Endura Racing nearly had him for the coming year – they saw the sure potential, but Mike Nicolson decided to move from Glasgow Wheelers to Dooleys RT and took another step today towards realising that promise.
Attacking early on the first circuit of this 8 lap/65 mile “A” race around the East Lothian market town of Gifford with Paul Coates (now back with Squadra Via Mazzini – RaceTool Bicycles), and joined on the second lap by Collin Humphrey (Sports Cover), Nicolson drove the collaborating trio to a maximum lead of over 3 minutes with two laps to go, before sensing Coates was weakening and Humphrey was a danger. Deciding to go it alone, Nicolson finished in glorious solitude.
Humphrey hung on bravely to finish in second place, 40 seconds ahead of a splintered, splattered and wind-battered half-bunch, with Paul Rennie (Dooleys RT) going one place better than last year, taking the gallop for third.
I can’t believe it’s been a year since we covered the first edition of the Goblin Ha’ race around Gifford, time flies.
Back then, even though it was windy, it was quite sunny – we had snowdrops appearing at the roadside and spring felt just around the corner.
This week however, we had snow in this part of Scotland, and the biting south-easterly wind still carried a fair “wooly hat required” chill – the overcast, grey skies meant leg warmers and winter gloves were the order of the day. The roads were pretty greasy too, but at least it was dry.
The circuit is pretty lumpy (we previewed the course last year), and a number of people mentioned today that they thought it was almost too tough for many riders at this time of year. I’m not so sure – 65 undulating miles isn’t beyond reasonable for a properly wintered rider; the Girvan isn’t too far away after all, and there is always the option of the shorter “B” race.
Last year’s organiser, Chris Harney, is off back to Australia, and so it was that Edinburgh Road Club’s Sandra Murdoch stepped up to the job. As you’d expect from a promoting club which boasts nearly 500 members, the race was well marshalled and organised. After riding around the course on my moto all afternoon and looking forward to a cuppa and a burger, I did miss the BBQ this year though!
Incidentally, I’ve only been in the sponsoring Goblin Ha’ Hotel in Gifford once since the race last year, and my lasting memory of that visit was of one of the locals sitting in the bar resplendant in a T-shirt announcing “Darwin sucks – I ain’t no chimp”.
How it unfolded
Nicolson started the action on lap one, attacking on his own around the back of the circuit, and being joined quickly by Coates. They quickly had 10 seconds lead on a still not-quite-warmed-up-yet peloton.
On the second lap the front two were being pursued by the tall figure of Humphrey, working manfully to close a gap of 20 seconds. The bunch didn’t look “bovered though”.
I was surprised to see Greig Walker (Edinburgh Road Club) off the back at this stage, after his strong Silver Medal in the Scottish Cyclo-Cross Championships in December – I figured he must have had a mechanical or puncture.
Humphrey made contact with the two leaders before the end of the second lap, and the three men worked well together to really cement their move.
By Bolton, :¾ of the way around lap three, they were around a minute clear of two escapees from the bunch – Callum Wilkinson (Endura Racing) and Arthur Doyle (Dooleys RT). These two were brought to heel before the end of the lap, when James McCallum marshalled his Endura Racing troops, and tried to organise things to limit the gap to the leaders, which was now 40 seconds, and creeping up.
That didn’t work however, and after the start of the fifth lap, the gap was now over two minutes 20 seconds from front to bunch. Maybe it had something to do with the Endura lads only getting and building their bikes last night – too bad for them that Giant recently recalled bikes from the UK due to a carbon fork problem, and only started importing them again last week.
As ever, Jammy Johnston drove just before the race (kinda like the publicity caravan does at the Tour de France, well, sort of) and through his loudspeakers he did a superb job of letting everyone watching know what the time-gaps were.
Arthur Doyle – again – and Alan Thomson (Glasgow Couriers – DB Developments) were in the middle of the gap, chasing hard.
Kate Cullen (R & TC Groenewoud) was doing really well and was still with the bunch at this point, having actually started the “B” race earlier on – she punctured soon after the neutralised section in that one, and didn’t get race service, which put paid to the day, or so she thought. The organisers made a nice gesture by allowing her a start in the “A” race with the menfolk.
By halfway on the sixth lap, Nicolson, Coates and Humphrey were two minutes ahead of a soloing Arthur Doyle, and the bunch followed 40 seconds after that. For the first time, there were big gaps appearing as Gordon Murdoch (Endura Racing) piled on the pressure at the front, and those guys with only base miles in their legs and lacking the speed were found out.
On the Slateford climb just after starting lap seven, Nicolson delivered the attack that would seal his victory. Just as well, the bunch, which had split into two equal parts, had closed to within one-and-a-half minutes.
Charging up the hill he looked composed, and able to dig deep. It’s only then that I noticed he was wearing a skinsuit. This reminded me of Zabriski doing this in Paris-Tours last year, with a well-executed attack. I wondered if Nicolson too was following a carefully-laid plan.
By the KoM prime he was well clear. Humphrey followed 50 seconds later – on his own: where was Coates? The answer came only after the two main bunches had gone by; blown. Good effort Paul, pretty much the whole race off the front.
The riders at the back of the race were clawing their way painfully over the prime summit, their race over. That said, many riders finished the distance despite being dropped very early on, which takes some perseverance.
Last lap, and passing Colstoun House Nicolson was two minutes 15 seconds ahead of Humphrey, who had some urgency in his riding again. Reason: the front bunch were snapping half-a-minute at his heels.
If only Humphrey had known that there was a fair amount of “Come through!” shouts going on in the group, and it was clear there wasn’t a concerted effort to close in further on the front two.
And it stayed like this until the finish, with Nicolson enjoying his biggest win so far. Looking back down the finishing straight and seeing no-one, I suspect he enjoyed the last few hundred metres the most.
Humphrey increased his gap a little to secure second, and Paul Rennie scorched in two lengths clear of the bunch for third place.
It was easy to grab a word with the winner, waiting patiently for the rest of the race to come across the line:
After winning a number of races last year, and placing a few times in the Super 6 races, Mike has moved up a level. In his third year at Glasgow University studying Electronic Engineering, he’s enjoying being in a team with a lot of experience:
“Yeah, the guys are great and full of advice, and no, I didn’t have a plan! I just went! I was hoping to take some folk with me, and when it was just two of us I wasn’t sure we would go far, but when Collin came up he added enough power to make us think we could do something.
“We worked well together, but I felt that the bunch might get close with a couple of laps to go, so I took off. I felt pretty strong, and with the BikeLine next week I wanted to give myself a good test, see where I am form-wise.”
Right where you should be, we say.
“It’s been completely manic! I only got my racing licence and bike yesterday! (Collin was on a Giant too). It’s worked out really well though, so I’m very satisfied. I took a good lap to get up to the front two, and it was horrendous – that headwind!
“Once we were together we worked really well, but when the other guys started smashing it up I thought ‘what are you doing? You’ll wreck our advantage”, but I guess they knew what to do.
“I’ve had Kevin Dawson helping me over the winter, and it’s made a tremendous difference, in my head as well as physically. Today has been good for that too – I’m riding the BikeLine next week, so now I reckon I’ll be okay to at least sit in an elite bunch.
How long have I been riding? Only a short while compared to most. I won the North East Div Champs last year, but four years ago I was into body-building and weighed over 18 stone! My grandfather got me into cycling, and a couple of years ago on the day I won my first race, he passed away. It’s as if he was waiting to see me start to do well before he went.”
Congratulations to Mike, Collin, Pauls Rennie and Coats, all the other riders who finished a hard season-opener, and everyone involved in the organisation.
1 23 Michael Nicolson Dooleys: RT 02:51:49
2 65 Collin Humphrey Sports: Cover 01:38
3 24 Paul Rennie Dooleys: RT 02:02
4 28 David Lines Endura: Racing 02:04
5 12 Colin Ash Activ: Cycles: Fentimans: RT same time
6 48 Watt Alister Granite: City: RT: /: Ledingham: Cha: same time
7 33 Lewis Oliphant Equipe: Velo: Ecosse/Montpeliers same time
8 1 Gordon Murdoch Endura: Racing same time
9 41 Euan Pope Glasgow: Couriers: /: DB: Developme: same time
10 20 Arthur Doyle Dooleys: RT same time
11 64 Robert Hassan Rockhard: Racing same time
12 36 Martin Coopland Falkirk: BC same time
13 76 Rab Wardell Kinesis same time
14 29 Scott Macrae Endura: Racing same time
15 62 Darren Tiffen Probikekit same time
16 22 Graham McGarrity Dooleys: RT 03:03
17 4 Ross Crook Edinburgh: RC same time
18 75 Paul McInally Rock and Road Cycles same time
19 52 Veli Matti Raikkonen Granite: City: RT: /: Ledingham: Cha: same time
20 8 Colin May Edinburgh: RC same time
21 21 Stuart MacGregor Dooleys: RT same time
22 40 Jamie Kennedy Glasgow: Couriers: /: DB: Developme: same time
23 37 James Mcpake Falkirk: BC same time
24 45 Graeme Neagle Glasgow: Wheelers same time
25 73 Alastair McNicol Velo: Ecosse same time
26 74 Dean Martin Velo: Ecosse same time
27 72 Ben Abrahams Velo: Ecosse same time
28 70 Gary McCrae Team: Leslie: Bikshop: /: Right: Mov: same time
29 67 Robin Wilkinson Stirling: Bike: Club same time
30 39 Barry Crumlish Glasgow: Couriers: /: DB: Developme: same time
31 53 Russell Bayliss GS: Metro same time
32 69 Stevie Crowther Team: Leslie: Bikshop: /: Right: Mov: same time
33 13 David Robinson Activ: Cycles: Fentimans: RT same time
34 31 Callum Wilkinson Endura: Racing same time
35 2 Tim Blathwayt Edinburgh: RC 03:16
36 16 Derek Smith City: of: Edinburgh: RC 10:51
37 7 Calum MacLean Edinburgh: RC same time
38 71 Raymond Reidy Team: Leslie Bikshop / Right Mov 16:06
39 44 Jamie Drever Glasgow: Wheelers same time
40 34 Finlay Young Equipe: Velo: Ecosse/Montpeliers 17:19
41 14 Raymond Turner Activcycles: Fentimans: RT 17:23
42 9 Ross Spence Edinburgh: RC 20:41
43 46 Keith Smith Glasgow: Wheelers 21:03
44 51 Liam Cowie Granite: City: RT: /: Ledingham: Cha: 21:07
45 55 Micky Mallen GS: Metro 21:09
46 38 Franco Porco Falkirk: BC same time
47 57 James Daly Johnstone: Wheelers 27:11:00
48 56 Frank Morris GS: Metro 38:11:00
49 17 Matthew Hamilton Discovery: Junior: CC at 1 lap
50 19 James Smith Discovery: Junior: CC at 1 lap