Girvan; who’s ridden it most times? Squadra Via Manzini-Race Tool rider, Paul Coats must be in the running with 13, or is it 14 starts?

Paul’s not as young as he used to be at 39, so we’ll forgive him the memory lapse. We caught up with him recently, to get his Girvan memories…

Paul Coats
Paul in action in the 6th Super 6 in East Lothian last year.

Your first Girvan, Paul?

“We’re into distant memory territory here, but it was 1988. I got a late call into the Scotland team; it was lovely weather and Shane Sutton won.”

Best Girvan memory?

“The following year, ’89; I made the break on the first stage and was 7th or 8th at the finish.

“When I came back to racing in 2005, that was a good year too – financially – I was best second cat on every stage and was best on GC too, I came away with good prize money.”

Worst Girvan memory?

“The year when Jim Ferrier was Scotland manager – he picked me and I didn’t finish.

“I felt I let him down; even though my knee was hurting so badly after the stage that I had to crawl up the stairs in the digs.”

Hardest Girvan?

“2008, without a doubt; the plan was for Gary (Hand) to go for the King of the Mountains.

“I really killed myself on Byne Hill to get him into position.

“On one occasion I had to pace him back after a puncture and on another, I had to give him my wheel – it was tough!”

Paul Coats
Paul is an attacking rider, often going very early.

What’s the attraction for you at Girvan?

“It’s the biggest race we have in Scotland and it’s brutal.

“It’s an opportunity to ride against the best in the country – it’s a brilliant race; I really look forward to it.”

Who’s impressed you most?

“Malcolm Elliott has so much class, year in, year out, he’s there.

The New Zealand guy, Gordon MacAulay, he should be a wrestler or a rugby player, he’s just such a beast.

“But if I had to pick one, it would be Wayne Randle in his Dinnington days – hardcore, ten out of ten!

“They were just tough northern guys, they loved the wind, the drizzle, the little roads.”

Weather horror story?

“The first time I road it was 17/18 degrees, but I’ve been there when the Nick and Tairlaw couldn’t be used because of snow – that uncertainty is one of the big factors at Girvan.”

Does it get better or do you hanker for the “good old days?”

“It’s much better now, it’s gone up a notch each of the last three years.

“I think this year it will be very hard to win.”

Digs horror story?

“I don’t really have one; I’m from Shotts and we used to go to Girvan for our holidays!

“I suppose there’s the Irish landlady who smoked like a chimney, so you couldn’t breath in the house; but that’s about all. [Paul’s cheque is in the post from Girvan Tourist Board!]”

Paul Coats
Paul wearing the Super 6 Mountain Leaders jersey in the recent race at Leven.

How do you balance sport/bike/family?

“I’m up early and I have a turbo in the office.

“I cycle to and from work and do turbo sessions during the day.

“I’ve identified what were junk and quality miles and eliminated the junk. I manage my time – I always have to be home for 7.00 pm, that’s bath time!”

Given you lecture in pharmacology and your chosen sport – do you get much ribbing at work?

“Not really, people at work don’t pick up on it; or at least they don’t say anything to me.

“During lectures I do use the Fuentes affair as subject matter – as an example of bad practice.”

Back to Squadra Via Manzini-Race Tool for ’09?

“I had a couple of other good offers too – one from the Dutch Veltek fondo team.

“But the Manzini guys give me good support, clothing, licence paid and there’s a new frame on the way to me.”

Paul Coats
Climbing the Vaujany in France, heading for 5th place in a Fondo.

Will you be riding many Fondos this year?

“I’ll be riding the Coppa Piemonte in April and be across there in May, June and July to help the guys in the team. I’ll only be riding in Italy this year; none of the French events.”

How many years younger do you wish you were?

“20 years would do me; but only if I got to have the knowledge I have now about training and about recovery.”

Only 20… Paul – I’m looking for 35!

With thanks to Paul for his time; we’ll keep an eye on him at Girvan to see how number 14 goes – or is that 15?