Brexit, Covid, desperate weather, it’s been a long hard winter and we're still in what might be termed the Bleak Mid-Winter, made even worse by the sad news that former Scottish cyclo-cross, grass track and MTB Champion Craig Hardie has lost his fight with cancer. VeloVeritas offers deepest condolences to his friends, supporters and family.
It was with great sadness that we learnt this week about the passing of Craig Hardie, a living legend in Scottish cycling and beyond as a successful rider, true character, and popular bike shop owner, but so much more than that too. Originally from Dalgety Bay in Fife, Craig was a long-time member and stalwart of the Dunfermline Cycling Club and enjoyed a stellar cycling career.
Cameron Mason is back in action for the 20/21 'cross season, recently scoring his best result to date – a bronze medal in the European u23 Championship in s’-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands behind World Champion and ‘home boy’ Ryan Kamp and fellow Brit, Thomas Mein.
It’s not every year there’s a Grand Tour taking place at the same time as the European Cyclo-cross Championship but this is ano 2020 and the ‘new normal’ is upon us. The podium places contained more cheer for us ‘Anglos’ with bronze going to Scotsman, Cameron Mason and silver to Englishman, Thomas Mein.
Trinity Racing Team’s young Scot from Linlithgow, Cameron Mason recently finished eighth in the UCI u23 World Cup in Nommay, Eastern France. Cameron spoke to VeloVeritas from his base near Brussels in Belgium the other day to talk mud, tyre pressures and wash days in The Flatlands...
We took a trip to watch the Dunfermline Cyclo-Cross. It’s a wee while since we’ve been to a Scottish cyclo-cross race and the sport has changed beyond all recognition from the early 70’s when your ‘cross bike was your winter bike with the muddies removed.
Over the last couple of winters we’ve tracked down and spoken to some of the ‘greats’ of British cyclo-cross, John Atkins, Keith Mernickle, Chris Wreghitt and Barry Davies to name four. But our Spanish mentor, Al Hamilton pointed out to us that we hadn't spoken to the man who won the title seven times in the 80’s and 90’s – Steve Douce.
The European Cyclo-Cross Championships were held in Pont Chateau, France last weekend. ‘A Flatlands Fest, no doubt’ I hear you say. Well, the Ladies’ race was won by Thalita De Jong of the Netherlands; the U23 Men’s went to Quinten Hermans of Belgium and in a tactical Elite race former past and present World Champions, Mathieu Van Der Poel (Netherlands) and Wout Van Aert (Belgium) finished second and third respectively behind Toon Aerts of - Belgium. But to break the Benelux monopoly, the junior race was won by an English rider, 17 years-old Thomas Pidcock from Leeds.
The Skol Six Day 1980, Wembley, London and I'm down to watch those brilliant late night chases, along with Sandy Gilchrist, Phil Griffiths and Stuart Sutherland. We're staying with a larger than life Londoner called Johnny Morris. Griffiths has the patter and the cheek but he he's no match for Johnny - a tousle-haired bear of a man who sells loft conversions and who's greeted as a king when we appear at the Indian restaurant each night, en route back from the Six; with his Jag parked outside at a jaunty angle on the double yellow lines on the corner, just beside the traffic lights. Needless to say, he didn’t get a ticket.
“James Spragg,” now there’s a name which hasn’t appeared in our pages for a while - but he’s back in harness and doing nicely thank you with some solid performances. We first came across James back in 2010 when he rode for the Qin Cycling Team and he's with Continental Team, Champion System for 2015 and back in the groove with some good results – like 10th on GC in the recent Baltic Chain stage race in Estonia.
All you’ll read about for the foreseeable future are Porte, Aru, Uran and Contador – plus others who the press will ‘big up’ to make it seem like someone other than those four can win. But of course, there isn’t. So if you’ll forgive us if we’re going back to a time when our champions didn’t Tweet but had much more worth talking about - Germany's Mike Kluge is our man; quality road rider, triple World Cyclo-Cross Champion, top mountain bike rider and equipment innovator – he’s the man who started Focus bikes in 1992.
John Atkins is Britain’s greatest ever cyclo-cross rider; 13 times a British champion and still the nation’s best ever finisher in the Worlds – and at a time when ‘cross gods, the de Vlaeminck brothers were at their zenith. He lives quietly in retirement in Wales, doesn’t ‘do the internet’ and isn’t a man for the ‘stats.’ He was surprised we wanted to speak to him but gave freely of his time and anecdotes. Here’s what John had to say to VeloVeritas just after young van der Poel had won the Worlds in Tabor.
These last few winters we’ve tracked down some of those colourful British cyclo-cross stars of the 70’s and 80’s – Keith Mernickle, Eric Stone and Chris Wreghitt have all told their stories to VeloVeritas. But perhaps the most colourful of them all was the man with the ‘George Best Look’ and the lightest of bikes – Barry Davies.
Unfortunately, VeloVeritas didn’t make it to the 2014 Scottish Cyclo-Cross Championships; it took that nice big colour shot of Rab Wardell (Orange Monkey Pro Team) in ‘Sportivs and Lance DVD Sales Weekly’ (aka 'The Comic' - or Cycling Weekly) to remind us of the error of our ways. We soon had the man who’s forsaken tarmac for mud and single track on the end of the phone...
We're at the Gent Six Day, and of course, the pils still gets the better of a few of the ‘don’t get out much brigade.’ Friday night didn’t see the best madison chase ever, and on a unanimous decision we headed for frites – and beer. We love the Vivaldi, the landlady, the crazy clientele, the 70’s Disco and the fact that no matter how late we stay, we’ve never seen closing time... And the Saturday of the Gent Six Day means just one thing – the big ‘cross at Koksijde.
Back in the 70’s when ‘The Comic’ was virtually the only source of information on bike racing during the winter there were comprehensive reports on ‘cross and the Six Days over the winter months. There was a man whose face graced the magazine most weeks during the 'cross season – Eric Stone, a wiry ex-runner who made the top 20 in the Worlds six times including a top ten result.
It's almost time for Nys, Albert, van der Haar, Meeusen - and not forgetting Ian Field of course - to chuck the 'cross bikes in the coal shed for the summer and head for the beach. We thought we might have one last look at this highlight of the 'cross season through the eyes of a man who was right there in the mud of Hoogerheide - New Zealand's Angus Edmond - before we draw the curtain on another great winter of cyclocross.
It’s always good to see fellow Scots doing 'the business', especially when it involves bringing home a nice new national champion’s jersey. MTB cum hill climb star Grant Ferguson was the man on this occasion; he took time to talk to VeloVeritas about his winning ride in the British U23 Cyclo-Cross championships. He did get his Worlds ‘cross tip wrong, though – but so did most of us.
The Czech Republic's Radomir Simunek junior shares his name with his father who remains the only man ever to be a world champion at junior, amateur and professional cyclocross levels. Radomir senior died tragically early at just 48 years-of-age in 2010. Young Radomir has been a runner up in the Worlds at both Junior and U23 levels but has had the misfortune to be a round at the same time as his countryman Zdenek Stybar – one of the most gifted cyclocross performers in the sport’s history.
There’s a man from Berlin who has to be viewed as a podium possible for the 2014 Worlds in Hoogerheide; 26 year-old Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus). This winter has seen him consistently on the podium in the World Cups, rubbing shoulders with the very best – Nys, Albert, Van Der Haar and all the rest. Philipp took time out from the hectic Xmas/New Year ‘cross frenzy’ to talk to VeloVeritas.
Jo Patterson – who has just won the CTT 100 Mile TT with a stunning 3:42 ride in Wales, riding for The Independent Pedaler-Nopinz - has represented Ireland internationally and was born in England but she lives in Scotland and works in Wishae – that’s ‘Wishaw’ to non-natives… ‘good enough for us,’ we thought to ourselves.
When Sasha Castling of Ribble Cycles contacted us to ask if we’d be interested to hear more about the company’s decision to run a TV ad. campaign promoting their wares during the Tour de France, we took the opportunity to ask the man behind the company, Mr. Andy Smallwood a wide range of questions about his business, the sport and that, ‘tech stuff.’
To celebrate the 2021 Tour de France, Continental has today announced the return of the cream sidewall Continental Grand Prix 5000 road tyre, which joins the transparent sidewall and traditional black tyres to form the new colours range.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have had that last Strega on top of the Erdinger, Malbec and Grappa last night? But when we got an invite to the Loch Ken Round 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.
Bernard Burns got in touch with us recently to share a bit of cycling history and to comment on what today’s champions put back into a sport that has given them so much. But we felt that Bernard’s career both as a rider, manager and coach was also well worth looking at...
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