The Scottish Season starts and VeloVeritas begins it’s coverage of the Scottish season this Sunday, with the Hugh Dornan Memorial race on the Rosneath peninsula.

We’re starting a bit late but “day jobs”, flu, gum surgery and Het Volk have all played their part in keeping us away from Scotland’s lay-bys.

Scottish Season
Arthur Doyle doing well already this season.

The men taking the top placings this season so far are all pretty familiar names: Graeme Obree, Ray Wilson, Arthur Doyle, Jonathan Copp, Joe Wilson – the usual suspects.

Familiar names, but it’s been anything but a routine off-season.

Two major sponsors pulled-out, C21 and North Beach Hotel, plus there’s been a welter of transfer activity; with Velo Ecosse in the eye of the storm.

British 25 Mile and Circuit Time Trial champion, Jason Macintyre, left after a ten year association with the team, joining a resurgent Dooleys squad — more of that in a minute.

Gary Robson, who backed Jason to the British 25 Mile Time Trial Champs team title (but who was ineligible for Scottish team titles on account of having raced for the Peebles club early in 2006), took the same route from East to West as Jason and for 2007 will also ride for Edge RT/Dooleys.

Up and coming tester, Sean Gray, and the perennial Billy McFarlane will back the two new recruits.

Jason’s fellow Fort William man, Mark Atkinson, has also left the team after some six seasons; multi-champion and current Scottish competition record holder at 30 and 100 miles, Mark joins Joe Wilson and Ian Black at Sandy Wallace Cycles, making for another formidable testing squad.

The moves have depleted the Velo Ecosse team and must be disappointing for Phil Brown (formerly Deeside) and Stewart McGregor (formerly C21) who joined the Edinburgh club to back Jason with his road ambitions for 2007.

The man who thought he was finished with cycle racing sponsorship, Alan Brown, former owner of the North Beach Hotel and now ‘patron’ of Edge RT/Dooleys took time to talk to us about his new squad.

“I thought I was retiring when I sold the North Beach Hotel and that would be the end of my involvement in cycle sponsorship. But Paul Rennie and Jim Murphy have put in a lot of work this winter; last season was a transition season for both of them, with changes in their personal lives, so we didn’t see the best of the them, but I think that this season will be different and I decided to get involved.”

I asked where the ‘Edge RT’ comes from; “it’s the name of one of my companies.” Alan continued; “We’ve also got some good young lads, like Tom Dempster who came up through Brave Heart. The Jason thing was a surprise, if we’d known earlier we could have planned more; Jason has some big ambitions for this year, but I’ll let him tell you about them himself! To back him against the watch we have Gary Robson, Sean Gray and Billy McFarlane. When a rider like Jason comes along, you don’t say ‘no’ to him.”

I enquired about the road season; “We’ll be riding all the big Scottish races, including Girvan but it’s also our intention to ride most of the
Premier Calendars down south; as well as Jason, Paul and Jim we have Graham McGarrity on board.”

Could Edge RT give us the first Scottish Girvan winner in 20 years (Andy Ferry – riding for the Scotland B team)? Jason is reported to be 2 kilos lighter than last year, producing stellar numbers on the turbo and is just back from a training camp in Lanzarote.

We tried to get a comment from Sandy Wallace about his new squad, but he’s in New Zealand — lucky him.

We intend to get rider comments on the moves as the season progresses, but what about the man who lost his stars and has to start building a team all-over again?

We asked Mr Russell for his feelings regarding Jason’s move;

“It was a shock when Jason said he was leaving us, I thought he was solid with the team but I had heard on the grapevine that he had made approaches elsewhere.

“My sponsors are obviously very disappointed, based on last year’s results we received better support for this season so Jason’s departure was very frustrating for them.

“Gary’s move was dispiriting too; he had given me a commitment that he would stay with us for at least three seasons. Of the three, I can understand Mark’s motives most easily; when Jason and Gary left, that was his team support gone.

“Mark loves his time trialling and likes to win on an individual and team basis so he’s gone to a team where he’ll get a lot of support against the watch.”

I asked what 2007 holds for the team;

“Well, we have Stewart McGregor, don’t forget that he won the Grand Prix series in 2005;

“Phil Brown, who is always in the thick of things and Owen Jeffries from Ireland — he’s held the jersey in the Tour of the North and is a very good rider.None of them are in peak condition at the moment, but as the season progresses I expect them all to come in to better form.

“As well as the ‘big-boys’ we’ve got a lot of young riders on the way up and we’ll be helping them to develop.”

So ‘all-change’ then. It should be an interesting race on Sunday – see you there.