If we’re in Gifford to watch road racing and the snowdrops are out on the verges it must mean the start of another cycling season, it’s funny how it comes around more quickly each year. There’s been a few events on the track and roads so far this season but today’s two races signify the start of the season-long National Series; today there’s a ‘B’ race of 40 miles for junior riders and seniors not ready for more distance, and the ‘A’ race over 65 miles, which is the one we came to see.

The circuit remained the same as in previous years, eight laps of an eight mile circuit of lovely quiet, rolling lanes around East Lothian, with a fairly strong wind and a couple of mild climbs to stir the action up a little. The promoting Edinburgh Road Club once again put on an organised show, well marshalled and popular too, with plenty of club riders out on the circuit and local folk spectating.

Gifford Road Race
Tom Bustard took the 2014 Gifford Road Race with a superb solo last lap.

This year the winner of the ‘A’ event was also clearly the strongest rider on the day; Tom Bustard (Velosure – Giordana RT) was the first to make a serious attack on the first lap, pulling a break of several riders clear which cemented itself as more riders made it across over the next couple of laps.

Gifford Road Race
Tom launched his attack on the first lap.

Tom was at or near the front of the group in most of our photos helping to keep the move clear of a (until a couple of laps to go) pretty determined chasing bunch, then jumping out of the break with a lap to go he time-trialled to a well-deserved solo win.

Second place went to another man who was also very active in the break, Starley-Primal’s David Lines, whose winter of cyclo-cross racing has helped him into very good shape this early in the season. We spoke to Davie recently to hear about his change of team and his plans for the year.

Gifford Road Race
Davie Lines rolled over the line in second place.

Third spot was taken by VeloVeritas regular James McCallum (NFTO), who has been around long enough and ridden at a high level so often that he’s unfazed by anything these days and has the placid facial expression down to a tee, whether it’s just finishing a sprint or watching a break gain a gap from the group he’s in.

Gifford Road Race
James McCallum took third place this afternoon.
Gifford Road Race
James ponders whether to get over to the break.

The break stabilised it’s lead on the main bunch by the fourth lap, the gap consistently around forty seconds, with all eleven riders working well, and the bunch being pulled by a smaller set of riders.

Gifford Road Race
Andy Matheson (Musselburgh RCC) told us that the speed early on had been very high, with a strong tailwind along the straights on the back of the circuit.
Gifford Road Races
Eventual winner Tom takes his turn to drive the break through Bolton on lap three.
Gifford Road Race
Alex Coutts (Edinburgh Road Club) tried in vain to get over to the break on the third lap.
GIfford Road Race
Velosure-Giordana RT brought along their own mobile support in the shape of quality ex-professional Bill Nickson.

We caught up with the action as the break streaked through Gifford town centre on it’s fourth passage, James McCallum forcing the pace as the single line of riders told the story – it was fast.

Gifford Road Races
A determined ‘Jimmy Mac’ blasts through Gifford.
Gifford Road Race
Fast pace or not, experienced Evan Oliphant (Raleigh) had the time to sort out his cap situation and get a gel down.
Gifford Road Race
And at around the same time Evan’s top supporter, Oliphant Junior was getting his feed too, in the Gifford cafe.

Whilst we were in Gifford grabbing a cuppa and chatting to ‘Ginger’ Gray (he says “hello” Vik) we spotted the Scottish Team car with Mark McKay out and about on his bike, here in support of the youngsters on the squad. Not the best day for them though with crashes and abandons, including the winner here two years ago, Tom Arnstein.

Gifford Road Race
Ouch, one of the spokescycles guys came a cropper.
Gifford Road Race
Gary Hand (KTM road-and-trail.com) realised the break wasn’t coming back.

With the bell ringing for three laps to go the bunch hammered through Gifford again after the escapees, but it had by now split into two parts, about a minute in between them but with 40 seconds of space still remaining from the front half to the organised and workman-like break.

GIfford Road Race
Evan did his turn at the front.
Gifford Road Race
Arthur Doyle (Dooley’s, blue tights) was one of the riders at the front of the bunch for much of the day.

The break was starting to catch the back-markers with two laps to go, and their lead began to stretch out to over a minute as the front half of the bunch looked like its fire had gone out for all but a few riders.

Gifford Road Race
James McCallum leads through Gifford with two laps to go.

Gary Hand, clearly frustrated at having missed the move of the day, along with Matt Kipling (Velo29 Events) and Colin May (VC Edinburgh) made a good effort to try to escape the bunch and at least finish closer to the break.

Gifford Road Race
A lap and a half to go and the break were still working well together. And the sun was still trying to appear.
Gifford Road Race
Gary Hand led the trio out of the bunch, with 25 seconds gap behind them.
Gifford Road Race
After the bunch passes we spotted a rider getting a slight bit of assistance from the service vehicle.

Last lap, eight miles to go and the guys in the break were working out their strategy for the win – Tom Bustard’s was to go for a long one.

At the top of the first climb on the circuit he had a lead of 16 seconds on his companions, and he looked strong, saying ‘no thanks’ to the offer of a feed from helpers at the roadside.

Gifford Road Race
Tom headed up the climb with a comfortable gap on the break.
Gifford Road Race
The break on the first of two climbs on the circuit.

Gary Hand and Matt Kipling soldiered on in the gap behind the break, now almost two minutes down on the leader but were bravely putting time into the bunch, which was a further 43 seconds down the road.

Gifford Road Race
Gary buries himself to stay away from the bunch.
Gifford Road Race
The bunch know that they’ll be sprinting for 14th place shortly.

The finish area filled with folks walking and cycling up out of the town centre to see the action and it was nice to have a minute to chat with old pals Pete Jacques and John Stollery before Tom approached up the drag to the sound of PA supremo ‘Jammie’ Johnston exhorting the crowd to encourage him in one last effort – the break was charging him down rapidly.

Gifford Road Race
Tom stayed clear of the chasers for a well-deserved victory.
Gifford Road Race
Fifth place for Evan, still to reach his best form – but it’s early.
Gifford Road Race
Tom made it look easy, but it wasn’t. He told his teammates he’s never racing in Scotland again – joking, we hope.

Result - Scottish National Road Race Series - Event 1, Gifford

Full Result

1. Tom Bustard, Velosure – Giordana RT
2. Davie Lines, Starley Primal Pro Cycling
3. James McCallum, NFTO
4. Craig Adams, Leslie Bike Shop / Bikers Boutique
5. Evan Oliphant, Team Raleigh
6. Michael Nicolson, Starley Primal Pro Cycling
7. Alexander Royle, Army Cycling Union
8. Andrew Whitehall, Glasgow Wheelers
9. Gary Hand, KTM
10. Ryan Fenwick, The Rigmar Racers