On a beautiful Scottish Borders Sunday morning, Boardman Elite’s versatile mountain biker, Grant Ferguson turned around a 10 second deficit at the top of the steep section of the Stow climb to win the Scottish Hill Climb Championship by three seconds from up and coming Steve Lawley (thebicycleworks.com), with the bronze going to Jamie Kennedy (Glasgow Couriers).
Ferguson got us in to trouble the last time he ‘won’ the Scottish Hill Climb Championship back in 2010 – we headed home from the top of the Purrinden climb in Fife recording the young man from Peebles in top spot.
We reported him as winner – albeit we were a tad disconcerted by his lack of a back brake – but duly posted the article.
Only to find that he’d been declassed for lack of said rear calliper – we were careful to confirm that his bicycle had ‘two independently operable brakes,’ this year.
The Borders were on their best autumnal behaviour for the race, with the Gala Water having ceased the Irrawaddy impersonation from earlier in the week.
Paul Faulkner (Carnethy HRC) off number three looked like a man to start the watch on – and held out until Stuart Stirland (Edinburgh Road Club) trimmed that by four seconds.
But right behind was Jamie Kennedy (Glasgow Couriers) taking 27 seconds from Stirland and looking good with an effort which would eventually be painful enough for bronze.
We’d liked the look of Rab Scott at the start, those GB skinsuits look sharp, but it wasn’t happening.
Ferguson was next up, looking the part; tall, skinny and focussed, navigating a straight line through the hurt, on the tops and with good cadence.
Gillian’s timekeeping had him four seconds up on Kennedy with the ‘big ring bit’ still to come.
Paul Friel (Glasgow Couriers) was giving us his best water buffalo impersonation – his breathing echoing across the Borders valleys before we could actually see him.
Scottish 100 mile champion Eddie Addis was enjoying a much shorter effort today – and had almost caught his minute man Robert Waitt (Annan 2010 Racing), but wasn’t going to trouble the timekeeper at the top.
City Couriers’ Adam Syme gave his skinsuit a rare outing in the hope of a team medal – but the team prize went to the Glasgow Couriers.
Stuart Anthony was there, big lens at the ready – thank goodness my camera has that ‘auto’ setting.
Andrew Davies (thebicycleworks.com) was looking good on his superlight Isaac – we might have to do our duty and email Mr. McQuaid to have one of those commissaires with the scales pay a visit?
After the race we spoke about the ‘old days’ when most of the field would have been on fixed wheel – I spotted just one stalwart on a single cog, today.
But as Andrew pointed out, modern, carbon 22 geared road bikes will be as light, if not lighter than steel track bikes were, back then.
But it’s not just about weight, there’s the ‘flywheel’ effect of the fixed gear carrying the pedal stroke over top dead centre.
And there’s the psychological aspect that you don’t have to agonise about which gear you should be in, as Andy Laing said; ‘you just get on with it!’
Scottish 70’s and 80’s hill climb king, Sandy Gilchrist rarely rode anything other than fixed wheel.
Alistair Robinson (Team Leslie Bike Shop – Right Move Windows) was the next man we thought might be ‘up there’ after his strong – but ultimately futile – Trossachs ride.
But the watch told us that he was seven seconds down on Ferguson.
Last man off was Steve Lawley, who’s mentored by thebicycleworks.com John Anderson.
He was 10 seconds up and looked the winner to us – out of the saddle, putting the power down and with the right look on his face.
However, it was Ferguson who had dosed his effort best and ran out winner by just three seconds in 6:01 with Lawley on 6:04 and Kennedy on 6:10.
The ladies prize went to Jennifer Taylor (West Lothian Clarion CC), fastest of the five female entries.
There was speculation about the course record at the end – on my way down to the race, Dave Chapman had texted me to say that Stewart Sutherland still has the course record.
But after the presentations, the word was that Hugh Jamieson has the record with 5:58 recorded in the late 90’s.
Being the sad stats anoraks we are, we’d welcome clarification on that one.
Lawley was pragmatic in defeat when we admired his Ridley as he warmed down; ‘aye it’s nice, but it’s no’ fast enough!’
Ferguson had time to chat to us before he set out to pedal home.
“I’ve had a month off the bike with illness.
“I was meant to ride the last two hill climbs but the bug prevented me – I only decided to ride this on Friday. I’m going to treat that month as my winter break – I’m starting my build up for the ‘cross season, now.
“The National ‘cross champs are in January, so I’m targeting that.
“Next season will be more of the same – mountain biking, road, time trials and ‘cross. The MTB Nationals will be a target, but apart from that, I haven’t thought about goals for 2013.”
It was time to leave Stow to the rooks, the sheep and warm autumn sun.
And it was great to write about cycling and not have to mention Lance – crivens! I’ve just done it!
Result - Scottish National Hill Climb Championship 2012
1. Grant Ferguson Boardman Elite 06:01
2. Steven Lawley TheBicycleWorks.com 06:04
3. Jamie Kennedy Glasgow Couriers 06:10
4. Alistair Robinson Team Leslie Bike Shop – Right … 06:12
5. Euan Pope Glasgow Couriers 06:26
6. Iain Elliott West Lothian Clarion CC 06:38
7. John Paterson Classic Racing Team 06:47
8. Stuart Stirland Edinburgh RC 06:52
9. Hector Lancaster Perth United Cycling Club 06:58
10. Edward Addis Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 07:00
11. Paul Faulkner Carnethy HRC 07:04
12. Nathan Beard Carnethy HRC 07:12
13. Andrew Davies TheBicycleWorks.com 07:18
14. Tom Worthington Vortex Race Team 07:25
15. Timothy Caine Berwick Wheelers CC 07:30
16. Andrew Nicell Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 07:31
16. Gary Robson Gala Cycling Club 07:31
18. John MacLeod Edinburgh RC 07:40
19. Ross Laidlaw Kelso Wheelers 07:43
20. Billy Minto West Lothian Clarion CC 07:44
21. Finlay Strivens Cairngorm CC 07:48
22. Jennifer Taylor West Lothian Clarion CC 07:50
23. Adam Syme Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 07:56
24. Jeremy Weston Gala Cycling Club 07:58
25. Gillian Palmer Sandy Wallace Cycles 08:04
25. Neil Pendrich 08:04
27. Gabriella Nordin Sandy Wallace Cycles 08:17
28. Douglas Kirkham Musselburgh RCC 08:24
29. Stuart Turvey Sandy Wallace Cycles 08:26
30. Rab Scott 08:27
31. Paul Friel Glasgow Couriers 08:29
32. Victoria Ware Velo Club Moulin 08:45
33. Robert Waitt Annan 2010 Racing 08:46
34. Peter Farquhar 09:08
35. David Johnston Gala Cycling Club 09:20
36. Lisa Cross 09:58
37. Toby Dawson Gala Cycling Club 10:20