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Grant Ferguson – New Scottish Hill Climb and British Cyclo-Cross Champion

"It’s the third time I’ve been fastest in the Scottish Hill Climb Champs but only the second time I’ve actually won it."

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Is it really eight years since I wrote this about Grant Ferguson (Dooley’s) winning the 2010 Scottish Hill Climb Championship on the Lomond Hill’s savage Purrin Den climb?

“The French have an expression for it; ‘une erreur de jeunesse’ – ‘a mistake of youth.’

“When VeloVeritas saw Grant’s bike at the top of the climb, we winced and advised that it disappear into the back of the family camper van, pronto – the back brake had been removed as an aid to weight saving.”

Grant Ferguson
Grant ‘won’ the Hill Climb Championship seven years ago. Photo©Martin Williamson

“Whilst in real terms it created no safety issues since the youngster warmed up on rollers at the bottom of the climb, and jumped into the family camper van at the top, we knew that there would be those present that if they spotted the bike ‘sans frein’ would delight in pointing out the infringement.

“And so it proved, the young man from Peebles was DQ-ed.

“A shame, but ‘rules are rules’ we suppose.”

Inevitably, our first question to the man perhaps better known for his mountain bike and cyclo-cross – he’s reigning British Elite Cyclo-Cross champion, don’t forget – adventures, following his win in this year’s Scottish Hill Climb championships was; 

Did you have a back brake this time, Grant?

Yes, both brakes this time!

It’s the third time I’ve been fastest in the Scottish Hill Climb Champs but only the second time I’ve actually won it.”

Grant Ferguson
Grant looked relaxed at the start of the Scottish Road Championships earlier this season. Photo©Ed Hood

Grant has moved on from a Scottish club team to top international MTB team Brentjens–American Eagle these days.

We asked him how he’d found time to fit in the Scottish Hill Climb Champs.

I’m going to a mountain bike stage race in Brazil this week so I looked to see what races I could ride and this one fitted in with my training.”

The first time we spoke to Grant about his hill climbing gear choices back in 2010 he couldn’t tell us what sprockets he was riding…

Some things don’t change…

I dunno what gears I was on, I was all over the block, I asked around and folks said that a time trial bike was probably best choice for the hill.

“I changed into the big ring about three quarters of the way up; a road bike would have been just as good to ride – it does flatten at the top so you can go higher with the gears.”

VeloVeritas wondered how it felt to have a front changer on the bike, after all ‘cross and MTB is all about 1×11, these days?

Yes, I’m on 1×11 for MTB and ‘cross races but it’s nice to have the front changer and the wider choice of gear ratios for a course like this.”

How did he pace the ride, was there the inevitable watts calculation?

I knew that the top was the fastest bit and I wanted to save a wee bit for there; I didn’t get a chance to try the hill out, I hadn’t realised that it was closed to all but riders in the race.

“I did drive down it though, to get an understanding of it.

“I went out hard but within myself until I got to the car park and went for it from there – I didn’t ride to a power meter or anything like that.”

Grant Ferguson
Grant is renowned as one of the most relaxed top riders. Photo©Harry Tweed

None of that tech stuff then – we asked if he did any specific training for the race?

Not really specific, I rode a few races and went out and raced up the hills around my home in Peebles all as part of my preparation for Brazil.”

And how did the MTB season go?

It went OK, I won the British Elite XC title; that was my sixth time, had a few other wins like the National Series rounds in Dalby Forest and Glentress – and rode OK in the European Championships.”

Will he settling down to a cold winter’s training in Peebles after Brazil?

I tend to race a lot of ‘cross in the winter so I’m not home too much but if the weather gets too severe it’s easy to head for Spain to train where the weather is kinder.”

As reigning champion is a full ‘cross campaign on the cards?

I’ll have a break after the stage race in Brazil – it’s pretty challenging with a total distance of 600 kilometres and 13,000 metres of climbing – then I’ll ride ‘cross through December until mid-January.

“The Scottish ‘cross scene is pretty vibrant and competitive these days, there’s a round of the British National Trophy, the beach race at Irvine, coming up but I’ll be away when that’s held.”

Grant Ferguson
Grant took an impressive win in the British Elite Cyclocross Championships recently. Photo©Ed Hood

What’s the word on the world of the MTB, is it still pulling in the crowds?

Support in the UK has remained pretty constant but on the continent it’s huge with a big fan base – that said, the down hills at Fort William pulls in 20,000 spectators and is very popular.

“But the MTB Worlds in Switzerland drew 60,000 fans over two days.”

In a world of uncertainty about teams is Brentjens still solid?

Yes, the team is secure for 2019, I haven’t sorted out my contract yet but the team is definitely going to still be around.”

What’s 2019 about for Grant Ferguson?

There’s no big hi-like like the Commonwealth Games to aim at but I’ll be riding the MTB World Cups and trying to progress to top 20 finishes, the World Cups are at a very high level but I really want to move up, next season. “

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for how he does in Brazil and look forward to his defence of his British cyclo-cross title – and there’s no way you can take those discs off to save a few ounces…

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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