David Bell Memorial seeks Premier Calendar Status

I recently covered the idea that Scotland could maybe host the UCI Road World Championships, and indulged in a bit of speculation as to where the course might be.

Part of this conjecture was the experience the south west of Scotland has in hosting high profile events- the Tour of Britain has passed through there on a few occasions and the Premier Calendar Tour Doon Hame 3-day race is now well established. This is all based upon a solid grass roots crit races, local road races and mountain biking trails.

Now, one of Scotland’s top amateur events, possibly the toughest one-day race we have outside the national championship, is hoping to step up a level and gain Premier Calendar status. Last year the Davie Bell Memorial made some radical changes to the course, bringing in sections of dirt road, which was a fitting way to honour the pioneering off-road cyclist that the race is named after.

Today it was announced that the promoting club, Ayr Roads – Harry Fairbairn BMW, have already secured ‘National A’ status for the 47th running of the 100mile event, which will be held on Sunday June 10th 2012:

Rapha-Condor-Sharp rider James McCallum has pledged his intention to defend his title at the South Carrick David Bell Memorial, a ‘monument’ of Scottish cycling aspiring to join the Premier Calendar series in 2013. National A status will guarantee the best possible line up of British professional and elite cyclists.

Thanks to backing from South Ayrshire Council and support from South Carrick Community Leisure, McCallum and his Rapha-Condor-Sharp team will be hoping to take home their share of the guaranteed minimum £2,000 prize fund. However, competition will be tough with teams such as Endura Racing, Herbalife-Leisure Lakes and Vanilla Racing already signed up to compete.

The race is rightly feared by the Scottish cycling community, with its tough ascents of the area popularly referred to as the ‘Ayrshire Alps’, and also for its whose-who list of former winners including Robert Millar, the late Jason MacIntyre and current Scottish Road Champion Evan Oliphant. With such a rich history, organisers are already building towards the 50th edition to ensure a spectacular celebration of Ayrshire cycling, and the life of the pioneering off-road cyclist that the event is named after. More commonly known under his penname ‘The Highwayman’, David Bell was a local journalist who brought his explorations by bike between the 1930s and mid 1960s alive through a hugely popular column in the Ayrshire Post.

The Carrick Forest Drive during the 2011 David Bell Memorial – A breakaway establishes a 40second lead on lap 1.

As in 2011, riders will also be faced with two passages of unsurfaced forest roads in the Carrick Forest. Thanks to cooperation from the Forestry Commission, the ‘strada grigio’ will return, something akin to the dust roads of Tuscany but with the discomfort of the pavé of Flanders and Roubaix. Set under the majestic views of Merrick and the Galloways, organisers are confident this is the most scenic road race route in the UK – pity the riders who will be unable to enjoy the views as they struggle to pick a clear line across the dust.

The 2012 event will be based from Girvan, still popular among those pros who remember riding the Easter 3-Day event held there until 2009. South Carrick Community Chairman Andrew Sinclair, Councillors Ian Fitzsimmons, John McDowall and Alec Oates and the South Ayrshire Active Schools team have all lent their enthusiastic support for the event. The South Carrick David Bell Memorial will come as the climax of a weekend of sporting activity starting with the passing of the Olympic torch and including a family cycle ride and opportunity for sports cyclists to ride the route in the lead up to the event.

James McCallum with South Carrick Community Leisure Chairman Andrew Sinclair, Councillor Alec Oates and race organiser Christopher Johnson

2011 champ James McCallum called the route visionary, and commented that “the race has the potential to be better than the Rutland” while organiser Christopher Johnson praised the fantastic support of South Ayrshire Council and the South Carrick Community. “As a club, we have a hugely ambitious timetable looking forward to 2015 and the 50th edition, and from the very start all our partners have bought into our vision. With such commitment from club members, sponsors, friends and partners we are confident of success in achieving Premier Calendar status by 2013.”

For more information about the 47th South Carrick David Bell Memorial, visit www.southcarrickdaviebell.com

2011 victor James McCallum promoting the 2012 David Bell to schoolchildren at Daily Primary School