In Part 1 of “When Scotland had a National Stage Race” we saw the domination of the East Europeans that ended with the introduction of Professionals in to the Scottish Milk Race. The first year it was the British based pro’s, then the big boys in the shape of the Belgian Isjberk-Gios team arrived in 1978 and set fire to the race, so instead of an East European domination we now had a Continental Pro domination, but they had something the Czechoslovakians, Poles, East Germans or Russians didn’t have: style; class; and that “Pro-appeal”.
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The year was 1977 and the Scottish Milk Race had gone Pro-Am for the first time. Co-organizer; the late Arthur Campbell, said before the start “perhaps the shape of things to come”. How right he was, as now we have open racing all around the world.
Many people thought it would be a Polish and Czech whitewash, but they didn’t know the hardman character of Sid Barras. Barras had some trouble from the Pole Stanislav Szozda and the strong Czech team, but “Super Sid” never lost control at any point in the five stage race.
The field consisted of teams representing the nations of Scotland, Great Britain, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland and Ireland, they were joined by three British professional teams; Bantel, Holdsworth/Campagnolo and Carlton-Weinmann, and the Swiss team of ADS-Colnago.
The Bantel team leader, Sid Barras took the first yellow jersey by winning the first stage in Rouken Glen Park by out sprinting Szozda, Matousek (Czech), Graham Jones (GB) and Kostadinov (Czech), his time bonus gave him the lead, but 10 seconds are not much in hand and by the end of stage two Barras and Szozda were on the same time overall.
Stage 2 was from East Kilbride to Leven, unluckiest rider has to Irishman, Mick Nulty who punctured but was unable to get back to the bunch and due to a circuit around East Kilbribe he was lone leader of the race on the road (one lap down) and so he had to be disqualified, the luck of the Irish!
Klasa won the stage bunch gallop into Leven, with Szozda second in front of Barras in third and this put them on the same time and it looked like the gauntlet had been thrown down by the Pole and battle would be fought over the coming days.
Stage 3, Arbroath to Aberdeen and stage four from Stonehaven to Dunfermline, both ended in stale-mate with large group sprints.
The stages had many attacks and groups trying to split things up, but any dangerous break to Barras was brought back by ex-pursuit World Champion and Ed Hood’s hero, Hugh Porter, who kept thing together so well that Barras was always finishing one place in front of his rival, Szozda.
Two very active protagonists who went on to ride and finish the Tour de France were Paul Sherwen and Graham Jones, and it was Jones who nearly stole the race on stage four, but was reeled in (it was suggested at the time) by a combine of the British Pro teams.
Going into the last stage from Dunfermline to Ayr. Barras had a 40 second advantage on Szozda and had him watched through out the stage.
At the finish Barras could allow a few unimportant riders slip away, Scheuneman from Holland took the stage from a young man named Robert Millar in a Scotland jersey and Barras finished in 1w0th position and held his winning margin over Szozda and the first Pro-Am Scottish Milk Race was a success.
What about the home riders? It was not a great race for the Scottish riders, apart from Robert Millar’s second spot on stage five, the only other rider of merit was the evergreen Sandy Gilchrist who was ninth overall and got in the top on another occasion, the Scotland team were sixth.
An Irish rider by the name of Pat McQuaid was seventh overall, what ever happened to him?
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1978 looked like it could be a repeat of the previous year as Sid Barras was back with the strong new Viking-Campagnolo team, there was going to be one big problem, the powerful Ijsboerke-Gios squad from Belgium with riders like Gerry Verlinden, Rudy Pevenage, Frank Hoste and Adri Van De Poel, probably the best riders to line up in a race on Scottish soil.
The first yellow jersey was worn by Dutchman, Bert Oosterbosch after winning the prologue time trial and stage one was going to be a real tussle to set the scene for the rest of the race.
Previous year’s winner, Sid Barras got away with Gerry Verlinden and in his own words “it was like being behind a Derny”. He still managed to take the stage win by out smarting Verlinden in the two-up sprint.
The second stage was around the Isle of Arran, this stage was crucial for the hopes of the Viking team and those hopes were dashed by a plague of punctures. The Ijsboerke team piled on the pressure at the front and decimated the peloton, with the exception of the Czech and Dutch teams that were strong enough to stay with the blistering pace.
Stage three to Dunbar saw Van De Poel of Ijsboerke got away and was chased down by Ian Banbury of Holdsworth-Campagnolo; it was so close for the Englishman that he crossed a gap of 100 meters in 500 meters, but lost out by a bike length at the finish.
The Ijsboerke team were dominating every stage and it took former 100 mile time trial champion, Paul Carbutt of Viking to shake things up on the stage from Edinburgh to Perth and make a long, long lone break, 70 miles on his own to be exact.
He was chased by Canadian Robert Pelletier but was never caught by him or the bunch for a great solo win, but it made no difference to the final outcome.
By the last stage Verlinden was leading his team mate Pevenage by 8 seconds, the next rider was the Czech Bartolsic and Scotland’s Robert Millar was 10th equal with Phil Bayton of Holdsworth, Millar was also 3rd in the mountains competition behind final stage winner, Pevenage and Reg Smith, these two had been battling it out until the last climb of the day before Leven, Smith took the jersey by one point in the end.
If you want to see more photographs and read about 1978, then have a look at our previous story “The Trossachs: 1978 remembered”.
So the Scottish Milk Race had come full circle form being dominated by the Eastern Europeans to being dominated by Western European professionals. Scotland had to wait till the Health Race in 1983 to see a home win by Jamie McGahan – in part three we will look at that Health race of ’83 and the race of ‘81.