On a mild but blustery day on the north side of the Ochil Hills, Ben Abrahams (equipe Velo Ecosse – Montpeliers ) finally realised some of his potential and gave new team sponsors Harley Haddow engineering and Warners solicitors value for money with a surprise 17 second win in the Scottish Hill Climb Championship.
Abrahams left hot favourite Arthur Doyle (Dooleys) with only a silver medal, with perennial Jim Cusick (Glasgow Couriers) grabbing the bronze.
The organisers wisely changed the venue for the event in the light of farming and logging operations transforming the original climb — a contour scything brute up to Middle Third farm — into a Belgian cyclo-cross venue, thick with mud.
Instead, substituting the ‘Dunning Glen’ climb; as we used to know it back in the days when I did my winter training over these roads. Whilst not as savage as the original venue, it was longer and no cake-walk, especially with a brisk wind gusting down it.
We took up position with perhaps two miles covered and half-a-mile still to go and started the watch on first rider, Stuart Moran (Perth United), we didn’t have to wait long on the first of the favourites — Jim Cusick, off number three and looking good, having caught and dropped his minute man, Finlay Young (equipe Velo Ecosse-Montpeliers).
The inexplicable lack of seeding was a disappointment, it looked very much as if the organiser had simply written the entrants on the start sheet as he received them, instead of waiting until the closing date then framing the field on current form.
Cusick was number three, former champion and Tour of Taiwan winner Alex Coutts (Giant Asia) was off 11, winner Abrahams was off 18 and hot favourite Doyle was off 27.
Seeding makes the race more exciting for the spectators, with the event building to a proper finale; the favourite should go off last.
It also means that the top riders — who have earned the right to seeding by previous performances — are in a position to receive time checks on their rivals.
A quick look at the result of the Tour de Trossachs Dukes Pass hill prime results would have pointed the way to how the tail end of the field should be arranged.
Short distance specialist and ten mile championship medallist, Dave Martin (thebicycleworks) looked good, but was down on Cusick, as was Trossachs contender Jonathan Copp (Sandy Wallace).
At this point our usually reasonably accurate amateur time keeping went ‘aglae,’ what we hadn’t noticed was that whilst number 10 followed 9 on the start sheet, there was actually a four minute gap between them; start time for 9 was 13:12, but for 10 it was 13:16 — why?
And why not start number one at 13:01, instead of 13:04 so the number matches the minute?
It was too complicated for us, I’m afraid and we had to rely on purely visual ‘feel’ from then on.