It was 11:20 am on Thursday September 5th 2013 on the A91 road between Gateside and Strathmiglo when we lost Alistair Speed.
He was just 49 years-old, out on his bike and doing what he loved when he was snatched away.
Ali rode his first race at just 12 years-old and was racing just days before he died.
VeloVeritas ran an obituary for Ali at the time of his death and it goes without saying that we had to attend the 50 mile time trial his sister Mhairi organised in his honour on behalf of Fife Cycling Association.
We thought that rather than straight race reportage – albeit not ignoring Iain Grant’s (Dooleys) dazzling 1:47 to win – we’d drive most of the course and look at the roads and places Ali trained and raced on.
The Fife ‘50’ starts these days at what used to be the filling station approaching New Inn roundabout from Glenrothes; ‘back in the day’ it started on the Falkland road toward the foot of Purrin Den hill.
But there’s still the super-fast plunge down Station Brae through Freuchie and out along what’s known as the ‘Windy Mile’ to the ‘fish tail’ junction.
In my day the parcours stayed on the main road to New Inn but now it goes left up through Ladybank Woods to Collesie where it turns left towards Auchtermuchty.
We paused just before the junction to take some snaps – with Kennoway’s Dave Kirton the first man on the road having caught Fife Century’s Tom Cummings for one minute.
Tom had just finished his first racing career when I started mine in 1971 . . .
We were down at the Scottish ‘25’ Champs a fortnight ago and whilst it’s all about speed in time trialling, the Irvine dual carriageway course was hard on the soul – so it was nice to see that sign warning of ducks and deer at Collesie.
Auchtermuchty was our next port of call – and no trip to ‘Muchty is complete without a pic of the Cycle Tavern and of course, accordion king, Jimmy Shand’s statue both ‘well-kent’ landmarks on Ali’s training runs.
The course covers the stretch of road where Ali died and there was silence in the car as we made our way out to Burnside for our next photo op.
We’d no sooner parked up than the sun came out in earnest – I was right to wear shorts, then.
The ‘50’ used to turn just west of Burnside but in these days of no ‘dead turns’ it now runs all the way out to Milnathort to turn at the mini roundabout in the town centre.
Alan Solway (Kennoway) is another man still going strong who quit his first race career just as I started mine in 1971.
Number 25, Andrew Scott (Musselburgh) was the first rider to look like he was getting the job done.
Meanwhile, our Martin took to ‘the bush’ to get the best shots.
We moved again up to the straight approaching Milnathort with Steve Beech (Sandy Wallace Cycles) in only his second race back after a training crash out in Girona earlier in the year.
A 2:9 isn’t too shabby for a second race back after injury and unlike many in this race his position is pretty well ‘dialled’ as the Americans say.
Another SWC man looking the part was big Stevie Nutley the motorway traffic roaring behind him as we enjoyed the quiet of the old main Perth road.
The view of the Lomond Hills, which dominate the Central Fife skyline from just about every direction, is beautiful from here.
The Cleft between the East Lomond – Falkland Hill as we call it in Fife – and The Bishop Hill contains a natural rock formation known as ‘John Knox’s Pulpit’ where the reformist firebrand is said to have preached open air sermons.
Although some say that Knox himself never visited the site and it was his minsters who preached there.
No matter, it makes for a cracking mountain bike run to visit it.
I bought us an ice cream in Milnathort; ‘there’s a man taking pictures of cyclists out there’ said an old lady in the shop, just as Martin hollered; ‘Gawn Davie!’ at Davie Millar.
The old girl looked at the shop assistant and raised her eyebrows as I looked the other way and pretended he was nowt to do with me.
Paul McLafferty (Ivy) and ex-Royal Marine Nick Tryon (Dooleys) were both looking on top of the job out of the turn.
After the Milnathort turn the race headed, tailwind assisted, all the way back to Melville Lodges roundabout – the junction used to be staggered with the two estate gate houses giving the intersection it’s name – both were demolished when they re-aligned the road and built the current roundabout.
En route we crossed Iain Grant dropping through Gateside on his way Milnathort and positively hurtling.
The race follows the main Dundee road north to that infamous accident black spot, Parbroath Crossroads where it turns left to Lindores.
In the 70’s the race dead turned just shy of Lindores then retraced to Parbroath to turn left to another dead turn at Rathilet but now it turns left at Lindores village to skirt Lindores Loch and descend back to Collesie to complete a loop.
As we passed riders on this section a few were glugging from bottles; something which was only for wimps in a ‘50’ in our day – how much time must the dehydration have cost us?
We stopped near the loch to get some shots with the still waters with swans as back drop before completing the loop back to Collesie and then back to Melville Lodges where it takes the Cupar road to Bow of Fife village.
The original course use to head further out towards Cupar to turn at the porridge oats factory – now it hangs a left to Letham.
Veteran, Sandy Allan – who first raced in 1966 – was on marshal duty at Bow of Fife but managed to find the time to pass a bottle to his son Andrew (Leslie Bikes) as he headed for Letham and then back to Melville Lodges.
Melville is the heart of most Fife time trial courses and a spot Ali grew up around – as a competitor and race official.
At Melville we chatted to former ‘Gress King’ John Hardie who still looks fit and mean.
We’d contrived to miss a shot of third placed Arthur Doyle (Dooleys) – who returned a 1:53 – but we did catch Sandy Wallace man, Alan Thomson who would be second on the day with a fine 1:50 ride.
The traffic count was rising by now and we watched Iain Grant lock up his back wheel as he flew into the roundabout amid a lot of vehicles.
The last miles of the race are back to Collesie, left through the woods to turn right across to Shiels Farm and finish just north of Freuchie.
Iain Grant was recovering from his efforts when we arrived back at race HQ, his trusty Cervelo having a well earned ‘blaw’.
Iain’s last ride on this course was some minutes slower – and here’s the ‘but’ – his average wattage was the same.
He puts much of the improved time down to better bike fit – the Cervelo is just right for him whilst his previous Giant was just that bit too long in the top tube.
Never under estimate the importance of the correct position.
At the race HQ there was a simple table with the trophy flanked by pictures of Ali, boy and man – very poignant.
Close on 100 entries, impeccable organisation, champions past and present filling the first three spots and the sun even shone – Ali would have approved.