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.
Alex Coutts seemed to be going well, but we would learn later that he had cycled to the event from his home in Burntisland — and was cycling back, too.
He had thought that his season was ending with his Tour of Taiwan win and he’s been off the bike since, but Giant management announced to him that he has the Japan Cup to ride at the end of October, then a ten day stage race in China a couple of weeks later.
The day before The Trossachs he began cycling from Burntisland to Aberlady and back – to work with his dad’s painting business – every day in order to get the form back; he finished not far away today, but missed a medal.
Abrahams rode well in the Trossachs and looked good on the climb today.
Arthur Doyle looked strong, but the remaining 20-odd starters were an anti-climax, all the medals had gone — although we didn’t know quite where because of the confusion with the starting order.
Final moan — couldn’t the times have been sent by text message from the top, in batches of five? In this way the results board could have been marked up on-going and the hour-plus wait for times at the end avoided.
Stuart Moran of the host club Perth United won the Dundee Centre prize and Sandy Wallace Cycles won the team prize, with Jonathan, Wilson & McBride.
Winner Ben used to write for cyclingnews.com in Australia and is more used to asking the questions than answering them;
“It’s not at all the result I expected; I looked at the hill prime results from The Trossachs and expected Arthur (Doyle) to win. I’ve been going ok in training, I’ve been out a lot with Evan Oliphant and James McCallum; that’s the thing about living in Edinburgh, there are loads of good guys to go out training with.
“I’ve had a lot of fourth places this year, so it’s good to win, it’s got to the stage where friends text me after a race and say; ‘4th again?’
“I’ve been doing a lot of training on my time trial bike – although I rode my road bike today — I even rode the TT bike down to Newcastle from Edinburgh to see my girlfriend.”
Arthur Doyle had bolted by the time the results were read and we only managed a few words with Jim Cusick before he pedalled off;
“you can’t waste a trip to a beautiful part of Scotland like this, we’re off for a run round Braco and Glen Eagles!”
Maybe that’s why he wins so many medals?
Sorry about the moans, but if someone doesn’t mention it, how will it get any better?