Overhauling a 34 second deficit from Saturday’s savage Lomond Hills Stage One finale, New Zealand rider Finn Fisher-Black in the colours of Netherlands outfit WWV Junioren took Stage Two and the overall win at the Junior Tour of the Kingdom in Kennoway on Sunday.
The event was superbly organised by Craig Grieve and his Spokes Cycles race crew with his team rider, Adam Lewis taking third on Stage Two and on final GC as well as best first year junior award.
It was only after the race we learned that Fisher-Black was a member of the New Zealand team which clocked a 4:01 to win the Junior Team Pursuit World Championship in 2018 and is the author of a world’s best 3:08 for a three kilometre pursuit.
No ‘surprise win’ once you’re aware of those facts.
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Junior Tour of the Kingdom – Stage One
Things have moved on since I was a junior cyclist back in ‘72/’73; ‘All riders must supply a wheel for service … rear wheels must have no less than 10 sprockets’ says the race manual.
I can remember the deep joy of screwing my first Maillard six speed ‘compact’ freewheel on to the rear hub, those five speed ‘blocks’ weren’t the answer for hilly races.
But it’s not just equipment; ‘Ormiston Miners Welfare’, ‘Thornhill Scout Hut’ or that contradiction in terms, ‘Kennoway Hall of Culture’ were the places we changed in.
But Madras College, Saint Andrews?
Surely there can have been few more beautiful and historic sign-ons than this one?
Organiser, Craig Grieve the owner of Spokes Cycles even organised rare Scottish June sunshine for the day.
I was with friend of VV and Spokes support man, Dave Chapman who was on marshalling duties at Strathkinness cross roads where the race passes three times, the first pass up from St. Andrews with those Spokes boys well up there.
The race route continued to climb along the Strathkinness ridge road before the tricky descent to the foot of the long drag of Dura Den – a famous area for geologists – at the head of the Den at Pitscottie they turned left to head back to Strathkinness with a King of the Mountains prime, this time, on the road back up to the cross.
Joe Wilson (Team Ribble) took it with the peloton around 10 seconds back.
There was no prime on their second lap of this circuit but Spokes recent Scottish Junior 10 mile ‘recordman’ Oscar Onley was clear with two Equiom Isle of Man riders.
With the Alfa SUV in the background appropriately branded, ‘Stelvio.’
The peloton was ‘compatto’ with just a few stragglers.
Dave’s next gig was at the Cults crossroads, the big lime works which stands there and was so busy back in ‘our day’ has long since closed its doors but this is still a historic spot, scene of Dave’s first race crash, in the Kennoway Mountain Time Trial circa. 1971.
Onley with big Isle of Man rider, Max Walker on his tail – yes, we know, Manx cats don’t have tails – were first round with a lead wearing on for one minute.
Just off the front of the bunch was a Zappi man on his kingfisher blue and orange Holdsworth, sending Dave and I back to the 70’s when hard men like Les West, Colin Lewis and Keith Lambert racked up the wins for the Holdsworth Campagnolo team across the UK.
It was a strung out bunch which climbed up from the crossroads.
We were off again, this time to the crossroads at Springfield Hospital where organiser, Craig explained to Dave that Oscar had ‘popped’ and it was the big Max chap from across the Irish Sea ‘en seule’ as the French say.
He was looking strong but there are a lot of long straight roads where the peloton can see you, between Springfield and the foot of Falkland Hill…
Next stop was the finish, with Falkland Village looking as picturesque as ever as we headed on to the climb; a hard ascent for any level of rider, never mind juniors.
Our timing was good – we parked up just in time to see Thomas Gloag (VC Londres) take a solo win, arms wide and tongue well to the fore.
Second, with the weight of that crash hat pulling his head down was George Mills-Keeling (CC Bridgnorth RWG)
Third was ‘man of the day’ Max Walker.
You don’t get too many sprints at the top of a climb like this but Oliver Rees (HMT Giant) and Owain Roberts (Wales) treated us to one for fifth and sixth spots respectively.
First Scot was Spokes man Adam Mitchell @ 48 seconds.
There were a few tired lads welcome of some dry grass to flop onto just past the line, as ex-Scottish Hill Climb Champion, Davie Gardiner said to me; ‘it’s a tough enough hill climb, never mind stuck on the end of a road race!’
Meanwhile, Oscar re-hydrated.
And the boy on the mountain bike who’d just pedalled over the Hanging Myre Road from Purrinden wondered who all these boys on bikes were, spoiling his quiet Saturday afternoon run…
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Junior Tour of the Kingdom – Stage Two
No horrible finale today but A LOT of climbing – including the notorious ascents of Cadgers, Porters and Cults Braes.
The HMT boys were taking no chances of being asleep for the opening drag up through Bonnybank and were giving the rollers a pounding.
The jersey holders were ready too.
Dave’s first marshalling point was Kettle where two desperadoes had used the tail wind to whizz clear on the way to the foot of the Cadgers Brae. ‘Cadgers‘ were itinerant salesmen who travelled either on foot or with pack horses touring the villages and fairs with an assortment of goods for sale and this was one of their routes ‘back in the day.’
The peloton wasn’t cutting them much slack though.
By the time we got up to Cults Brae – another ‘sore one’ – the picture had changed with Messrs. Beckett and Davies [Welsh Cycling], Sam Asker [Lea Valley Youth CC], Charles Paige [Green Jersey CC] and Matthew Kingston [RST] clear.
Spokes’ Home Boy, Logan Maclean was trying to get across with far travelled Matthew Houlberg [Portsmouth North End CC].
Joshua Greenwood [HMT Giant] had similar notions.
But we hope all those HMT Giant boys at the front of the group behind were blocking?
The next lap saw Asker on his own with his erstwhile amigos ‘sprachling’ – as we say in Scotland – for his back wheel.
A depleted peloton containing the yellow jersey wasn’t enjoying it’s second joust with Cults Brae.
Those Spokes boys think of everything; there’s even a ‘chien de course’ in the caravan.
The adrenalin had all gone by now but organiser Hardie still gave them a shout.
The straggler groups joined up on the run back along the Cults ridge – and by now it was a nice day for a gentle pedal on the bike…
One of the Welsh lads waved the broom-wagon past, sometimes enough is enough.
Our next mission was at Star corner where the flying break now comprised Kingston, Paige, Asker, Davies with Fisher-Black and Mitchell having bridged up.
Welshman Beckett’s chances had been derailed by a rear mech problem.
A fresh bike arrived from the team car but it was way too late for him to get back.
Little groups passed, all victims of the ‘Rigging of Fife’ as the hills in these parts are known.
Dave’s not inconsiderable skills as a negotiator were put to the test when a gentleman and his wife stopped their car next to us to inform us that they were being ‘stressed out’ by the race – best avoid France in July then, sir…
We saw the sag-wagon through and headed for the finish.
Fisher-Black had prized himself clear with Paige and had been a clear winner with Mitchell taking a fine third on the day and overall.
Saturday’s stage winner, Gloag was second on GC; Walker claimed the points jersey and Kingston the mountains.
Fisher-Black heads back to The Netherlands on Wednesday then will be returning to New Zealand for Track Worlds preparation.
The Junior Track Worlds are in Frankfurt from August 14th to 18th and we’ll be keeping an eye out for Mr. Fisher-Black.
A well organised race, a world class winner, sunshine and beautiful Fife parcours – not much more you can ask for.
Check out the Spokes Racing Team blog for the full results.