If you’re like us, you thought the Scottish Road Race Championships at Kennoway in Fife over much of the old Dave Campbell Memorial Race parcours would be pretty much a formality for ‘10’ and ‘25’ mile time trial Champion, John Archibald (Pro Vision).
Especially in the absence of multiple former champion, Highlander, Evan Oliphant.
But massed starts aren’t time tests where the strongest man always wins; and whilst the man who can ride 25 miles in 46 minutes was on the podium – it wasn’t the top step.
The best view from the podium went to Mark Robertson (Army CC); the man who’s based in the north east of England beat Fraser Martin (Raleigh) into silver and aforementioned John Archibald into bronze.
Best ‘have a word’ with Mr. Robertson we decided…
Give us some background please, Mark.
“I’m 30 years-of-age and originally from Hurlford in Ayrshire, I’m married with a little girl.
“I messed about on the bike when I was young, mountain bikes though – road bikes weren’t cool!
“I got my first road bike at the end of 2102 but then went on tours of duty to Afghanistan with the Army.
“I 2014 I moved up from fourth to second category; 2015 there’s not much to report but in 2016 I got things together and started to go much better.”
Talk us through your championship win.
“I’ve had good form of late, taking second place in the Pedal Power and Billy Warnock road races so I came in believing I was strong – but I knew John Archibald was the man to beat.
“I recce-ed the course and knew if I got over that last climb with the leaders then I had a good chance to win if it came down to a sprint.
“I went with the early break and whilst I didn’t commit 100% I rolled through; John Archibald wasn’t with the move initially but eventually came across.
“The group just whittled down until in the closing stages there was just John, Fraser Martin and myself left.
“The sprint was perhaps closer than I would have liked but I got the result that matters.”
Is this the best win of your career?
“100%! This is the one that I was focussed on – the one that mattered.
“I’ve won regional races and had good second places before like in the Gifford Road Race last year – and as I said earlier in the Billy Warnock and Pedal Power races.”
The jersey you were awarded on the podium, can you race in that?
“I don’t think it’s been done in the past so I won’t race in it but I’d like to wear it on podiums to show it off.”
Does the army encourage you, as a sportsman?
“I’ve been in the Army for 12 years now and I do get to use my PT time to ride the bike, it’s a massive help but I have to show results to justify it.”
And has the Army made a fuss over your Scottish result?
“Yes, it’s been well received in the team and within my unit – it’s a big result for us.
“Colleagues like to see us winning – and they know the effort that’s gone into it.”
And is there still that big Army Cycling rivalry with the RAF?
“There’s a strong rivalry between the Services – the Inter Services Championships are in Devon, next month and we’ll be going down to do a course recce training camp.
“The championship is decided on team placings and last year we only won by four points – so perhaps we were a bit complacent and took it for granted we’d win, we don’t want any mistakes this year.
“But it’s not just the RAF, the Navy has a good team and in all sports across the board it’s about ‘bragging rights’ between the services – there’s strong rivalry but it’s pretty friendly.”
Do you have a coach?
“Yes, I’m with Alex Dowsett’s ‘Cyclism’ coaching set up, Eleanor Jones is my coach.
“I find that having a coach motivates me and I’ve adopted power meter training – it’s easy to lie to yourself but you can’t lie to your power meter!
“That said, whilst I train on power, I race on ‘feel’ – I don’t like to let number dictate to me in a race.”
Do you ride time trials too?
“I used to have a TT machine and was reasonable against the watch with top three placings – but I sold the bike.
“I decided I wanted to concentrate 100% on the road with no distractions – time trials are all about numbers and that distracts you.”
How would you describe yourself as a rider?
“I have a decent sprint and I can climb a bit if it’s short and I have my weight under control – but I do prefer the short, sharp jags rather than the longer climbs.”
“There’s the Army Championship Road race over 50 miles coming up at Sandhurst, that’s my second goal of the year after the Scottish Champs – I guess I’m favourite for that, then there’s the Inter Services Championship next month.
“And I need 40 points to net my Elite licence and that’s another goal for the year.
“Finally, there’s the British Hill Climb Championship, that’s in the North East, my back yard, so I’ll be putting eggs into that basket.
“At the start of the season I knew that it was going to be ‘back loaded’ and it’s worked out so far.”
With congratulations to Mark on his ride. Catch up on our Scottish Road Race Championship report.
Just as we “go to press” we heard from Mark after he won the Army Championship mentioned above. Here’s what he told us:
“I pulled off another huge win by taking the Army Road Race Championship… It was a hard race, grim weather, but I gave it big licks against a classy field with the best in the British Army.
“I took these two little gems [photos above and below, ed.] for the ride – another huge dose of inspiration needed to go for a big solo dig off the break, in the final miles.
“I did pile the pressure on myself to win, but got it done!”