On a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon in North East Scotland, Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes’ Gary Hand finally took the Scottish Road Race Championship after a blistering attack on the main climb of the day took him clear of 2012 champion, James McCallum (Rapha Condor JLT) and Davie Lines (MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling) over the top of the hill.
Despite a desperate pursuit from McCallum over the fast and technical final miles, it was Hand raising his hands at the death with Lines grabbing silver and a disappointed McCallum taking bronze.
The 85 mile parcours involved two laps of a big circuit taking in Alford, Auchleven, Insch, Kennethmont, Rhynie and Mossat – effectively a loop of the Correen Hills.
With a smaller finishing loop into the hills through the village of Leslie and a savage late climb as the sting in the tail.
Our first sight of the race on a grey morning was at Auchleven with Dooleys topping and tailing the compatto peloton, Arthur Doyle at the front, Stuart McGregor at the back.
We cut across the circuit to catch the race for a second time at Rhynie – we can recommend the Sinclairs of Rhynie syrup cookies – and unusually for a Scottish race, it was still compatto.
Big favourites, reigning champion McCallum and Hand were safely tucked in – keeping their powder dry for the finale.
With our cookies, the mild North East air, bird song and Martin with his Sunday Times, it was tempting just to stay put and wait for them to come round on lap two – but our professional instincts told us that you readers would suss that we’d taken all the pictures from the same spot.
Driving the circuit the ‘wrong’ way let us see why no break had crept away – no hills, just gently rolling country, nice for training or a club run, but not for smashing a race up.
The long drag up from Alford is a big ring job and with a 10% drop off the top, it’s possible for strong stragglers to battle back on the descent.
Insch, our third sighting and the peloton on it’s second lap.
Still compatto, although lead car driver, Norman Skene told us that six had been away but been brought back and everyone was saving it for the nasty late climb – the one with the little ‘steep gradient’ arrows on our map – on the wee circuit.
‘Oldie but goody’ Graeme McGarrity at the head of affairs for Dooleys was looking the part, but on that long straight out of Insch the elastic wasn’t going to snap.
And Stuart McGregor, No. 31, was ensuring the men in black had both ends of the race covered.
We continued on our way around the circuit ‘against’ the race – along the banks of the beautiful River Don and through silver birch woods.
We should have brought our bikes…
And the sun even came out as we waited for our fourth sighting, near Lumsden – and we have a race.
Six clear by 15/20 seconds with Gary Hand in there, with Scott McCrossan of Rock & Road and a Dooleys, David Griffiths of Glasgow Wheelers and Tim Blathwayt (VC Edinburgh).
A wee bit dissent in there though as someone missed a spell; ‘come oan tae f**k boys!‘ echoing across the quiet fields as TheBicycleWorks.com lead the charge in the bunch.
We headed back to Rhynie to cut over to Clatt and the finishing circuit – no time for syrup cookies this time, though.
The wee roads inside the main loop are cracking training and touring country – lush, rolling with beautiful views to the hills and hardly any traffic.
The hill on the finish loop – a belter; and now easy to see why the big hitters were waiting.
Slicing straight up the hillside, long and steep but levelling out over the top.
Stunning views across to the hills over pine woods and ancient standing stones with the sun out and the air sweet.
We like the parcours – many times in Scotland there’s some death climb on the lap and before the race has properly started it’s over.
With the big circuit here not being too savage it means there are more riders actually in the race until the finale – and that’s no bad thing.
It’d be nice to ‘take it to the people’ a bit more – but we do understand that the police have to be kept happy.
Martin dropped me off at the top whilst he headed for the finish…
…a lone rider, going strongly, green and white jersey, red bike – Gary Hand!
He’s looking good, out of the saddle, lifting it over the top – he looks a winner to me…
Jamesie next with a rider in pale blue, then Callum Wilkinson (TheBicycleWorks.com).
But Jamesie’s panting like a dog and you can see that he doesn’t have Hand’s momentum.
It’ll be a hell of a pursuit match down the technical descent to Alford; Gary can’t let the Rapha man back – not with a sprint that can win him the British Criterium Championship.
One’s, two’s, sixes and sevens…
Kevin Baxter helps VeloVeritas out with a lift to the finish and the text comes from Martin at the line;
“Gary from Davie from James!”
Davie Lines (MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling) – that was our man in pale blue.
Philosophical bronze medallist James McCallum had this to say to us;
“I was away for 20 miles coming in to the finishing circuit, I had maybe 30/40 seconds. On the small circuit Gary, Callum Wilkinson and Davie came up to me and I sat on for a wee bit.
“Gary attacked on the big climb and I brought him back; but then he went again and got clear. He had maybe 20 seconds over the top and I thought we’d get him on the descent.
“We’d would have caught him – in fact we were nearly on him a couple of times – but there was a lack of co-operation at the end. Davie Lines said to me that he’s never been in that position before and didn’t want to be seen to be chasing down Gary.
“Coming in to the finish I was doing the lions share but when Davie wouldn’t come through, I just thought; “if I’m not going to win it, neither are you !” and sat up.”
Silver medallist Davie Lines however, was happy with his medal.
“If you’d let me see the course this morning then asked if I’d be happy with silver, I’d have said I’d more than happy.”
We put it to him that perhaps his friendship with Gary Hand had prevented him from fully committing to the chase?
“There’s that aspect, but what would have made it worse is if I’d helped James get up and he’d won. James has won it before – but it means so much to Gary.
“James clipped off on his own on the last lap and had 3/400 metres, the bunch was stop/go so I attacked to get across with Callum Wilkinson; then Gary came across.
“Gary attacked and got the gap; I didn’t think I’d get over the climb with James and Callum; James is so strong and Callum is a good climber – but he was dropped. I didn’t want to put Gary at risk on the run in; and I’m happy with silver – my first ever road race medal.”
As for the gold medallist Gary Hand, we’ll be carrying a full interview with him, tomorrow.
Result - Scottish Road Race Championship 2013
2 29 David Lines MG-Maxifuel Pro Cycling 1st st
3 33 James McCallum Rapha Condor JLT Elite 2
4 41 Peter Murdoch Paisley Velo Race Team 1st 01:13
5 60 Callum Wilkinson Bicycles works 2nd st
6 57 Andrew Whitehall Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 1st st
7 3 David Anderson Granite City RT 2nd st
8 40 Ewan Minty Berwick Wheelers CC 2nd st
9 2 Edward Addis Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 2nd st
10 44 Lewis Oliphant Velo Club Edinburgh 3rd st
11 47 Euan Pope Glasgow Road Club 3rd st
12 37 Richard McDonald Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 2nd st
13 15 Craig Dale TheBicycleWorks.com 3rd st
14 49 Veli-Matti Raikkonen Granite City RT 2nd st
15 28 Steven Lawley TheBicycleWorks.com 3rd 01:16
16 5 Jack Barrett Velocity 44 Stirling 2nd 01:49
17 1 Craig Adams GJS Cruise Racing 1st st
18 38 Graham McGarrity www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk 2nd 01:53
19 11 William Crawford Granite City RT 3rd st
20 14 Barry Crumlish Glasgow Road Club 3rd 01:56
21 59 Robin Wilkins Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 2nd st
22 9 Andrew Cox TheBicycleWorks.com 2nd st
23 35 Scott McCrossan Rock to Roll Cycles Ltd Elite 01:58
24 43 Tommy Murray www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk 3rd 02:29
25 34 Stuart McCluskey BESTE ALDE/S.C.DURANGUESA 2nd st
26 13 Duncan Ewing TheBicycleWorks.com 3rd st
27 10 Barry Cranstoun Icarus Racing 3rd 02:31
28 6 Tim Blathwayt Velo Club Edinburgh 2nd 02:48
29 42 Gordon Murdoch Icarus Racing 2nd 02:55
30 58 Lee Whitelaw Edinburgh RC 3rd 02:57
31 50 David Reed Deeside Thistle CC 3rd st
32 51 Keith Robertson Granite City RT 2nd 03:02
33 56 Alister Watt Granite City RT 2nd 03:06
34 55 Craig Wallace ASFRA Racing Team 1st st
35 26 Michael Henderson Moray Firth Cycling Club 2nd 03:08
36 7 Greig Brown www.Dooleys-Cycles.co.uk 2nd 03:25
37 39 James McPake GJS Cruise Racing 2nd 03:37
38 45 Ayrton Pellet Edinburgh RC 2nd 04:39
39 62 Bradley Stokes Pedal Power RT 2nd 04:48
40 20 Tom Fernie Velo Ecosse 3rd 05:08
41 4 Kevin Barclay TheBicycleWorks.com 2nd 05:46
42 54 Christian Touderache Granite City RT 3rd st
43 19 Ryan Fenwick Williams Racing Academy 2nd st
44 23 David Griffiths Glasgow Whls 2nd 09:25
45 61 Finlay Young Equipe Velo Ecosse/Montpeliers 2nd st
46 27 Jamie Kennedy Paisley Velo Race Team 1st 09:27
2 8 Julie Erskine Granite City RT 2nd st
3 26 Eileen Roe Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team 1st 16
4 24 Mona Petrie Deeside Thistle CC 4th st
5 5 Anda-Jay Burgess Sandy Wallace Cycles 2nd st
6 7 Fiona Duncan Ythan CC 3rd st
7 3 Louise Borthwick Edinburgh RC 2nd st
8 4 Kayleigh Brogan Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team 2nd st
9 2 Jane Barr Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team 3rd st
10 19 Laura Murray Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team 2nd st
11 22 Gabriella Nordin Pedal Power RT 2nd 01:41
12 18 Toni McIntosh Ayr Roads Cycling Club 4th st
13 25 Penelope Phillips Moray Firth Cycling Club 3rd 02:08
14 13 Evgenia Ilyinskaya Edinburgh RC 3rd 02:09
15 32 Polly Tandy Deeside Thistle CC 3rd 02:38
16 31 Sarah Stephen Stirling Bike Club 3rd 02:40
17 10 Flora Gillies Team ASL360 2nd 03:01
18 30 Jenny Stanning Velocity 44 Stirling 3rd st
19 15 Jacqueline Laing Deeside Thistle CC 4th 03:03
20 34 Lynne Wardrop Ayr Roads Cycling Club 4th 03:38
21 23 Ashley Pearson Deeside Thistle CC 3rd 06:34
22 16 Alexa Mair Edinburgh RC 2nd 07:47
23 29 Peggy Series Edinburgh RC 3rd 10:39
24 27 Laura Sarkis Deeside Thistle CC 4th 11:35