the podium, Jamie Johnstone (Team Thomsons Cycles) held off the advances of Calum Reid from Stirling Bike Club and Hamish McLaren of the Johnstone Jets to triumph in the Under 12 category, with all boys crossing the line within 30 seconds of each other. Anna Flynn of Edinburgh RC completed an impressive seven laps in 13 minutes to top the Under 12 girls race, finishing a lap ahead of all the other competitors. Next home was Georgia Ferry (Glasgow Riderz) who took the sprint to the line by less than half a second from Emily Wilkinson (Peebles CC) for second place.

As the first race to take to the full course, the Youth categories headed out around a course in pristine condition and fully reaped the benefits with extremely high quality racing and interesting tactical battles. The Under 16 Boys event was a prime example of the strength and quality of young cyclocross racers that are developing in Scotland as a result of a strong national series. Conner Johnstone (Team Leslie Bikeshop) has come into his own as a racer this season, using his height to his advantage to power through the tough courses with a dogged determination. Pitted against the equally strong Team Hardie Bikes rider, Joe Nally, the racing was intense. Dicing back and forth, both riders unwilling to make the first move and give away tactical advantage, they switched positions for the best part of half an hour until Conner moved clear on the last lap and held that position for the win. Nally was a solid second, with John MacLeod (Edinburgh RC) rounding off the podium. Jenny Holl (Stirling Bike Club) reigned over Emma Borthwick (Edinburgh RC) who had a “terrible race!” in the Under 16 Girls, ahead of Katie Allen (Team Thomsons Cycles) who took third.

The victory in the Under 14 Boys was a lot more clear-cut with Sean Flynn (Edinburgh RC) equaling younger sister Anna’s success to finish more than four minutes ahead of his nearest rival. Cameron Mason (West Lothian Clarion CC) was second ahead of another Edinburgh RC rider, Maximillian Bloor. Ellie Park (Glasgow Riderz) completed four steady laps to finish ahead of Emily Field (Stirling Bike Club) and Megan Wilikson in the Under 14 Girls category.

"This season, I have really enjoyed getting stuck in and getting to grips with this curious cycling discipline. It is my first go at it and I can safely say I have been completely sucked in by the whole scene! I like a good blether and there are a lot of friendly folk on the scene so overlooking the sadistic nature of the race, the social side of it is ace. I also snapped my rear mech at Strathclyde so I believe that makes me a bonafide cyclocrosser now!?" Kerry MacPhee

The race was a true spectacle, with the stunning beachfront setting and views over to the atmospheric Ailsa Craig and the island of Arran. Match this with the suffering of racers as they struggled to keep the bike upright in the sand, whimpered their way to the top of the sand dune climbs and pushed a high gear on the flat sections, Irvine rightfully takes its place in the hearts of many riders and spectators.

Our own Morven Brown shows she's a fighter!

Next weekend there is a brief interlude from the Ridley Cycles Scottish Cyclocross Series, when regional events in Inverness and Kinross take place. The following weekend, December 8th, will be the highlight of the season for many as the Scottish Cyclocross Championships heads to Foxlake, Dunbar.

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