Perhaps I shouldn’t have had that last Strega on top of the Erdinger, Malbec and Grappa last night? But when you get an invite to Round Three of the Merlin Cycles Classic TT Series from the organiser and he takes the trouble to send you the start sheet and rider information sheet, hangovers must be ignored.
The Loch Ken TT under the auspices of the CTT, way down in the lovely southwest.
Is it really two years since we were here?
But of course, last year hardly existed for Scottish time trials, we managed one to see but one race – the Tour of the Campsies.
Those twisting, turning Borders roads en route the race ain’t the answer if you’re feeling a little queasy.
We had the usual Satnav misadventures so yet again I was saying to Martin; ‘never been on this bit road before, ma boy.’
But we got there in the end to park up water side at lovely Loch Ken.
First to pass was number three, David Murphy, a Liverpool Mercury man – back in the 70’s there was a blood feud of Sicilian proportions between those boys and their fellow Liverpudlians, Kirkby CC.
Number four, Jemma McNeill was the first rider in the ‘road bike’ section with no aero aids allowed – but what about the riders on deep section rims?
And all those in the ‘road bike’ section with long aero ‘soccer socks?’
I’ll need to ask Dan Bigham how many watts those are worth – Martin and I may well have pinned our last numbers on but however many watts ‘soccer socks’ save, should we ever ‘come back’ there’ll be NO knee length socks for us.
Among the juniors we liked the look of #24, Craig Paterson, (East Kilbride RC) showing good form on the bike.
He’s obviously been looking at the pros’ positions, unlike some competitors we saw; with so many images on the internet and in the glossy mags it’s hard to fathom how some riders get their position so wrong.
Number 21, Sophie Heighton (Ferryhill Wheelers) had been caught by Craig and was taking no chances on getting seen with what seemed like a searchlight up front.
Piece time – nice job Martin, ham, cheese and mayo sandwiches.
A bit of grub and cool loch side air and the old tummy felt so much better but the sweat shirt had to go on to keep cosy.
Time to move on and avoid the old, ‘all the pictures looking the same syndrome’ as the vets took to the stage.
For the last edition of the race back in 2019 we drove against the race and parked loch side without seeing the whole circuit; this time we went all the way round and it really is a picturesque course through mossy old forests with great views over the loch and light traffic – perfect for racing.
New Galloway was nice but that narrow old High Street was built in an age before Tesco artics came to be everywhere.
Left, through the trees and down to the loch side again to park up in a bittie that reminded us of the Tour de Trossachs – remember that great race, folks?
There was a big gap in the field after #46 Ian Anderson (Fullarton Wheelers) as we fended off the dreaded midges beside the loch.
The road was quiet with just the birds and the chug of the odd outboard motor out on the loch to break the silence.
Off #55, Becky Storrie (Brother UK) swept past and was the fastest of the six women in her age category (there were four DNS), with a splendid 1:01:20.
Alexandra Hayden (Vanelli – Project GO), #52, was second woman. Her 1:07:55 putting her 6:35 down on Storrie.
Number 60, Joe Hands (JAM) was looking neat but #61, Craig Gibson (Dumfries) was up on him with the sound of their discs drowning the bird song.
Martin reckons that as well as a road bike section, there should be a ‘beards’ category, there was a lot of facial hair on display.
I’m not sure the UCI will pick up on that though – and besides the only rider in the history of the sport to ‘get away’ with a beard was Italian sprinter, Fabio Baldato.
There were a lot of names on the start sheet we didn’t recognise but we did recognise, oldie but goodie, #67 Gordon Murdoch (GTR) however, far travelled #69 Mark Sanders (Mid Devon) had put two minutes into him.
Number 70, Simon Dighton (Beacon Roads CC) was riding strongly too but another man who’s often featured on our pages over the years, but not for a wee while, former Scottish ‘100’ champion, Jim Cusick (Dooleys RT) was up on Simon off #72 and would stop the clock in 58:58.
The loudest disc roar of the morning so far announced the arrival of GTR flyer, Chris Smart looking strong and focused as always off #77 and on his way to a third fastest 55:56.
Team mate Douglas Watson #79 looked and sounded the part some two minutes later, smooth and strong over the tarmac.
We moved on along the lovely, rolling, meandering parcours – well suited to big geared strongmen like Chris and Douglas.
Next stop was up on the longest climb which comes with a couple of miles to go, those stunning red kites circling above us.
We’d overtaken Douglas Watson and snapped him again as he put the power down up the drag en route second fastest with 55:30.
He’d caught and passed #78, David Beattie but the Hawick man would return a solid sub-hour ride.
We heard from #80, Graham Hollinger (Dumfries CC) before we saw him, his breathing confirming he was hurting on the climb.
The breeze was picking up as we waited for the last starters with #91 Lewis Martin (Studio Velo) handling the drag well on his way to 57:42, a good ride.
But not as well as last man off, #100 Cameron Richardson (RT 23) who looked every inch the winner; he’d put five minutes in Edinburgh RC man, Sandy Waller (#95) who rode to a very respectable 58:09 – but Cameron’s 52:41 was at a different level.
Richardson is a man who’s been doing his homework; POC helmet, HUUB speedsuit, Giant Trinity – but could perhaps do with a little more angle on those tri-bars?
His style and cadence reminded us very much of John Archibald – no bad thing that.
We missed the last edition’s post-race tea, sandwiches and cookies – I can go to the pub or cram into Wembley with 60-odd thousand fans but we can’t have a result board?
But no more moans. Good weather, a great course, well organised… and hopefully next year we can get those sandwiches?
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