Ross Creber (Endura) added a top flight ‘en ligne’ result to his VTT and ‘cross palmares with a fine win in the Scottish road race championships over a technical, challenging and windy — but beautifully sunny – 81 miles at Hawick on Saturday afternoon.
Creber lead the men in red and white to a clean sweep of the medals with Callum Wilkinson taking silver – distanced by Creber in the sprint – and James McCallum having to be content with bronze after a late race puncture when it looked like it was his day.
The man McCallum beat into fourth place — Paul Coats (Squadra Via Mazzini-Race Tool Bicycles) – was man of the race for many; featuring throughout the race and only beaten by Endura’s superiority of numbers.
VeloVeritas saw it this way, before the start:
- Gregor: 1) Evan Oliphant; 2) Alastair Kay; 3) Alex Coutts
- Viktor: 1) Coutts, 2) Oliphant, 3) Ross Creber
- Dave: 1) Oliphant, 2) Coutts, 3) Gordon Murdoch
- Me: 1) Oliphant, 2) Coutts, 3) Creber
The first break was away well before they banked left past the village green at ‘en fete’ Denholm; where the wedding guests were making their introductions.
Paul Rennie and the rest had no time for pleasantries as they snarled past the wee kirk.
As was the case last year; a dire morning had left the River Teviot wide, brown, fast and deep but under a bright afternoon Borders sky.
We caught sight of them for a second time on lap one and with a dozen clear and Endura under-represented, the troops were being marshalled — it’s doesn’t pay to give men like Paul Rennie and vets road race champ, Stuart McGregor (both Dooleys) too much rope.
Lap 2 and we had a chat with Alex Coutt’s dad at the feeding station, suffice to say there’ll be no Greek writing on Alex’s jersey next year!
The break was now 18 strong and two minutes clear with big favourites Oliphant and Coutts stranded behind.
A stomach bug would make sure it wasn’t Oliphant’s day.
Lap 3 and it was time for the world’s slowest and worst coffee at Denholm — respect on the cheesecake, though -: the break was maybe a little too big to be ‘the’ move and with James McCallum cruising at the back, no one would be too keen to take him all the way to the finish.
Coutts, Oliphant plus Ras and Tour de Beauce finisher, Rab Wardell (Kinesis) had slipped the bunch and were in hot pursuit, behind.
Lap 4 and the wedding was in full effect as the break thrashed through past the kirk to upset things; with Oliphant and Co. within 30 seconds and the bunch at 2-15.
Lap 5 and we joined the race, tucking in behind the break; on the lumpy part at the back of the circuit, the 19 leaders had split into four: groups in the strong wind which blasted in across rolling the Border’s country.
At the top of the climb on lap 6 the winning break had formed — Coats, Rennie, McCallum, Creber, Wilkinson and a surprising Jason Roberts (Nightingale).
Things were very fluid behind as the 13 remaining break survivors were picked up by the bunch, some two minutes back.
By lap 7 the break was working well on the main road out of Hawick and it was looking highly unlikely that the six were coming back.
We stopped on the climb to see what was happening behind; as the sky became a bit greyer and the wind shook the trees even harder.
Six were clear and chasing – Jack Woodward (thebicycleworks.com), Scott McRae (Endura), Eddie Addis (Stirling BC), McGregor, Coutts and Dave Chapman’s tip as ‘a man to watch’ — Gary McRae (Team Leslie Bike Shop).
On lap 8 we hopped the chasers back up to the leaders, just in time to see Jason Roberts dreams end as he slipped off the back, followed shortly thereafter by Paul Rennie, paying the price for too much chipping away at that energy block that’s inside every rider.
The last lap and the three Enduras plus Coats gave a 35 mph TTT demonstration on the main Hawick road; James McCallum asked us if Paul Rennie really was gone — just to be on the safe side.
The last climb, out of Denholm was where we thought the Endura onslaught would begin, but when we zoomed past at the feed to get the finish, there were still four together.
Not long after we did, the race radio crackled that Wilkinson had bolted; with Creber jumping across to his team mate; leaving ‘Jamesy’ to police Coats.
More drama – McCallum punctured; but it was time to abandon the car to catch the finish.
The speed of the riders’ approach caught race ‘speaker,’ Jamie Johnston off guard as hands high Creber left Wilkinson way back in the sprint – McCallum brandished three fingers at us as he put big daylight into Coats.
All that was left to do was get the quotes;
“James signalled to Callum to go, he got the gap, then I jumped across to him, I maybe went too early at the end, it was head wind finish.
“I set my sights on the 200 to go as the finish and then hung on, I wasn’t sure how Callum would be in the sprint — but with a skinsuit on and new handlebar tape I had to win, didn’t I?”
“James got Coats on the front and gestured that I should go, it worked perfectly, then Ross came over the top and up to me.
“I’ve not got the best of sprints so I wasn’t going to beat Ross at the end.
“It’s my first Scottish medal, so I’m happy with that; next up, I have the Richmond Premier, The last Super Six and the Trossachs — that’s one of my favourite races.”
“I told Callum to go on that last climb, Ross went with him — it was perfect.
“I was going to wait until Paul tired, then jump across to the Callum and Ross — but I punctured; I changed a wheel and didn’t get back up to the Paul until the industrial estate coming in to the finish.
“It’s a bit annoying, but that’s bike racing!”
“It was a hard course today, a wearing down process.
“It’s good to be up there; I was in the action all day, I made that first split of about 20 and that made it easier to watch what was happening.
“I thought when it was down to the four of us, they’d let me sit on, but they weren’t having it — they were leaving gaps and telling me I had to come through.
“With the three of them, it was always going to end the way it did.”
And last word to Viktor:
“It was a typical Scottish road race; the sheer grind of going round and round.
“The Endura guys all seem to be at the same level with the rest a notch below that.
“Paul Coats rode well, but it’s not good for the sport that a guy of 41 is right up there.
“It wasn’t a bad course for Scotland but it would have been better if it had come into Hawick every lap, maybe through the town centre past the bars?”