Ridley Scottish 'Cross Series Round 2

By Morven Brown

SCX Round 2 Callendar Park – 20/10/2013

Record Breaking Field for Scottish Cyclocross

“Building the course was the easy bit! The hard bit is putting everything together, such as getting all the people and the volunteers together. Callendar Park is such an easy place to build and design the course, when you look around it’s easy to imagine how the course will look and there are brilliant natural sections, which can be incorporated into the race course. Every race venue should have close racing, and all the categories here today were tight. You don’t want one person to sprint away off the start line and not be caught, as an organiser you have to think of the whole race as a spectacle." Franco Porco (Race Organiser)

Two weeks have passed since the Scottish Cyclocross season got off to a blistering start at Auchentoshan. For the racers, these two weeks have been full of cleaning and preparing bicycles, gluing ‘tubs’, and mentally and physically preparing themselves for the challenges of the rest of the season.

Round two of the Ridley Scottish Cyclocross Series continued in the traditional theme, with a return to the popular Callendar Park venue in Falkirk. With a new record entry for a Scottish Cyclocross event, a huge field of racers lined up on Sunday 20th October to take on the excellent, fast and exciting course laid out by Franco Porco and his fantastic team. A stunning turn out of 388 riders across all of the categories showed the meteoric rise of cyclocross in Scotland, and served to credit the hard work and effort by the organising committee.

Taking the High Line

The course features that cyclocross classic: grass, and lots of it! A fast, gravel path start tested the racers off the line, with every cyclist fighting for the fast-shrinking space and plenty of shoulder-to-shoulder action to delight spectators. From there the course swooped onto the grass, where switchbacks were the order of the day with off-camber corners aplenty. Following short, steep banking – which for the top athletes was rideable – racers had to quickly push down on the pedals to sneak a place or two on the straight, fast sections. A true test of cyclocross bike handling skills, the Callendar Park course challenged even the most competent of riders, on a truly classic style course. And all that is without mentioning the heavy rain which had been falling all week…

Paul McInally (Rock and Road Cycles) negotiates the tricky conditions

First up, on a tough little loop, were the Under 8 racers, with children as young as three years old on pedal-less bicycles giving it their all, every one with a big smile on their face. Ten minutes of intense racing in front of crowds of cheering supporters provided an excellent atmosphere for the young riders to hone their racing credentials. Gavin Gronkowski, supported by his orange-clad Mukyriderz teammates, shot off the start line and showed great strength throughout to seal a resounding victory, followed across the line by Finlay Turner of West Lothian Clarion. Third place went to Geoff Vera (Glasgow Riderz).

Future Stars: Under 8's sprint from the gun

Another ten-minute race soon set off for the Under 12s category, with the top riders managing to fit four laps of a testing loop, including a particularly tricky off-camber grass corner and a flight of stairs to challenge dismounting and remounting skills. With an incredible 24 girls entered, the top two racers were split by a mere 5 seconds after four laps, with Niamh Doherty (Glasgow Riderz) taking a narrow victory from her rival, Anna Flynn of Edinburgh RC. Elena McGorum (Peebles CC) finished on the same lap as the winner to take third in the race. In the Under 12s boys race, ever-present on the podium - and mostly on the top step! – Jamie Johnston from Team Thomsons Cycles, again powered around the course to victory. An extremely narrow margin separated second and third with Hamish McLaren sneaking to the line 3 seconds ahead of Kier Robb (Team Bicycles) who took the last of the podium spots.

Jamie Johnstone (Team Thomsons Cycles) sizes up the opposition

The first races to set off on the grassy, and slippery, full course were the Youth male and female categories. As first riders on the track, they reaped the benefit of less mud and smoother lines and the course gradually wore down throughout the day, to a state of near ice-rink sheen by the last race. For half an hour the younger racers battled it out for position, all knowing that victory in the race would be a bonus in it’s own right, but would also help bolster series positions. First girl across the line was road specialist, Emma Borthwick (Edinburgh RC). Matching her result at Round 1 at Auchentoshan, Jenny Holl from Stirling Bike Club took second, with Anna McGorum (Peebles CC) mirroring her younger sister’s result and rounding off the podium less than a minute behind Borthwick.  An extremely tight race in the Youth boys’ event provided an excellent spectacle for the family and friends lining the course to shout encouragement. Joe Nally (Hardie Bikes) took the win ahead of Conner Johnstone (Team Leslie Bikeshop), who was racing his second race of the weekend. John MacLeod from Edinburgh RC crossed the line 4 seconds behind Conner for third place.

Morven Yeoman

Equaling his younger brother’s result from earlier in the day, Harry Johnstone (Team Thomsons Cycles) made it two wins from two in the Scottish Cyclocross Series. The Helensburgh rider was pushed all the way to the line by the chasing Jamie Mason from West Lothian Clarion CC, who kept Johnstone within sight the entire race, finishing a mere 14 seconds behind the winner. Conor Nally (Hardie Bikes) finished in third spot.

"I got a bit of a fright at the start, some of the boys took off pretty well and I worried about the competition but after one lap I settled into my rhythm and made sure that I kept a good gap ahead of Willie Young who was going very good today. The course is great! We were lucky that we got it early on when it wasn’t so slippy. Franco Porco and Davie Lines always do a great job on this course and it’s one of the best supported events of the series." Brendan Roe

Another rider taking his second victory of the SCX series was Veteran 50+ rider Brendan Roe, who rode a comfortable and well-paced race to finish ahead of William Young (Pedal Power RT) and Malcolm Dunlop (Velo Club Edinburgh).

Race-winning family: Brendan and Eileen Roe

In a race day filled with an astonishing number of family members matching each others results, Eileen Roe wasn’t one to let her father Brendan outdo her. As a stunning 28 women, and yet another record for Scottish Cyclocross, lined up on the start line the strength and depth of the field was like no other seen in Scotland. A fast start for Xterra Triathlon racer-turned-mountain biker, and first time cyclocrosser, Kerry MacPhee (Rock and Road Cycles) saw her lead out Eileen and Maddy Robinson (Velo Club Moulin). To and fro the riders went, with each taking the opportunity to benefit from the other’s misfortune with crashes aplenty on a greasy surface as racers battled with bicycles to keep themselves upright. Forty minutes later Roe, the current Scottish Cyclocross Champion, emerged victorious having built up a 30 second advantage over Robinson, with MacPhee in third.

“It was a really good race today, I can’t believe that there was 28 women on the start line! It’s really shown that cyclocross has taken off here in Scotland; I think that was more women than were at the Scottish road race Champs! I love the ‘cross! It’s brilliant! It’s so friendly and welcoming, the Scottish cyclocross scene is like a great big family and you get to catch up with your friends throughout the winter." Eileen Roe

Isla Short of Team Thomsons Cycles showed that she had the power to battle with the senior women as she took the Junior victory ahead of teammate and British MTB XC Champion Erika Allen. First Veteran woman was Brenda Callendar (Stirling Bike Club) who powered home, with a result that would have placed her 6th in the senior field. Behind her, Fiona Russell was second ahead of Lorna Sloan of Walkers Cycles.

The lunchtime ‘kick-off’ went to the Veteran 40-49 category, one of the fastest and most competitive fields, as the riders strengthen with age and use experience to their advantage. Gary McCrae (Leslie Bike Shop) was the marked man as the Auchentoshan victor and challenges from throughout the field proved that he was the main target. However, McCrae kept his cool to complete seven laps of the increasingly challenging course in 45 minutes of racing. Looking down the finishing straight, spectators were kept guessing as to who would fill the last two podium spots. The Leslie Bikeshop domination had been shattered at Auchentoshan with the appearance of Glasgow United teammates James Melville and Stephen Jackson in second and third respectively. The top three riders finished within 30 seconds of one-another, in a carbon copy of the Auchentoshan podium. Special mention must go to Franco Porco (Leslie Bikeshop), already exhausted on the start line from two weeks of organising the race, who made the most of home advantage to take a solid fourth place.

Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens)

Finally, the largest mass-start of the day lined up with almost 20 lines of riders filling the Callendar Park path and flying off the gun. Instantly the pace was high enough to put even the fittest of the 88 competitor’s heart rates into the red, with every rider hoping to hit the grass in first place. Roger Campbell Crawford (Team Thomsons Cycles) delighted his team as he led around the start/finish to head out onto the first full lap. However he was “just having one of those days” and made way for the younger end of the field. Commonwealth Games hopeful and top British cross country racer, Grant Ferguson (Superior Brentjens) was ultimately the star of the show, comfortably settling into a strong advantage over the chasing riders. Despite his prowess, it was imperative that Ferguson did not let off the pedals or slide out on the many lethal sweeping grassy corners, with the senior women’s race having shown the high cost of crashing. The chase was on behind with Simon Kirkness (TheBicycleWorks.com) and Iain Paton (Ben Wyvis) locked in battle with single-speed expert Colin May (Edinburgh RC).

“Today was a bit of a challenge! When Grant is at a race you know that it’s always going to be very fast-paced but he really did have some strength to build the gap that he did. Unfortunately, I punctured halfway through the race and just couldn’t get back to Grant’s wheel after that. I was actually quite lucky to stay ahead of Simon Kirkness at that point, as I didn’t have any spare wheels in the pits, and was fortunate to have a friend who had raced in the previous race who gave me a loan of a wheel." Iain Paton

Mid-way through the race a puncture put paid to Paton’s hopes of challenging Ferguson, however a strong and consistent ride ensured that he did not lose out on second. A delighted Kirkness rounded off the podium places with a stunning ride less than 10 seconds behind the GB Olympic Development rider. By the time the stragglers were finishing their last lap, the course was a muddy brown trail, slicker than the Cresta Run, with steep downhill corners only negotiable with one foot out of the pedal to maintain balance. The hurdles, which had once seemed like a quick run and a hop over, had become mini-Everests, involving a massive heave to pull bike and body over. The final straight to the finish saw many a grimace, with riders having enjoyed the course and the racing in that familiar sadistic way that one reserves for the love of cyclocross racing.

“My race today went almost exactly to plan. Once I got to the front of the field I had to make sure that I rode a consistent and well-paced race as I knew the strength of the riders working together behind me. I really enjoyed the course as it was a lot like the British National courses, with plenty of testing, off-camber grassy corners. It’s always good to be back up racing in Scotland and I would like to get to more of the Scottish cyclocross series if I can. If possible, I’ll be at the Scottish Cyclocross Championships, as it’s always nice to challenge and take the title at the big events.” Grant Ferguson

A fantastic day out was had by all, with spectators drinking in the surroundings of the beautiful Callender Park House, with more than 10 sections in sight from the front Lawn. Callendar Park was an example of classic cyclocross: an excellent course design to challenge and delight the racers in equal measures. With the support of their series sponsors, Ridley Bicycles, Madison and Lazer, and the excellent local organisers – in this case Franco Porco - the Scottish Cyclocross is providing a race series like no other.

Race Organiser Franco Porco tackles the course

The Scottish Cyclocross Series continues on the third of November at Knockburn Loch, with a lighthearted diversion on the 31st October with the Halloween-themed ‘Hallocross’.

Stay tuned to The Press Room for a full report.