Raleigh professional Evan Oliphant handled the age old dilemma of the pro racing against amateurs – if they don’t win they’re criticised, but if they do then it’s ‘expected’ – by taking the best option and winning the Gala CC’s Gordon Arms Hilly Time Trial over 20.5 cold and cloudy Borders miles in 50:06; some ways short of Mark Atkinson’s (Velo Ecosse) 1999 course record of 48:47 but enough to give him the result by 41 seconds over Carl Donaldson (GS Metro).
Third, although we didn’t know it before we left for home because the copy of the start sheet we had didn’t name rider #73, his time at the finish was listed as 1:00:40 and he was riding in a Team GB skinsuit, was Harry Tanfield.
In fourth spot was Commonwealth Games pursuit hopeful and previous winner of ‘The Gordon’ Silas Goldsworthy (Sandy Wallace) with 51:46, just shading team mate – and another previous winner – Alan Thomson by seven seconds.
Making it three Giant TT rigs in the first five.
Sixth was Rigmar Racers’ Steven Lawley just one second behind Thomson; NFTO pro James McCallum took seventh place in 52:10 and was at pains to emphasise; ‘fastest on a road bike’ from the big field of 90 riders.
For those not from the ‘hood, the Gordon Arms is a fine old Borders inn dating back more than 200 years; and in those days was a haunt of the Scottish literary set with the likes of Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg (The Ettrick Shepherd) draining tankards within it’s sturdy sandstone walls.
The course climbs straight off from the start outside the inn, crosses the ridge to drop to the Ettrick River, turns left to run along the valley before taking another left and climbing back over the ridge to drop down to the Yarrow Valley and the fast run back to the start.
It’s technical and gnarly – one for the roadmen as well as the powerhouse testers with ‘drags’ rather than ‘snaps’ to test the legs.
But there was fat to chew before the start, Fin Young has abandoned Velo Ecosse in favour of Rigmar racers.
Fin’s day would end on a negative though as a motorbike pulled across his path just after he crossed the finish line giving him no chance to avoid it and necessitating a trip to A & E.
‘Get well soon, Fin.’
NFTO’s Jamesy McCallum was ruing letting Tommy Bustard ‘dangle’ on the last lap at Gifford the day before – “when the time came to chase and bring him back, no one would…”
Silas Goldsworthy was carrying the scars of a crash at Gifford – he has until May 25th to ride under that 4 mins 30 seconds which will let him line up for the individual pursuit at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Ben Peacock is close, with a 4:31 to his name; but there’s still no confirmation on a Scottish team pursuit squad for Glasgow – they have to ride a 4:10 to go.
Evan Oliphant was a long way from glamour of the The Tour of the Med and Haut Var on this cold morning; but the job is the same – display the sponsor’s name as best you can.
The first riders lined up and we headed off up the start climb; we parked around half way, where the riders enjoyed a strong tail wind – this same wind however combined with the low cloud and was soon taking us close to hypothermia.
It was time to move up the climb, where the cloud was even thicker but at least we weren’t so close to blacking out with the wind chill.
Previous winner, Barry McGurk (Glasgow Road Club) was a non-starter and the first man who looked to be ‘on it’ was eventual sixth placed, off number 40 Steven Lawley – on a biggish gear and powering up through the murk.
And before we go any further, we were reminded of a serious threat to the sport by several competitors today – beards.
No chaps, no; Fabio Baldato was the only rider ever who could get away with one – please shave, as soon as possible.
Number 50 was Jamesy, looking purposeful on his road bike and already catching riders.
Number 57, Anna Turvey (Tyneside Vagabonds) tyres made the best noise over the tar; reminded us of float days on the Dundee road in the 80’s…
Evan was off 60 and looking the part, on a big gear, in the crouch and getting the power down – on visual, fastest so far.
It was time for another move – and some heater time – so we headed off back down toward the start.
Gary Robson (Gala) off 75 was another previous winner – but today wasn’t going to see a repeat, despite his nice style.
Jim Cusick’s style is usually easy to spot in his Couriers’ strip but he’s changed allegiances to Dooleys for 2014 – it wouldn’t help him make the top six on this day.
We didn’t stop to snap eventual second Carl Donaldson but did get pics of Alan Thomson and last man Silas Goldsworthy – both looking good and with little to choose between them.
At this point our prediction was: Oliphant, Thomson, Goldsworthy – that ultimately wasn’t too bad, with no stopwatch.
We dropped off the climb and turned right to head out ‘against’ the race to watch the big hitters finish.
There wasn’t time to stop to get a shot of Jamesie but he was looking strong, hunched over the bike and punting a big gear round.
We caught Evan on a downhill; looking every inch the top tester and reminding us of British ‘25’ Champion, Joe Perrett – it looked like a winner’s style to us.
At the bridge where the race drops off the ridge to pick up the valley road there were a variety of modus operandii – Ben Peacock (Paisley Velo) didn’t have a sense of urgency about him, neither did Jim Cusick; but Carl Donaldson looked the part as he flashed down across the cattle grid and zoomed on to the valley road – just on that little display we knew he’d be ‘up there.’
Alan Thomson and Silas Goldsworthy still had little to choose between them and both were moving well.
Albeit Silas had taken to this point to catch minute man, young Stuart Balfour (Spokes Racing team) – but on the fast valley road to the finish Silas could use the mega gears and he quickly put distance between himself and Balfour.
Our ‘visual’ proved correct, Oliphant fastest, Tanfield looking good, Donaldson nabbing third and the Sandy Wallace boys in fourth and fifth place.
Good parcours, no ‘janitors’ officiating, a big field, a pro winner; so not a bad race at all but please sort the weather for next year, guys – it’s British Summer Time for heaven’s sake!