Tour des Trossachs 2015 – Chris Smart takes the Classic Scottish Hilly Time Trial
On a cool but dry and benign morning around the beautiful lochs and hills above Aberfoyle and Callander it was Paisley Velo Race Team's Scottish ‘Olympic’ Time Trial Champion Chris Smart who defended his title as 'King of the Trossachs' despite being 21 seconds down to former Trossachs Tartar, Arthur Doyle (www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk) at the top of the Dukes Pass.
It was a two horse race with third man, David Griffiths (Pro Vision Cycling Clothing) three minutes back on Doyle’s 1:08:20 and four back on Smart’s 1:07:23.
Doyle had the consolation of leading the winning team as well as being fastest on the hill prime; his team mates were Jim Cusick – who finished fifth on a 1:11 - and best lady, Lindsay Curran.
'Just for a change' VeloVeritas decided to go round the parcours in reverse, ‘hanging a right’ at Thornhill and climbing ‘against’ the race route.
The air was calm, cool and fresh when we arrived at the top of the "Wee Braes" with the clouds clinging to the hill tops and the leaves 'clicking' as they dropped through the branches in the stillness before the Sunday drivers appeared.
The Falkirk 'clubby run' gave us something to snap as we waited for the girls to arrive but it's a far cry from the days when massive runs from Fife, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow would pedal out to see the race or stay at the Trossachs or Loch Ard hostels.
First 'fast man' over was Wilson Renwick (Hawick CC) off #25, looking the part but we didn't see a time posted for him at the finish.
The man himself would tell us later; "double puncture with 6.5 miles to go, was just over 52 min to there and good legs so probably would have been an OK time."
He certainly looked like he was on top of the job when we saw him.
Next up we dived down off the "Wee Braes" through Callander and holed up on the Inver Trossachs Road, we wanted pictures of Messrs. Mill (Sandy Wallace Cycles) and Cockburn (Glasgow Nightingale CC) who we thought might have an influence on the result despite being better known as 'drag strip kings.'
Job done, we headed for Loch Venachar to catch 'The Bigs' - it's always easy to underestimate the speed of riders coming towards you and we had to park up 'early' to catch Jim Cusick, Arthur Doyle and Chris Smart before we could get the idyllic lochside backdrops we really wanted.
However, we did get pics of the fast guys passing the Lendrick Lodge Holistic Retreat – if you’re into Reiki, Shamanism or Fire Walking, that’s your place, folks.
Smart looked quickest, rolled up in a ball and despite Doyle being in best ‘cruise missile mode’ the Paisley man looked ‘most likely to’ for us as he disappeared through the arch of trees toward Callander.
We'd hoped to catch them much later - on The Dukes Pass in fact but the climb up over the Dukes and the drop into Aberfoyle saw roads where the only cyclists to be seen were the odd club rider out for a run on this cloudy but mild day.
The 1930’s tea room in Brig ‘o Turk looked inviting but we had to push on; however I did finally discover who the ‘Turk’ was – it actually comes from the Gaelic for wild boar, ‘torc’ so now we know.
Our final photo op. was in the last mile with Doyle and Smart certainly looking fastest on visual impression - Smart's arrival was announced by loud 'barking' noises.
We're not sure if he was clearing his tubes or it was some sort of ex-marine war cry - but it certainly scared us...
The owner of a cottage next to the road came out to remonstrate with Martin about ‘taking pictures of our house,’ despite Martin assuring them he was taking pictures of the boys on the bikes they weren’t convinced.
I did sneak one – but Chris Smart messed it up by riding through the frame...
And on the subject of the winner, here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas after his fine effort;
"It was a big objective and after winning last year I wanted to defend my title – the course is great and so was the weather, today.
"I didn’t do any specific training for it but I feel it’s my strongest performance of the year.
"When we last spoke I said that I wasn’t that ‘into’ training on power but I’ve become addicted to it!
"My average for today was 384 watts with my time on the climb identical to last year.
"I keep the lid on it up the Dukes, I think if you go too deep up there and go into the red you don’t recover – there’s hardly a bit of flat road on the whole course and my strategy is to really start the effort from the bottom of The Dukes along the side of Loch Venachar.
"I rode the 11 and 12 sprockets where I could but was down the block on the climbs; I rode the Braes of Greenock hard and was able to ride the descent well too, they’ve resurfaced it and it’s fast. The leg in from Thornhill is tough with that last mile seeming to go on forever."
And we had to ask; ‘what’s next, Chris ?’
‘The Trossachs was the end of my season but I’ll carry my training through the winter, I don’t really take a break.
"My youngest kid has just started school so I’ll have more time to train when my shift patterns allow; so I’ll be hoping to improve, next season.’"
You’ve been warned...
Janette Hazlett’s team put on a well organised and safe race, the course is fabulous and the top two riders’ performances were from the top drawer - here’s the ‘but’;
On our start sheet there were 71 riders, we haven’t looked at the DNS this morning – 8 were ladies (11%), 24 seniors (33%) and 39 veterans (54%) with zero schoolboys or juniors.
It doesn't bode well for the future of Scottish time trialling; this race used to boast a full field and an ‘overflow’ event.
But maybe it’s just the ‘way of the world,’ with the Glasgow track fast, colourful and booming and the MTB scene attracting kids with the excitement of downhilling we guess it’s no wonder that the ‘young uns’ can’t see the buzz in having to drive out to some remote car park in the early morning then ride for an hour and more with no company over unforgiving roads?
However we can’t help but wonder what would happen if there was even one World Tour professional or big GB TT name on that start sheet with plenty of prior publicity?
But whatever happens and God willing, we’ll see you next year at the ‘race of the falling leaves.’