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.