“Lang Whang” is Auld Scots, it means ‘long way’ – it’s fair to say that Endura’s Gary Hand was in the break for a lang whang and he won the finishing sprint by a similar margin from wanderer returned, Alex Coutts (I looked at his jersey but the team name looked like Greek to me).
Hand’s big sprinting team mate, James McCallum took third after a cold and windy 80-odd miles on the pot-holed moor roads around Carnwath in Sunday’s Lang Whang Super Six.
The village of Braehead, wearing on for half distance on lap one, was our first sight of the race and a cold wind was whistling in from the East; the wind farm across the valley at Forth was enjoying it, but it would be interesting to see if the bunch felt the same way.
Sure enough, they were huddled together for warmth, with just Paul Rennie (Dooleys) trying to let the cold in, as he pummelled a ‘big one’ off the front.
It wasn’t any warmer up near Tarbrax, where we caught our second sight of the race.
Hand, Coutts and Super Six series leader were already clear, with Hand’s team mate David Lines trying to rev his way across the gap; but it wasn’t a ‘rev’ kind of a day — ‘bludgeon’ would have been better.
Super Vet, Jim Lesley (thebicycleworks.com) put in an appearance at this stage — he’s training for the Trossachs — and received a VR reprimand for being astride a US Postal Trek; bad form!
By the time we caught the race again, at the descent off the finish line, the break was up to nine and Jamesy was giving victory salutes already.
Days like today remind you how empty Scotland is; the moors stretch for miles up there and it really is a “lang whang” from Currie down to Carnwath with hardly a house in sight.
The cash line machine didn’t work at Carnwath — why wasn’t that a surprise? — but the break was working well, a minute clear.
We caught the bunch on the famous road itself, but a speedo reading of 17/18 mph meant that the break wasn’t coming back today.
The finish line for the second time and we were lucky to see the winning move go — although we didn’t know it at the time — as Hand zoomed off to take the prime; or so we thought.
We didn’t see it happen, but Coutts countered, caught him and that was that.
The bunch was at two minutes plus, with Stuarty McGregor trying to get across to Dooleys team mates Nicholson and Rennie — not today, Stuart!
Up near Tarbrax again, it was a little less icy; we were intrigued by the sign which read; ‘Covenanter’s Grave‘.
Martin did ‘the Google thing’ on his BlackBerry, and it transpires that back in 1666 there was a fierce battle on the moors here with 3000 Government troops routing 1000 Covenanters.
A local shepherd, Adam Sanderson, buried one of the unfortunate Covenanters, John Carphin, atop a hill so that the dead man’s last wish — that he would rest in sight of his beloved Ayrshire Hills — would be fulfilled.
Another – if less bloody – battle was being fought out on the heavy tarmac of the Lang Whang as Hand and Coutts drove hard into the headwind.
We tucked in behind the winning pair; with not a commissaire in sight to give us a row for taking pix from the car — a result!
Gary Hand was awarded top marks for ripped legs, but had to be marked down for over-long socks; Alex Coutt’s sock length was spot on, however.
Coutts was doing the lion’s share of the work and Hand was happy to let him — unsurprisingly.
We gave them a shout from the car that they had a minute and immediately their speed dropped as both men thought about the long dragging finish straight.
Hopping past for finish line pictures, we were in time to watch Coutts lead out, but Hand was having none of that, especially on his home patch – countering immediately to come in several lengths clear.
James McCallum had the nitro boost on for third, taking the last podium spot by a huge margin.
What they said
Martin chatted to James McCallum at the finish, and he was as pragmatic as usual;
“No, we didn’t really go into the race with a set plan, or really any plan at all, so when Gary attacked the break with a lap – 30 miles – to go, I did think perhaps it was too far from the finish.
“Still, he and Alex built a good lead and held onto it well, and it’s a great result for the team, and for Gary – especially after the problems he’s been having with his shoulder.
“Actually I’m pleasantly surprised with that third place today, considering I’ve just been training for and racing in crits for the last few weeks. I’ve just been doing speedwork and intervals, but the endurance is still there.”
We asked James about the teams’ new recruits [see yesterday’s interview with Evan Oliphant];
“Aye, Evan and Ross. They’ll bring some good firepower to the squad. I’ve done the last few crits – Woking and Peterborough – with Evan in the team, and it makes such a difference – you know your back’s covered if you attack, and if you’re brought back, someone will go over the top for you.
“We’re really looking forward to building the team up, consolidating on this year and really going for it next year.
“With Ross, Evan and myself also on the Elite Athlete Programme, with the next Commonwealth Games in mind, we’ll get lots of opportunities to gain experience and good quality racing.
“We’re registered as a UCI Continental team, which means that Evan and I will be able to ride the Track Nationals as well as the Track World Cups – there’s funding available for us to ride the events in Manchester and then Melbourne, which will be great preparation for the ‘Games.”
Whilst I had a word with Alex Coutts;
“Gary jumped through the line with a lap to go and I went with him.
“We were out there for a full lap, it was pretty tough. Maybe I did a little more than my fair share, but I knew that McCallum was behind and he’d beat us all in the sprint, if it came together.
“I was cramping up a wee bit on that last lap so I’m happy enough with the result.
“My programme with the team is almost finished for the year, we have the Tour of Serbia next week then I’m home for the rest of the season.”
Winner Gary Hand was next to tell us his story;
“James said that he thought Alex would attack through the finish, so I decided to go first.
“Alex countered and came across to me, I’d hoped a few more would come across, there were guys in the break not working and I was worried about them, if it came to a sprint.
“Doing a full lap with just two of us was savage, but Alex was strong on the climbs and into the wind.
“He may have done a bit more than me, but he knew that he was guaranteed at least second if we stayed away; but if we were caught then he’d be looking at fifth or sixth.
“I’m pleased with the result because I’m not back to full fitness after breaking my collar bone — but I’m getting there.”
That’s pretty obvious, Gary!
As if Gary’s win wasn’t enough, we received this text from Endura new boy, Evan Oliphant just a few minutes ago;
“Got Endura’s first top 10 at a Premier, today – the Ryedale.
“Went for the win, 3km go but got caught and was 10th, only 15 or so riders left.
“Long race 115 miles, Russ downing won.”
And with Duncan Urquhart getting 12th, it’s not been a bad old day for Endura, then.
1. Gary Hand (Endura Racing)
2. Alex Coutts (Heraklion-Nessebar-Kastro)
3. James McCallum (Endura Racing)
4. Tony Fawcett (NFM Racing Team)
5. Paul Coates (Squadra Via Mazzini)
6. Michael Nicolson (Dooleys Cycles)