I grew up with ‘The Girvan’ – in fact, it took me a long time to stop myself from referring to it as the ‘Grant’s of Girvan.’
Ronnie Boa won it way back when; Henk Lubberding won a stage, Sean Yates, Dave Lloyd, Tony Doyle, all famous names to associate with Girvan.
And of course, there was the Saturday night run down to watch the criterium; or the Monday pilgrimage to watch the last stage.
It takes a bit of getting used to the fact that there’s no view of Ailsa Craig through the morning mist.
But sport moves on and money talks – if you have pros in the race, then you need cash.
The prize list at Dumfries was exceptional, :£6,555 to be exact – and good money generally means good racing.
We left Edinburgh early, to get to sodden Dumfries for 10:00 am at the latest. Gregor wanted to have a few words with ‘his boy,’ Endura’s Evan Oliphant; I wanted to see Raleigh’s Dan Fleeman and Vik and I both wanted to meet up with Endura’s New Zealand champ, Jack Bauer.
It wasn’t a morning for chatting though and we spent a lot of the count down sheltering under the Motor Point team’s canopy.
Keith Lambert gave his Race Manual, which leads me into moan number one…
For the four: and a half years we’ve had our little website, we’ve ‘done our bit‘ on Girvan coverage – it would have been nice to have a race manual drop through one of our letter boxes, a few days before the race.
‘The details are all on the website‘ I hear you say;: but it would still have been nice if someone had thought about us.
And on the themes of weather and change; if there’s a change of venues, parcours and names then why not change the dates too? – make it the May Bank Holiday and give yourself half a chance of decent weather.
We decided to follow the race and cut across country where we could to catch sight of it as many times as possible.
Numbers 142 and 51 were off the back within five miles – maybe they punctured; the roads were in a bad way after a grim winter, not helped by the torrential rain washing flints and grit into the tarmac.
One of the first to call it a day was big hitter sprinter [and Bob’s fellow TV pundit], Tony Gibb.
We took our first Ordnance Survey map inspired detour to try and head them off at the pass, but just missed them.
The second one was more successful and we only had to wait a few minutes at ‘God know’s where’ and there they were – with Big Bob Hayles just off the front of a drookit peloton.
The third detour didn’t work out either, but we were in time to see newly crowned world omnium champion, Ed Clancy (Motor Point) resist the offer to jump in the team car and decide to ‘get the miles in’ – if I was a new world champ, I’d be pretty chilled too.
It seemed as if we’d been in the car for hours but it was actually only half distance when we caught up with the bunch to be greeted with glaring brake lights, crashes, punctures, motor pacing – Dan was on the deck, Malc Elliot had punctured; it was generally wild so we decided to keep well out of the way.
Speaking of ‘out of the way’ we wonder about those huge loops; ten laps of an eight mile circuit past some pubs and people (on that new May Day date) would surely be easier to manage and would take the race to the people – the parcours today included very few villages and spectators were thin on the ground. In fact, they were limited to a few hardy souls in ‘North Face’ jackets.
Our last vantage point before the finish was the second King of the Mountains.
The rain had eased but the wind hadn’t – Jack Bauer was rampant, solo and looking very determined as Rapha suddenly looked vulnerable.
There were huge gaps in the survivors, as we drove back down the hill to take the quick way back to Dumfries.
Jack blasted his Look all the way to the line in front of maybe 50 or 60 windswept souls.
He was trying to grab every second – just maybe he could slip that yellow jersey off Chris Newton’s back?
It transpired that Rapha had indeed been struggling, but ‘another team’ came to their aid and the vital seconds were saved.
One of the Endura boys was remonstrating that ‘the other team’ shouldn’t have helped; “there was nothing in it for them.”
He doesn’t know that for sure; sometimes – and this may come as a surprise to you – money changes hands at bike races.
Shocking, I know, but there’s a clue in the name – ‘professionals,’: ie. they do it for money.
One wily gentleman we spoke to after the race, who’s been a round the pro scene a bit more than average, explained to us;
“If Endura thought that other lot were being paid to work, then they should have asked them how much they needed not to work!”
Newton won for Rapha, Jack took the last stage, Endura won the team and we headed off in search of an all-day breakfast.
See you next year… in May, outside a pub, to watch it ten times with no driving?