After years of trying, James McCallum (Rapha Condor Sharp) finally took his win in the Scottish National Road Race in sun-soaked Balfron today, edging out good friend Evan Oliphant (Team Raleigh-GAC) in the uphill sprint after a hard-fought 132km race, with VanillaBikes.com’s Alistair Rutherford a lone third a handful of seconds behind.
This is the second year the Championship has been held on this new Balfron circuit, and as James said from the podium,
“It would be great if the Championship was held here every year – superbly well organised by Colin Bark and Jez Greengrass and the guys in the Vortex RT, and it’s a superb course with an enthusiastic crowd. Just perfect.”
Indeed, here at VeloVeritas we’ve ranted about races, particularly championships, that disappear into the hills and are never seen again until the riders head back to the changing rooms.
This was different; an 11km circuit covered in around 16 and a half minutes, 12 times, was exactly what the event needs, and it clearly had the support of the locals; the crowd in the town and around the route was impressive: many of the business in Balfron were open, with race sponsor Doyle’s Café next to the finish line providing a hub for spectators as well as good coffee and hot rolls and cakes.
As Colin told me, the only thing missing from Ed’s event wish list was a crowd barrier to lean on, kermis style, and a bottle of Jupiler in his hand – and had Ed not been busy today working at the Giro, then he would have had them too!
We decided to drive around the circuit counter to the race direction, so we’d see the riders every eight or ten minutes, and with the day being so bright and clear there were one or two spots where we could even see the race at the other side of the circuit.
As you’ll see from the Lap by Lap gallery below, time and again a break would form – usually instigated by a surging James McCallum – and despite having a good combination of riders and making us think that we were witnessing the winning move, when we next caught up with the action it would be all back together again.
With James’ recent ride in the Rutland and Evan riding strongly for his new team Raleigh-GAC, we knew the constant reforming wasn’t because the guys weren’t strong enough, and thought we were simply seeing a fitter and better trained Scottish bunch than we have before.
It wasn’t until the race reached the final two laps that the super-strong guys were able to make the decisive moves.
As Scottish Cycling’s Jeanette Hazlett told us,
“We put Graeme Herd into the Comm 2 car so that when there was a break clear he’d get to see some of the action – but there hasn’t been a break with enough of a time gap for that, so poor Graeme has spent the entire race driving behind the lead car, and has seen nothing of the action!”.
Before the rollout, we had grabbed a quick chat with the guys we thought would be figuring in the results at the end of the 12 laps.
New team on the block, Lancs-based VanillaBikes.com has a bit of a Scottish connection; team captain Ben Greenwood is living and working in Fife and Alistair Rutherford’s dad is a Scot so qualifying him for this event, and you will of course have spotted that the shop is also sponsoring VeloVeritas to support our efforts and the time we spend in keeping the site going. Alistair was feeling relaxed and pleased that the sun was shining, and was looking forward to doing himself and his sponsor justice.
James McCallum was as laid back and low-key as ever, but despite being clearly in great shape, he confessed;
“The legs are sore, but then they’re always sore – so you just get on with it!”
Four-time winner Evan Oliphant was clearly motivated to add his name to the trophy again, and was sporting a really nice Moa Team Raleigh speedsuit, with the built-in pockets stuffed with the day’s nutritional requirements.
Evan isn’t exactly averse to the early break, but wasn’t sure how things would play out today, or wasn’t saying.
PedalPower’s Gary Hand looked thin and tanned, and explained;
“I’ve been training in Mallorca for a spell, and got back last week just the day before the Kirkcaldy round of the Halfords Tour Series, so that was pretty hard as it was the first criterium I’d done for a while and I still had the travelling in my legs.”
Like Evan, Gary was also wearing a skinsuit but one with no pockets;
“My gels are taped to my bottles, so I’ll get them later on”.