For many, life and its infinite distractions mean bike racing occupies a period of time in their life, with most moving on to less physically demanding pursuits. Perhaps returning when time, career and family allow or just settling for listening to Brian Smith on Eurosport. The idea of winning Scottish titles over five decades would seem inconceivable to most. But not all.
Racing a bike is a demanding pursuit, endless time getting the miles in, winters in the gym, fettling bikes, spending your hard-earned on the latest must-have components, it all eats up both precious time and money.
Winning a bike race for most takes even more commitment, focus and dedication. Many often conclude the reward is disproportionate to the effort. As a result some when they achieve a degree of success shortly thereafter hang up their races wheels. Been there done that, time to try something new.
For a limited few the desire to keep racing and winning seems never to dim. Their enthusiasm replenished year after year and with it the commitment to training and everything else required of a racing cyclist.
Maybe it’s just better time management than most of the population, or a prioritisation of the bike that others can’t or won’t accept. Maybe it’s natural ability and it comes easier. Maybe it’s a focus that few can sustain or maybe they just love racing more.
Or maybe it’s just most racers get their fill of sore legs, gravel rash and kickings, eventually realising that the return on their investment just isn’t good enough.
Whilst some talented riders come and go having put in a few years of racing, won their fill, there are others who keep going and going and winning and winning.
For me David Gibson is one of those guys that seems to never have stopped, although in reality it’s been few years since he last raced. To be fair it seems reasonable for him to at last ease up a bit.
Although he takes full advantage of the early morning drop-in sessions at the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome to keep himself in shape and unofficial they may be but for many it’s a twice weekly race on the indoor boards. The old timers revival includes the likes of Steve McCaw, Kenny Clark, Graham Barclay and Jamie McGahan, enough ageing talent to hurt a few younger guys legs!
David is a former teammate of mine back in the days of GS Modena and a man who almost machine-like, churned out win after win in the eighties, nineties and into the noughties.
The longevity of the racing career meant I decided to try and catch up with him and find out just what motivated the man.
I was also curious to find out how many wins he actually had. The latter proved to be trickier than I had thought. I spoke to David after he had finished his latest session on Zwift, a chain gang organised under the banner of the Renfrew bunch. With lockdown David has been managing 15 hours a week on Zwift and has racked up over 3,500 miles virtual miles since it started.
When I first met David he was winning road races and stage races it appeared at will. Some will remember him best for his hill climb championship wins, others his road racing and others his time trialling.
David Gibson’s palmarès is glittering and won’t be beaten by many Scottish Riders. When I spoke to David he was able to detail 51 Scottish titles, not including team wins at individual time trial championships.
So to the incredible detail. It all started with a win in the Scottish Schoolboy Road Race championships in 1977 and has potentially finished (never say never, is there an over 60’s Road race championship?) with victory in the Veterans Over Fifty Road Race championship in 2010. A career that spanned five decades is exceptional.
“I joined the Batley CC in 1982. This came about through my friendship with Jock Kerr, a former pro who I’d met at the Guiness School of Sport as a schoolboy.
“I previously rode for the Glenmarnock but there was a problem which meant the Glenmarnock might be banned from racing so I jumped at the chance to keep racing. After 2 years in the Batley CC I joined GS Modena in 1984.
“This was like turning pro for me, the clothing provided was incredible and there was great attention to detail. Ed Hood, sponsor and team principle had gone on some shopping spree and we were all amazed at the quality of the stuff. Skinsuits were in their infancy, we all got them.
“Around this time my coach Stewart Sutherland introduced me to a new focused way of training which suited me. Stewart was a great supporter and we went all over the country going to races. Without him I would probably not have achieved half of what I did.”
In the eighties David predominantly focused on the road with some notable success including wins in classic Scottish races including the Drummond Trophy and Inverness-Elgin.
There were some memorable battles with equally famous riders. Round Four of the 1984 Road Race Best All Rounder organised by the Cumbernauld CC was a ‘death race’, with Jamie McGahan, back from racing in Italy; he and David had escaped from the break and slugged it out until McGahan took the victory by inches in Lennoxtown, with the third placed rider over two minutes adrift.
Stage racing saw David take victory in the Border Four Day, where he beat northern hard man Wayne Randle, picking up two stage wins along the way.
The gone but not forgotten Tour of Speyside he won on four occasions. Stages were won but exactly how many is now a bit woolly. David recalls Race organiser Colin Horne vowed to stop him winning the following year, asserting that it was the uphill time trial to the ski station that had ensured his win. Quite why this was an issue for Colin I’m not sure. True to his word Colin’s plan was to introduce a points classification with time bonuses in an attempt to foil David winning the following year. With two stage wins and the Points and General classification David foiled the dastardly plan.
The Tour of Argyll, sponsored by the now infamous Eddie Cairn