On a day when the Northern skies and the Cromarty Firth conspired in a sullen, grey partnership, Jim Cusick’s (Glasgow Couriers) winning 1:51:36 in the Scottish 50 mile championships around Invergordon, shone like a beacon.
Revelling in the cold, wet conditions, Cusick (above) beat another hardman, Carlos Riise (Shetland Wheelers) by nearly two minutes, the islander recording 1:53:20.
Third went to Fifer, Joe Wilson (Sandy Wallace) with 1:53:42; medals were a long way from the Crombie man’s mind mid-week however, when he was run-down by a van and his bike written-off.
Scottish 10 and 25 champion, and ‘super-favouriite’ – as the Belgian papers would say – Jason Macintyre’s bid for the ‘treble’ ended as one his Contiental tyres found a piece of grit washed onto the course surface by the relentless rain. Jason finished the race in a marshal’s car.
At least he started; Ray Wilson (Dunfermline), Jonathan Copp (Deeside) and the Sandy Wallace duo of Mark Atkinson and Ian Black all failed to answer the time keeper’s call. Given the cold, low cloud and rain, it was hard to blame them.
The course starts at Invergordon and heads north briefly, to connect with the new A9, which by-passes the town, a 90 degree left takes the riders east.
Rolling and exposed but well-surfaced the course heads towards Dingwall to turn at the end of the Cromarty Firth bridge, before retracing past the start to turn left at Kildary where it loops back east along the ‘old’ A9 to turn once more, beyond Invergordon.
This leg places temptation in the rider’s way because the turn is only minutes from the strip.
After the dead turn it’s back into the head wind to Kildary, left to the Nigg roundabout – in Pictish heartland – before a final turn for the tail-wind-assisted blast east, back along the main A9 to the finish.
First on the road at Barbaraville on the leg back to Invergordon was Catriona Morrison (Planet X); Jessica Wilson-Young (Edinburgh RC) off 10 was rolling a big gear, well on the way to an eventual, winning 2:7:35.
Just coming into this leg, as I arrived at Kildary, was Jason, taking no risks as he trickled round the corner; he would puncture soon after – and I didn’t even get a chance to take his picture.
He had just caught number 17 for 13 minutes and the previous day on the A9 ’10’ course at Invergordon, produced a 19:41, what time he would have done is hard to say – but it would have been rapid, no question.
It’s maybe my fault he punctured – I was preparing a list of ‘winner’s questions’ for him when he vanished.
There were huge gaps in the field as the marshall spun his brolly to pass the time.
One man who was still in there was vet, Steve Beech (Sandy Wallace) – a little rain doesn’t put-off a man who has battled with the Russians in 70’s Milk Races.
With Jason’s exit, the race was between three riders – Jim, Carlos and Joe. I felt that it may be Carlos’s day – he’s a man who just gets on with the job, irrespective.
But Jim’s bronze in the 25 last weekend was no fluke and he was up on Carlos, who in turn was up on Joe.
Despite not being able to engage his 11 sprocket for the wind-assisted finale along the A9, Jim was gaining time all the way and looking comfortable despite the dire conditions.
At the line, it was the Jim Cusick, the Glasgow man’s day; he was still in his damp gear as he told us about his ride.
‘When I looked-out of the window today, I thought; “brilliant”, I love conditions lke these. The wind wasn’t too bad, there was never any part where it felt really ‘dead’.
“I’ve been helping a girl in the triathlon club train and it’s been good for me because it’s made me get back into methods that I’ve not been practising; like training at a high cadence and interval work.
“I’m not particularly keen on training so I ride a lot of ’10’s to get condition. I ride a 53 ring and into the headwind I was using the 15 and 16, trying to keep the cadence up.
“I’ve altered my position. I’m sitting a bit lower now and I think that’s helped my speed.
“This is the first time I’ve won the 50, I took the bronze in 2004 but there’s always been some other character like Jason (Macintyre), Carlos (Riise) or Mark (Atkinson) around who’s been going better than me. I think my ride shows the value of perseverance – just keep plugging-away and eventually it’ll come together.”
It was good to catch-uo with Carlos Riise, usually he’s scurrying off to the airport to catch the plane back to Shetland, today his flight wasn’t until 6.00 pm though. He was dismissive of the weather;
“Just a typical Shetland Summers day! I felt OK today, I kept on top of it all the way round. I took no chances with tyres today and rode sturdy jobs; on a day like this you can’t go too light.
“I’ve got a new bike this year, a Planet X, and it’s much more stable than the Hotta I used to ride, if it was windy it got blown about a bit. Our next events will be the Island Games in Rhodes, we fly-out on Thursday.
“There’s a road race, a criterium and a time trial, which is the main event for me.” [He’s bound to get better weather there] .
Joe Wilson was happy with bronze and leading Alan Dow and James Hall to the team title for Sandy Wallace; particularly given the week he’s had.
“I was riding to work on Wednesday morning and a guy in a van didn’t see me at a roundabout and drove right into me. I’m scuffed all down my side, but my bike is a right-off. I’m happy that my form is stating to come-good, it’s taken a while.
“I had a good start to the year but then I struggled a bit – you can’t give-in though. I have a 100 at Aberdeen next week, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.”
It won’t be as good as being in the rain at Invergordon, but VeloVeritas are going to be at the Belgian Elite road race championship next Sunday – it’s a dirty job, but …