Everybody loves a road trip. I have the very kind (and hard as nails) Elizabeth Adams to thank for today’s road trip to Lochore Meadows Country Park, an unexpectedly scenic spot in the central Fife coal fields. This was the second non-series event I’ve been to this year, and while it meant numbers were down on last week it certainly didn’t take anything away from the racing.
I’ll openly admit that when I saw the course map my heart sank. The spiral of doom is an entertaining feature, but the sheer size of it made it practically impossible to get decent photos with my wee 55mm lens. On the other hand, there were more hurdles than I’d seen at all the previous races combined, all of which were on the edges of the course, so there was plenty of opportunity for action shots! On the whole the course was flat and fast, which made for an exciting day.
I arrived in time to catch the end of the under 8s race, won by Gavin Gronkowski and Niamh Waters. In the under 12s race Callum Reid and Aaron King flew out of the blocks, looking like they’d start lapping some riders during the first couple of laps. King chased Reid hard but just couldn’t quite catch the Stirling BC youngster, coming in five seconds down.
In the girls classification Glasgow Riderz dominated, with Imani Pereira-James and Skye Donnelly leading the way, both finishing a lap up on the rest of the field. I don’t know any of the kids at all, so it was really useful having a Riderz coach on hand to help me keep track of what was happening!
With Conner Johnstone (Leslie Bike Shop/Bikers Boutique) ending Joe Nally’s unbeaten run at Irvine I was really keen to see how this race would play out. They went off the front early in the race, and although Nally (Hardie Bikes) tested Johnstone’s cornering in the spiral with some little attacks they stayed together until the last lap.
Then all hell broke loose. In some of the most exciting racing of the year, both riders attacked each other in the spiral. Nally was first to come to grief, clipping a stake and hitting the deck as everyone in the arena gasped. He got back on quickly and as Johnstone dug deep to maintain a gap he slid out on a corner. He managed to hunt Nally down and they entered the second last loop of the spiral side by side. As they cleared the final four hurdles, with around 300m to go, Nally’s chain came off and it was all over. Johnstone just had to stay upright to take the spoils after an epic finale. Superb racing.
While most of the drama was reserved for the head of the race, Stirling Bike Club’s Rhona Callander continued her great form to take the u16 girls classification from clubmate Jenny Holl. Callander spent much of the race battling with u14 boys winner Cameron Mason of Team Thomsons Cycles. Johnstone Wheelers’ Lusia Steele took the girls u14 classification, with a lead of over two minutes on West Lothian Clarion’s Alison Bryce.
Juniors, Women and Men’s Vet50 race
After a quick catch up with Chris Johnson from Ayr Roads at sign on, it was time to take a wander round the course for the next race.
There were no female juniors this week, so it was down to Jamie Mason, Alastair Merry and Hamish Cooper to represent the teenagers in this race. By the time they’d got to the castle Mason (West Lothian Clarion) had built up a decent lead on the others which would last all the way to the end.
In the Vet50+ category Brendan Roe continued his unbeaten run, leading from start to finish and coming in only 22 seconds behind Jamie Mason! Gregor Grant (Moray Firth CC) and Malcolm Dunlop (VC Edinburgh) worked well together to distance the rest of the field as they fought it out for second and third, with Grant coming out on top.
The women’s race was wide open, with series leader Maddy Robinson and Irvine winner Kerry MacPhee both missing. Ordinarily I’d have said Elizabeth would be the favourite, but a flat course with lots of hurdles isn’t ideal if you’re on a mountain bike. Things only got worse as the height of the hurdles took some riders by surprise and in the sudden slowdown she ended up with a burst lip. On the plus side, it did win my unofficial race face of the day award!
By the second set of hurdles Gillian Palmer, of co-organisers Sandy Wallace Cycles, was off with Anne Murray and they stayed together until the last lap, when Palmer pulled away to take the win. Elizabeth was next home, having also lapped the rest of the field.
Vet 40-49 Men’s race
Next up was the Vet40 race, and all the big guns were there. Kind of. Stevie Jackson (Glasgow United) and Franco Porco (Leslie Bike Shop/Bikers Boutique) have both been putting real pressure on Gary McCrae’s dominance recently, with strong attacking performances. This time however McCrae was in the senior men’s race, so it would be two of the most entertaining riders who’d battle it out on the ‘meedies’.
As has become familiar this season Jackson attacked from the gun. It took quite a while to get away, and when he did Porco was on his wheel. From there on a proper slugfest ensued, setting the highest average speed of the day at over 26kph. Behind them the Dunfermline duo of Mick Nally and Steve Nicholson tried to shake off the resurgent James Melville in his second race back from injury.
Late in the race, as I was walking between vantage points, I could hear Jammy announce that Jackson had attacked and it looked like Porco’s “legs have burst”. Jackson took the win, with a lead of seven seconds at the end.
At the head of the main field Melville managed to break away and took the last spot on the podium.
After all that excitement there was a good half hour’s break until the senior men started, so we headed to the cafe for some lunch. It was nice and easy to find, but opening the door proved to beyond us! I guess I owe lunch to Roger Campbell-Crawford, who took pity and opened the fire exit.
It felt more than a little strange being sat inside, blinded by sunshine, at a cyclocross race. I definitely won’t complain though! As well as offering stunning views over Loch Ore as people launched their model boats, my sandwich was served on a doily, bringing back happy memories of going to cafes up and down the Ayrshire coast when I was wee. Loved it.
Senior men’s race
Even though we got back to the course for the advertised start time the riders were almost finished the first lap when we arrived. With this being the longest race of the day I wanted to try and get photos from as many of the vantage points that I’d scoped out earlier. As it turned out, I still haven’t got to grips with having three times as many focus points as my previous SLR, so even though I got over a hundred photos of the race only about 50 of them were usable. Must do better.
On his current run of form it was difficult to see past David Lines (MG Maxifuel Pro Cycling) for the win, but I was intrigued as to how Gary McCrae would fare against the younger riders. I didn’t have to wait long to find out.
Lines raised the pace on the third lap and pulled McCrae and VC Moulin’s Gareth Jones away with him. Sean Clark and James Fraser-Moodie took off in pursuit, with Stevie Couper chasing them solo for almost ten minutes before joining their group.
With a couple of laps remaining, as the leaders passed Lochore Castle, Lines made sure he was first to to the hurdles and attacked as soon as he was back on the bike. This acceleration proved to be too much for McCrae, but Jones managed to stay on Lines’ wheel.
This would only last so long though, as Lines tried repeatedly to shake him off and eventually crossed the line a minute before Jones to take his third win in a row. It looks like Davie has timed his form perfectly as he seeks to become Scottish Cyclocross Champion next week at Foxlake.
Jones gets massive style points for high fiving the spectators as he crossed the line. Unfortunately I’m crap at one handed photography so if anyone else captured the moment I’d love to see it!
Even after the long chase, Stevie Couper managed to overcome Fraser-Moodie and Clark to take fourth place in an impressive performance.
It turns out that starting the final race early was a good plan with the sun setting almost immediately after the race finishing. It did provide one of the lasting images of the day, with a beautiful golden sky reflecting on Loch Ore as we headed to the car park.
Kinross CC and Sandy Wallace Cycles put on a great day’s entertainment and the racing was first class. The facilities and venue were up there with the best too.
I’ve always been drawn to the community spirit of Scottish cyclocross but the kindness shown by everyone who offered me a lift to Lochore and Foxlake has really bowled me over. I need to figure out a way of ringing the cowbell and taking photos at the same time!
VC Moulin have a great race report on their website and Scott Armour has written a blog to go with his amazing photography. I’m also loving the Glasgow United videos, they’re a fair bit more reliable than my memory.
Next week it’s the big one, the Scottish Championships at Foxlake. Can’t wait!