There’s a nip in the air at 07.30 as I stand on Kirkcaldy promenade and await the arrival of Davie and the new Nissan. The big, old Peugeot has gone and he’s got a new Micra now, complete with CD – Yuppie! We’re off to The Girvan 2007.
I’ll soon be on a different prom – Girvan; I’ve just covered another race which involves a windy sea front. De Panne is on the North Sea, just as cold as the Firth of Clyde, which Girvan fronts onto, but there’s a lot more sand – and money, in Belgium.
They never seem to stop building luxury holiday flats on the Belgian ‘Riviera’ whilst Girvan sits quietly with the paint peeling from the B & B windows. Whilst “the Girvan” is a big-deal in it’s own right, arguably the most important amateur race in Britain, De Panne is just a piece of the ‘build-up to Flanders’ jigsaw.
Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) rode out of his skin in the last stage time trial – which blasts down the promenade at De Panne – to take overall victory and endorse his credentials as a big threat to Tom Boonen for Flanders on Sunday.
Talking of victory – who’s going to win at Girvan? Last year’s winner, Kristian House is a pro now, with Navigators, I was chatting to him at De Panne; he may not go the best, but he looks great.
Jason Macintyre – will he become the first home winner since Andy Ferry in 1987? VeloVeritas editor and photographer Martin Williamson was sixth overall in that edition. Even a stage win would be nice; the last Scottish one was Roddy Riddle in 2000, he got one in 1992 too.
Dean Downing has to be one of the bookies favourites but there are five previous winners on the sheet – Tanner, Elliot, Randle, Sharman and McCauley, three of those five could win again. As we skirt Ayr, the early mist has cleared and it looks like it’s going to be a ‘scorcher’, as Bill Barclay used to say.
I had to beg a hat from Discovery mechanic, Craig Geater at De Panne to ward-off sun stroke and I’ll need to keep my frazzled bald heid well covered at Girvan.
Fast forward – at the first prime, number 22 takes it, Giancarlo Checchi (Rapha Condor RT) then sits-up. He’s a handy boy, with a top 10 finish at the Tour de L’Avenir in his palmares.
As well as my duties as Cycling Weekly scribe, I’m mechanic for a team. I thought there had been a mistake, but no, we don’t have a compressor and yes, I had to blow all the tyres up by hand.
There’s drama early doors as Greg Roche (KFS Special Vehicles) is taken-out by one of the motor bikes, Kevin Barclay (Plowman Craven) goes down too.
Just around the corner, Paul Rennie (Edge RT) is standing beside the road – snapped chain, not a good start to the day for Edge.
By the end of the first hour 27 riders have been chopped by crashes, punctures or simply the pace: 85 started so that’s 30% of the field.
At 30 miles we’re on 1-12 so that’s 25 mph – no wonder there’s so many casualties.
We’ve just left Straiton when word comes over race radio – crash!
There’ll be no Scottish 20th anniversary winner, Jason has hit the deck – hard. Ryan Bonser went down too but battled his way back, despite the blood.
There was another crash within five miles, three down, including first prime winner, Checchi, he would get back, but not the other two.
We’re nearly back at Girvan for the first time and at last a break has ‘stuck’, with one lap of the little circuit to go – 15 miles, a group of seven have a 21 second lead.
On the climb of Byne hill for the second time another five go across, all the favourites are there now – Newton (Recycling), McAulay (Plowman Craven), Elliot (Pinarello), Downing (Rapha) and Sharman (KFS) . All the big teams are represented so it should stay away.
Sure enough, they still have around 40 seconds coming in to the finish, where former World Points and Team Pursuit Champion, Chris Newton is too quick for John Tanner (Sportscover) and Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport). That’s the third time Newton has won stage one, his total is four. Des Fretwell has the most, with seven.
A savage stage with most of the action being riders going backwards with punctures, crashes and lack of legs. At least the sun was shining.
Like some people say; “What can you say about a criterium, man? Some guys turn up, ride round and round, one guy wins and then they all go home.” Good point.