Forever Young!

The John Davies Memorial RR/Scottish National Vet Men's Championship 2019

Words and images: The Press Room

Andy Bruce shows us why he's a 1st Cat!

We’re sure John Davies was looking down on Newton Mearns on Sunday as his club VC Glasgow South organised the race in his memory, a race that this year incorporated the Scottish National Veteran Men’s Championship. He’d obviously put in a request for decent weather but you don’t get everything, as the usual blustery wind from the Southwest would make the run down the Stewarton Road hard going each time.

We’ll get to the race in a minute but first some words about John…

John Davies was my friend. I’m not going to say we were best mates but whenever I met John over the years, he had that ability to cut through the awkward talk and get to the meat of the subject. It was this ability that, in part, made him a friend to so many people.

I first met John in 2006/2007 when he would come in to the bike shop and we would talk bikes, bike racing and bike racers…subjects he was passionate about. He always had two coffees and we’d shoot the breeze and put the cycling world to rights. All I knew about John was that he owned a café on the south side of Glasgow, named Café Coppi if any more proof of his love of bikes was needed, and that he was planning to sell up and spend the cold half of each year sunning himself in Spain.

He also told me about the plans to set up VC Glasgow South and break the perception that clubs were elitist and non-inclusive…that’s not to say that they were but the perception among many ‘new’ cyclists was that some clubs could be less than friendly. Thankfully, through VC Glasgow South and many others, that perception has changed.

Past and present club sponsors: much missed Adrenaline Bikes and Glasgow's own Dales Cycles

It was about this time that John was first diagnosed with cancer and it’s such a cruel condition in that the sufferer goes through illness, treatment, recovery and, if they’re lucky, remission. John went through quite a few rounds of this but never lost his focus or love for the sport.

I next came across John Davies when I started The Press Room in 2013 and realized that John was both a highly qualified UCI Commissaire and a member of the Scottish Cycling Board of Directors. He was really pleased that The Press Room had come into being as it filled a gap in the coverage of Scottish racing. Of course there were and are other guys doing good stuff, most noticeably Martin and Ed at VeloVeritas and while their coverage is always great, who can blame them if they get the chance to go and cover races in Europe.

John Davies: a huge loss to everyone who knew him and to loads that had not yet had the pleasure

John always made a point of coming over and chatting at major races and this brought a smile as the other photographers and officials took note. He was extremely pleased when The Press Room first contracted with Scottish Cycling in 2015 to produce race reports and always helped smooth our way at races.

We spoke to John about doing a series of in-depth interviews with notable people in the cycling community…not just a few questions but proper sit-down interviews spread over five or six pages and easily double the amount of cups of coffee. He agreed to be our first but asked if we could wait until he’d recovered a bit from the latest round of treatment. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but his wife Liz has agreed to do the interview in John’s place so something to watch out for.

In closing this simple eulogy, the last time I saw John was at the Scottish 10 champs in May of 2015 when, as SC Board member, he turned out to the hall in Bishopton to present the medals and prizes at that year’s 10-Mile Championship. He was clearly frail at this point but such was his spirit that there was no way he wasn’t going to be there to honour the riders and everyone else who’d turned out to race in the miserable conditions that day.

I’ve missed our chats, his enthusiasm and support, his love for cycling, and for coffee, and it’s no surprise that so many of his friends turned out to race in his honour over his favourite roads in this part of the world. Thanks John!

Onto the main event and the riders marshaled at the Indian Platform, or Malletsheugh Inn as many still think of it, before the NEG took the race onto the circuit on Malletsheugh Road. A quick run down passed the cottages and then the left turn and south to Stewarton…and into the teeth of the wind.

Early movers Richard McGhee and Gary McCrae

First riders to make a push were Richard McGhee (Glasgow Nightingale CC) and Gary McCrae (Leslie Bike Shop) and they were 20 seconds clear of the field as they came up through the finish line at the quarry for the first time. Anyone who’s ridden this road will know that while there’s no major climb, the constant up and down especially into the wind, soon takes its toll. We remember on a Braveheart ride years ago, there were riders taking shelter from the driving rain behind the quarry wall and the sheep who were there too, didn’t even bother moving!

Greig Brown and Andy Bruce pushing off the Clunch

We next caught the riders where they came down off the Clunch and picked up the tailwind back up the A77. Greig Brown and Andy Bruce (Bioracer-Moriarty Bikes) led through the left-hander and Andy later told us that he and Greig had picked up the pace over the top, not so much to try and break away but rather to stop other riders sheltering in the wheels. Martin Lonie (Nuun-Sigma Sports-London RT), David Lines (Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli), Jason Roberts (Bioracer-Moriarty Bikes) and David Blockley (RT23) were all paying close attention and riding at the front. Andy Bruce obviously liked that point as a launch pad and a plan began to form.

(l) Ross Crook leads up the Clunch for the second time around, closely watched by Martin Lonie. (r) Dominic Hines and Gary McCrae battle for honours in the V50 category

Next time around we watched them coming up the Clunch just after turning off the Stewarton Road and it was Ross Crook (Edinburgh RC) leading the charge. There were a few riders off the back now with a small group having lost contact first time around. Dave Blockley also rode through behind the main field, telling us that he’d punctured right at the turn and despite his best efforts, there was no way he was getting back to the head of affairs.

Unlucky to suffer a front wheel puncture, David Blockley was left to chase the main field

On the dip down just before the final rise, Andy Bruce made his move and got clear. Having made the turn and with the wind at his back, he looked around to see that James McCallum (META Bike Division) was bridging across. Now it’s taken James three years to become a 3rd Cat, and he may have been riding mountain bikes most recently, but there’s no mistaking his talents on a bike and Andy Bruce was worried about taking a seasoned winner all the way to the line. James though said, “lets just ride and see where it takes us.”

Next time back down towards Stewarton, the pair were well away with a close-to two minute gap over the chasing field. Andy Bruce looked to be puffing a bit but James McCallum was looking as serene as ever.

Setting up the win as James McCallum and Andy Bruce fight into the wind on the run towards Stewarton

The bunch came through with Martin Lonie and Ross Crook leading the charge, the Bioracer pairing of Greig Brown and Jason Roberts taking it a bit easier as they had a man up the road.

So the question was, could the lead pair stay away and if so, who would win the dash to the line?

As it happened, a chase group got away and began to hunt down the two leaders. Martin Lonie was pushing it hard with Gary McCrae, Jason Roberts and David Lines all in the mix. Defending Champion David Lines later told us that he’d hit a pothole early on, lost his drinks bottle and snapped the r/h lever clamp on his shifter which meant that he had to ride all the way around on the drops and the shots of the final dash up to the finish confirm how difficult this must have been. 

Four miles out from the finish, James McCallum looked across at Andy Bruce and said, “that’s it mate, my legs are done. It’s up to you now! Good luck!” Andy Bruce went into time trial mode and struck for home but the chasers were bearing down on him. The time gap was shrinking and he didn’t know if he could hang on but eventually the 300 metres-to-go board hove into view and he accepted that he wouldn’t be beaten.

Andy Bruce crests the final rise to win the John Davies Memorial RR and take the Vet's title for the second time

Delight written all over his face, he still checked to make sure that no-one could come around him as he crossed the line and took the championship title for a second time, later thanking James McCallum for all his help.

Exhaustion and delight all at the same time

Twenty seconds later it was a sprint for second between Martin Lonie and Jason Roberts with Martin finding the power to cross the line with a good few bike lengths’ advantage…not bad for a rider just recovering from illness.

Next sprint was between Gary McCrae and David Lines with the Leslie Bike Shop man coming home first and tying up the V50 title and 4th place overall…a superb ‘special delivery’ from the flying postman! Jimmy Mac hung on for 6th spot overall and in doing so, lifted the John Davies Cup which is reserved for the best 3rd/4th Cat rider.

(l) Martin Lonie outsprints Jason Roberts to fill the V40 podium while (r) a superb performance sees Gary McCrae finish ahead of David Lines, securing the V50 title in the process

Greig Brown finished alone for 7th and then it was a bunch sprint…not just for honours but for medals as well in the V50 category. Leading the charge was Walter Hamilton (VeloClub Edinburgh) but hot on his wheel was Musselburgh RCC’s Ali Watt and this performance secured the Silver in the V50 group. Walter had been helping his clubmate and last year’s winner Dominic Hines and he finished just behind the Icarus pairing of Alan Griffiths and George Roberts with ERC’s Jesse Vernon separating the two of them.

It may not have been Gold this time but Dominic Hines stepped onto yet another podium to claim Bronze in the V50.

Winner, winner as Andy Bruce and Gary McCrae are congratulated on taking the 2019 titles

Bill Craig’s (Organiser) idea of having an uphill finish to make it easier to separate riders didn’t work as the rest of the field crossed the line. We’re sure John Davies, looking down, would have been delighted at the way the race played out.

Andy Bruce certainly was delighted with his win, especially as he hadn’t actually been targeting this race as he’s preparing for the British Masters Track Championship in a couple of weeks time. He was physically exhausted at the end which allowed us to capture a very rare shot of him not actually smiling…thank goodness, the waving has finally stopped!

Prized photo of Andy Bruce without his trademark smile

It was back to the hall to see the medals and jerseys being presented. Scottish Cycling personnel seem to be a bit thin on the ground these days (unless it’s BMX and the boost in membership fees that might bring) and while Fraser Johnson was there for SC, we would have thought such a notable cycling personage as John Davies, an SC director no less, deserved someone in a higher position to present the national titles.

(l) V40 podium: Martin Lonie, Andy Bruce and Jason Roberts. (r) V50 podium: Ali Watt, Gary McCrae and Dominic Hines

No matter, the guys from VC Glasgow South know how to promote their event and a race video is now doing the rounds. We were really happy to be invited and it’s onto the Ali Speed Memorial 50 next weekend.

The Press Room: on the bottom of Scottish cycling...

We were also delighted to see yet another Scottish Champion sporting The Press Room logo on their kit as they climbed onto the podium.

3rd Cat James McCallum wins the John Davies Trophy...he might make something of himself if he sticks at it

The final word goes to Andy Bruce…”I had one of the Bakewell slices before the race, so I’m definitely going to have another now!”

Recipe for success: Bakewell Slice!