Craig Hardie (Dunfermline CC) disproved the old adage that; “a good big ‘un, will always beat a good little ‘un,” when the 37 year-old from Dalgety Bay left his much-taller rival Dan Whitehead several lengths back to win the Scottish Cyclo-Cross Championships 2007 on a snowy and technical circuit at Plean Country Park.
There were 70 names on the start sheet and most riders signed on to face a challenging circuit which tested every aspect of a “crossman’s” abilities.
The start straight was on fast gravel, dragging slightly uphill, before a 90 degree right onto a steep, but rideable gravel and mud bank through the trees.
It was mushy grass at the top; despite the snow and cold, the surfaces were very soft and the mud would play havoc with the riders gears as sprockets became clagged.
Off the grass there was a leafy section through the trees with nasty roots just waiting to cause pinch-flats.
Back on the grass, there was a ‘big-dipper’, down to pass close to the finish, before climbing again.
VeloVeritas pulled on the Hunters wellies and decided to walk the course. At this point, the race passed us for the first time, with Hardie having gone out of the trap like the legendary greyhound Mick the Miller – he had already opened a big gap.
With only half a lap gone, the field was blown-apart. The course dropped again on grass, then single track to the most hazardous part of the course – ‘the drop-off’. Perhaps it was one of those ones that look worse than they actually are to ride, but suffice to say that when the race passed us at this point, experienced roadmen, Paul McInally and Jonathan Copp both chose to run, rather than ride down.
Hardie showed no such reserve however, as his charge continued at the head of affairs. Off the ‘death drop’ it was fast gravel track again before a right into the trees and more roots, leaves and mud. Grass followed before more of that fast gravel.
Hardie zoomed by for the third time; but big Dan Whitehead, on the Belgian crossman’s favourite steed – a Ridley – was closing him down; maybe it wasn’t going to be a one man show?
Off the fast stuff, there was a long, long climb on grass – this was a heartbreaker and some of the lesser lights were at walking speed, or were wearing down their shoe plates.
As the leaders passed for the the fourth time, it was Whitehead sitting solid in the saddle and putting the power hard into the tread band of his rear tyre as Hardie struggled, a length adrift – could Dan snap the elastic, had Craig gone out too fast?