On a dismal Wednesday night for the Eastern Promise Road Race, made even more unpleasant by Pro Tour level midges, it was those Pedal Power boys carrying on where they left off in the Sam Robinson, with Gordon Murdoch and Gary Hand scooping the dosh in the Eastern Promise road race across the moors around Gladhouse Reservoir.

Eastern Promise Road Race
Callum Wilkinson (thebicycleworks).

I haven’t trained as an SC commissaire, but presumably there’s a rule which says;

Pre race briefings must always be conducted outside in the torrential rain, rather than in the comfort and dry of the strip.”

The start was traumatic for me; the police Land Rover was in front of us, the red warning lights came on and I flashed back to that time on the M90 a few years ago; “step out of the car sir!”

Gregor asked me if everything was OK, I snapped out of it and there were all these boys on bikes – ah yes…

There were three away within the first mile and six out of the back (all from the same club, but we won’t say which one) as we turned left to go the wrong way round the circuit and meet them at the top of the main climb – up from the Peebles road.

The Moorfoot Hills aren’t far out of the city, but it could be a hundred miles; it’s so barren.

These used to be some of Sandy Gilchrist’s favourite training roads – but that’s all so long ago, now.

A large buzzard had a look at us from his perch on a fence post, he must have heard about all those guys out the back.

At the top of the climb the cows had gathered to watch Gary Hand and Rob Wardell (Sandy Wallace) (left) lead over on the first lap, followed by Ben Abrahams (Velo Ecosse) and Callum Wilkinson (thebicycleworks).

Eastern Promise Road Race
Rob Wardell (Sandy Wallace).

I asked Gary later, if it hadn’t been a bit early to be attacking; “It was only a 40 mile race and it was good training for the Premier on Sunday.”

Once the bunch and stragglers had passed, we carried on down to the main Peebles to Edinburgh road.

We parked at the lay-by just south of Leadburn, the burger van wasn’t there, unfortunately; but the midges got their tea – us!

I hadn’t had time to get home after my day job, so the Nikon and the Canon were both in the cupboard at Porty. Gregor was therefore in charge of photography for the evening, this turned out to be a mobile phone – which he couldn’t get to work! Luckily John Hewatt from The Bicycle Repair Man was on hand to provide the images – thanks John!

The leading duo of Hand and Wardell had been joined by a skinsuited Mickey Mallen (GS Metro) and bridging across from the bunch was the big figure of Hand’s team mate, Gordon Murdoch. Even with nearly two laps to go, the final result wasn’t hard to read.

Edinburgh Road Club’s Lee Whitelaw was leading the chase around 50 seconds back, but there were Pedal Powers behind him and none of them were going to do a spell.

Eastern Promise Road Race
The break.

We followed the bunch back down the main road, then left over the climb.

Whitelaw’s chasing effort had proved to be his swansong and he slid out of the back as the tar wound up to the moors. Up ahead we could see that the gap to the leaders wasn’t huge; but it was unlikely that anyone would have the horsepower or inclination to bring them back.

Eastern Promise Road Race
The bunch, with Deke Smith (COERC), eventual 8th place finisher, keeping safe.

Evan Oliphant – complete with Plowman Craven car – was spectating on the climb. We were even more pleased than usual to see him, the fact that he had slices of pepperoni pizza for us might have had something to do with this.

The midges were up there too, frenzying on all the new meat on display.

The last time up the climb, the Pedal Powers stepped on the gas and it was a two up pursuit at the front.

Hand and Murdoch chased by Mallen and Wardell. We tucked in behind the latter duo. Mallen was riding within himself and it was mountain biker turned roadman, Wardell who was donating the bulk of the watts to the chase; “Mickey will jump him before the line,” said Gregor.

Narrow roads or not, we hopped past them and nipped up to sit behind the men in tartan.

Neither rider was holding back, Murdoch, big, strong and steady in the saddle (he won’t like me saying it, but he’d make a great ‘tester!’) Hand, very slim and with a more nervous style, out of the saddle, attacking the little rises.

If we’d had a Belgian in the car, he would have said; “Ah! A joke! where is the finish, really – not in these trees? where’s the café? where’s the fans?” But this is Scotland and there are boy racers and unhelpful police to think about; so organisers have to consider rider’s safety and keep finishes out in the sticks.

Eastern Promise Road Race
The winner and second place.

Murdoch’s hand was in Hand’s hand (sorry) as they crossed the line and his tyre was just in front of the Sam Robinson winner’s. True to Gregor’s prediction, Mallen finished ‘en seulle’ ahead of Wardell and in the bunch sprint, James McCallum won in; “just another day at the office” style, as befits a pro.

Eastern Promise Road Race
Scott McRae.

As the boys rode back to the strip, the rain turned Biblical and we were glad to get into shelter.

Gary Hand is an easy man to chat to and I asked him about how the evening had gone;

“The other two were reluctant to work with us, but that’s understandable. The advantage was actually coming down, but on the last time up the climb we got a wee gap and just rode hard – it’s a good result for team morale.”

I asked about his recent Sam Robinson win;

“I was doing a lot of work for Scott McRae (right), the plan was for him to win in a sprint, I attacked and no one reacted, so that was that! It was good practice for the Premier at Newcastle on Sunday.”

I commented that the new team was going very well;

“Yeah, we have a three year plan, the next phase is that we want a couple more good riders on board, two seniors and two under 23’s.

“We’d like to think that within three years we’ll be able to go Continental and look at a ride in the Tour of Britain.

“We try hard to build a good team spirit, the last two years I’ve been in English clubs; you drive down on the Saturday, have dinner with the other guys for an hour then it’s the race on the Sunday – you don’t really build bonds under those circumstances.

Eastern Promise Road Race
James put extra miles in after the race.

” When I was in France racing, you lived with the other guys and got to know them much better.

Our aim at the minute is to ride well in the Premiers and have a team that our young riders – and maybe even other clubs can aspire to.”

No bad thing, Gary.

As the sky became even darker and the rain settled into a steady torrent, riders jumped in cars.

Meanwhile, James McCallum: got ready to pedal home – that’s why he’s a pro and British Criterium champion.

Result

1st Gordon Murdoch (Pedal Power/Endura RT)
2nd Gary Hand (Pedal Power/Endura RT)
3rd Micky Mallen (GS Metro)
4th Rab Wardell (Sandy Wallace Cycles)
5th James McCallum (Plowman Craven)
6th David Lines (Pedal Power/Endura RT)
7th Paul Newnham (Edinburgh RC)
8th Derek Smith (City of Edinburgh)
9th Paul McInally (East Kilbride RC)
10th Richard Chapman (The BicycleWorks)

Prizes

1st: Gordon Murdoch
2nd: Gary Hand
3rd: Micky Mallen

1st Vet: Andy Matheson
1st 2nd Cat: Rab Wardell
1st 3rd Cat: Derek Smith
1st 4th Cat: Paul French