Wanside Rig and the wind is whistling down the prime hill, good news for Cav and the other non-climbers in the 2021 Tour of Britain peloton, the stone wall headwind will keep the speed down.
That wind also keeps us in the car, warm it is not but a half-decent crowd is assembling.
It was four hours ago we arrived in Hawick and there was a nice shot of Ken Laidlaw, Tour de France hero and home boy; ‘he lived just round the corner from here,’ a lady tells us.
Across the road there’s a shop window display honouring the legendary Bantel professional team from the 70’s, the company’s HQ was here in Hawick – perhaps someone could have set that team bike up a tad better though?
My first cycling hero, Hugh Porter is well represented in the display; Pursuit King and road man of quality.
As John McMillan once told me
“If you were in the break, looked back and saw that Hughie was at the head of the chase then you knew it was all over.”
It was surreal to see a Tour de France style convoy thread into a Borders town – and there’s Silvan Dillier’s nice Swiss Champion liveried Canyon on the roof of the Alpecin Fenix team car.
The buses and cars park up and the mechanics start to lay out the hardware – Wout Van Aert’s Cervélo also pays homage to it’s master’s national maillot.
No track pumps or clumsy big vehicle mounted compressors for the Jumbo mechanics, just neat hand-held compressors.
And on the subject of ‘gizmos,’ VeloVeritas mentor and soothsayer Vik was in Hawick, his first race start for a while. He was amazed at the ‘tech’ in the team cars; iPhones, laptops, tablets, radios… ‘too much, bike racing reduced to a computer controlled video game!’
He’s not the only one who thinks that race radios should be done away with…
Nice blue anodised over-sized derailleur rollers may not save as many as the 2.5 watts the manufacturers claim – Dan Bigham reckons it’s more like 0.5 – but they do look damn cool.
And whilst the vast majority of the field are now on disc brakes, the blue jersey and his squadra aren’t among them.
We chatted to an old friend who’s on the race as a mechanic and when we mentioned discs, he simply rolled his eyes…
Julian Alaphilippe’s Specialized 2021 colour scheme is much easier on the eye than the original, ‘explosion in a paint factory’ job.
Stevie Cummings – Dave and I have been stalking him since his Discovery days through Barloworld, Sky, BMC, MTN/Dimension Data days and the man always has time for us.
He’s moved from his beloved Italy back to the Wirral as a DS with INEOS and is enjoying the fresh challenge, looking as lean and mean as he ever did.
Orange bikes aren’t to everyone’s taste but I like them and the Rally team’s Felts are cool – it’s been a good race for the US team with Carpenter’s stage win.
Ribble’s ‘splatter’ jersey, modelled here by Matt Gibson, ‘rad’ or dog’s breakfast?
Answers on a postcard please. It reminds Vik of the old Le Groupement maillot…
And what did we do before we had smartphones – with the Canyon boys all, ‘eyes down, look in’?
Dave was telling me that Dan Lloyd in his race commentary mentioned that in ‘his day’ there would be good banter on the team buses after a race – now everyone sits mesmerised by their devices.
Meanwhile, their u23 World Cup ‘cross winning team mate, Thomas Mein displays a fine selection of duelling scars.
My former charge from the Six Days, Silvan Dillier looks a million dollars in his Swiss Champion’s jersey with matching machine – you may remember him best as runner-up to Peter Sagan in the 2018 Paris-Roubaix?
Former World Time Trial Champion, Rohan Dennis has a reputation for being ‘difficult’ but was chatting happily to all-and-sundry at the start – it must be the Scottish air, or perhaps at the thought of leaving INEOS?
Mark pedalled past, en route the sign-on, I kept well back – I’ve seen those videos featuring the ‘Wrath of Cav.’
Race leader, resplendent in blue jersey, ‘man on the up’ Ethan Vernon looked relaxed though.
Also chilled was Cav’s less spikey rainbow jerseyed team mate, Julian Alaphilippe, Dave gave him a quick ‘Bonjour’ and the Champion Du Monde returned the greeting with a smile.
Israel’s Reto Hollenstein was talking tyre pressure with his mechanic; ‘six or seven bars?’
Former British Elite Champion, Connor Swift is a big, strong lad – he’s having an excellent season with Tro Bro Leon and Poitou Charentes going his way as well as fifth in the demanding UCI World Tour Bretagne Classic-Ouest-France, formerly known as the GP Plouay.
Good to see Canyon man, Jacob Scott in the green of mountains leader in the face of very strong opposition.
Tim De Clerq stopped off for a last minute ‘comfort break’ before heading for the start – when you’re close up to him you do realise that he’s a BiG boy.
We snapped a couple more rider pics en route the start, including Nico Roche, at 37 years-old now in his 18th pro season and it’s always nice to get a lucky pre-race shot of the day’s winner, Lampaert.
Time to head off into the hills.
Wanside Rig and the view back to Fife and The Lomond Hills is stunning but the wind is COLD.
We put on our jackets and take up position in the heather, just down from the prime line.
The race announcer tells us there’s a break of six with a five minute plus lead, from which big, classy Movistar American, Matteo Jorgensen is now ‘virtual’ race leader.
There’s the chopper, and there’s the break with aforementioned Movistar man, Jorgensen driving hard, the thought of a leader’s jersey drawing the watts from him.
There’s a Ribble on his wheel, Matt Gibson – nice job, sir! – then two Deceuninck riders, Het Nieuwsblad winner, Davide Ballerini and former Belgian Road Race Champion and current National TT Champion, wily Yves Lampaert, with Pascal Eenkhoorn there for Jumbo Visma.
We make the lead just over four minutes with INEOS on the front but not looking too concerned.
As Vic said, they’d all know the gap and be instructions from the car as to how much rope the banditos should be given.
The man in the blue jersey was well back the peloton and not looking stressed either.
I had hope for more pictures of the peloton but had to leap to safety as the peloton suddenly spread gutter to gutter, trimming the heather on both sides of the road.
That nasty headwind had been instrumental in keeping the speed down and there were just two riders off the back; a Swift Carbon, tucked into his team car which was in the convoy – and the unfortunate Ross Holland from Saint Piran, he’d end the day @ 20:23 but comfortably inside the 41:52 time cut.
It looked to us like the break would ‘stick,’ and if it did then there would be only one winner – and so it proved.
CHAPEAU! Monsieur Lampaert.
So nice to be among the world’s best bikes and riders again, thank you for hosting, Hawick.