On a day when a raw wind scythed across the Borders hills, that slim man who must feel the cold more than most, David Griffiths (Pro Vision Scotland) defended his Scottish Hill Climb Championship on the savage, technical climb out of Stow Village in the rolling Scottish Borders. Griffiths tells us he’s heavier than last year but still looks pretty damn skinny to us.
Chris Smart (GTR) made it a hat trick of wins in the classic Tour de Trossachs 2017 time trial over 24.5 beautiful but demanding miles on a calm, mild and dry autumn Sunday morning, adding to his 2014 and 2015 victories - the race was cancelled last year due to roadworks. Smart recorded 58:55 for the shortened course which went over the ‘Big’ Braes of Greenock rather than the usual ‘Wee’ Braes, reducing the distance by some three miles and cutting out the tough ‘Ruskie’ hamlet section of the course.
VeloVeritas took a wee run over to Glasgow on Saturday to the Glasgow Sprint Grand Prix; here are some snaps we took which we hope you like. In the language of the Gael, Glasgow is the ‘Dear Green Place’ and right across the road from the splendid Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome it’s even more sublime that that – ‘Paradise.’ At least that’s what the Celtic fans call their Parkhead ground.
The season of 2017 started with positive vibes. I was extremely dedicated and trained hard all through winter. My progression was measured by regular testing with my coach. By February I was counting down the days until I moved to Belgium where I would undertake my first season of racing on the Continent. Prior to leaving for my new home, I discussed a handful of targets to aim for during the season. This really motivated me to knuckle down and complete the last few weeks training. With everything packed I headed for Belgium on the 12th of March. I couldn't wait to get stuck in!
The Scottish Elite men’s and women’s Road Race Championships winners medals went to new homes with neither of last year's winners Evan Oliphant or Eileen Roe on the start sheet for Sundays events. An exciting day's racing saw the victory in the Elite Men’s race go to the Army CC’s Mark Robertson with Julie Erskine riding appropriately for Cycle Team on Form taking the Women’s title.
Former Dutch Champion, Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL) struck out early on Stage 21 and held on for his seventh win of the season after stage wins in Dubai, Yorkshire, two in Norway and two in the Ster ZLM Tour. He’s had two sixth places, a fifth, a third and a second in this Tour but with that big hurdle called Kittel out of the way, this one belonged to him. Andre Greipel’s (Lotto & Germany) terminal velocity was much higher but the 24 year-old from Amsterdam had the better timing and positioning over the sea of cobbles that is the Place de la Concorde. A former winner of the u23 Ronde Van Vlaanderen he’s no pure drag strip artist and has also won races like the Brussels Cycling Classic and Ronde um Koln – he’s quick.
This 23 year-old is a force of nature and has to be one of our best medal hopes at the Commonwealth Games; she’s been rampant recently in the European Championships and World Cups; Ms. Katie Archibald recently kindly took time to speak to VeloVeritas about her autumn adventures and her future ambitions:
The last time we spoke to 22 year-old Scotsman Mark Stewart he’d just ridden a cracking U23 Road Worlds in Bergen – cue total contrast from big blue skies, solitude, fjords and fresh air to The Kuipke with light about as artificial as you can get, wall to wall people, scary steep boards and the smell of burgers frying ... and Jupiler pils. Mark’s partner for the six nights of Europop and autograph requests was Worlds U23 road race fourth placed man and GB team mate, Ollie Woods. The interview was conducted in the authentic but cramped surroundings of his trackside cabin at the Kuipke.
Yes, Scotland has two Olympic champions on the Commonwealth Games squad for The Gold Coast; Katie Archibald and Callum Skinner. We also have double European U23 champion, Mark Stewart and World Cup gold medallist, Neah Evans. But there’s another name which isn’t so obvious, that of 26 year-old Jonny Wale – born and raised in Scotland, British team pursuit champion and author of a 1:01.1 kilometre. We caught up with Jonny recently to get his story. He’s recovering from a training crash which resulted in a broken collarbone but hasn’t kept him out of the gym or off the turbo – the man wants to get to the Gold Coast, real bad!
It was at the Berlin Six Day a few years ago that we first saw Neah Evans in action on the boards. She’s made a lot of progress since then and the 27 year-old was recently part of the successful GB team pursuit squad at the Manchester World Cup. High times we ‘had a word.’
Sunday, Stage 15 and VeloVeritas’s last shift on Tour - so we headed for the biggest hill we could find to remind ourselves how special and beautiful France and this race really are. Today we’re in the heartland, perhaps not deepest agricultural ‘France Profonde;’ the rural, simple, beautiful heart of the nation, not with the gorges and cols - but it’s quiet, lovely and some of the simple, striking images surprise as you drive the parcours.
In Part One of our interview with Irish rider Aidan Duff we heard about his six years based in Nantes, three of them riding for Jean Rene Bernadeau's top flight Vendee U squad, his experiences riding with Thomas Voeckler in the team, and his wins in the Herald Sun Tour and Tour of Brittany. We continue our chat by asking Aidan why he stopped racing and how he moved into the business side of the game, as well as the unusual methods involved in producing his custom-sized carbon fibre frames and bike builds...
Continuing on our recent Irish theme we caught up with Aidan Duff, former Vendee U professional and now owner of Fifty One Cycles – building bespoke carbon frames. 'Fifty One?' we hear you say... The race number for Merckx, Ocana, Thevenet and Hinault when they won the Tour de France. With tales of Jean Rene Bernadeau, Tommy Voeckler and building custom carbon – not ‘off the peg from Taiwan’ - we cover some interesting ground. Let’s go...
Let’s start with the price of wheels; £3,300 for a pair of Lightweights – as Woody Allen might say; ‘what ! are you crazee ?’ Men are winning kermises every day in Belgium on thousand euro bikes; if you’re a Grand Tour rider looking for every advantage on some horrible mountain stage – yes. If you’re riding Ingliston criteriums – NO!
In Part One of our interview with Sandy Gordon, we heard about his horror crash at the 1966 Tour of Austria and missing the Jamaica Commonwealth Games, helping Brian Temple secure a silver medal at the 1970 Commonwealth Games and racing in the Tours of Scotland, Czechoslovakia - and getting banned for racing in South Africa at the Rapport Toer. We continue the chat by finding out more about Sandy's other overseas races and his many domestic successes...
Late June 1972, Loch Lomond and history is made as Sandy’s Gilchrist and Gordon tie for the Scottish ‘50’ mile time trial title with 2:01:46 whilst Ron Gardner is third with 2:05:15. My part in this historic day on the old road which tracked every curve and bump of those bonnie, bonnie but tough banks? I was caught by both winners on my way to some ignominious time which I now no longer remember but which would have been closer to 20 mph than 25 mph... VeloVeritas has already caught up with Mr. Gilchrist so high times we spoke to the ‘second Sandy,’ who won a record breaking seven Scottish titles that season. Sandy Gordon was a fixture on the West cycling scene for a decade and more with the Glasgow Clarion, Glasgow Regent, Glasgow Wheelers and Scotia Sport clubs.
The 12 day, 13 stage British ‘Milk Race’ of 1992 was a pro-am affair with Belgian hard men Collstrop – who won four stages including the opening TTT; talented home pros from Banana-Met; the Danish National squad; the Belgian National team; a squad form CIS, the Commonwealth of Independent States – formerly the Soviet Union and the Netherlands National team to name but seven. And a team from Ireland; but no one expected 21 year-old Conor Henry from Belfast to defy some of the best riders in Europe to take final victory. Here’s his story...
We pick up our chat with John Mangan after discussing his 'adventure' at the Munich Olympics which involved hiding in the woods, the riders he respected most, how most of his 156 wins came through pure power, and of course, why the 'Rider Mafia' simply had to let him in. John rode 13 seasons in France, ’76 and ’79 were his best but the thing about having great form is that it encourages you to keep racing, keep pushing and you pay for it the next season. As John told us; "You’ve gone too deep - it's like a car battery, if you let it run too low it’ll perhaps never accept a full charge again. I had a philosophy that if I beat someone one day then there was nothing to stop me from beating them again the next day. The ‘speakers’ used to call me ‘Master John,’ or the ‘Irish Compressor’ but usually the ‘Irish Locomotive.’"
‘Mangan steals show’ or ‘Ras title for Mangan’ nice enough headlines but there’s just something about French that rings that little bit better, ‘John Mangan en solitaire,’ or ‘Mangan brillant vainquer a Cagnes.’ But not just Cagnes – Fougeres, Cancale, Landihen, La Gouesniere, Loudeas, Trebry, Evry, Saint-Ouen-la-Rouerie, Ploemeur, Montauban, Rennes ... John Mangan won 156 continental races not to mention a raft of races in his native Ireland before he headed for France and huge success. Such was his strength both on and of the bike that for a decade he was head of the ‘Brittany Mafia’, the group of riders which controlled racing in the West France racing Heartland. He would tell me; ‘I think that in all the years I was there we only let two wins slip away from us.’
Dublin's Shay Elliott was a man of firsts: the first (and only) English speaker to win Het Volk in 1959; the first English speaker to win a stage in the Vuelta and to wear the amarillo jersey of race leadership in 1962; the first English speaker to win a Giro stage in 1960, and the first English speaker to hold the yellow jersey of race leadership in the Le Tour in 1963, but his pro career ended ignominiously and his premature death at just 36 years of age is still the subject of speculation in Irish cycling circles....