With my 4th cat license hidden down the back of the sofa I will make a stab at previewing the Scottish men’s Road Race championship, which will be held up in Aberdeenshire, organised by Granite City RT and sponsored by Velocity 44.
My first thought is who won’t be riding – several of the pro and semi-pro riders will be doing the An Post Rás stage race over in Ireland.
A couple of weeks ago it was announced that Alex Coutts (Herbalife), Evan Oliphant (Raleigh), Michael Nicolson (Flanders), Ben Greenwood (Hope Factory Racing) and Liam Cowie (Aberdeen Wheelers CC) would make up a composite Scottish team. Spain-based rider Robbie Hassan who is developing his career with Team Ibaigne Opel, has recently been confirmed as an addition to the Scottish lineup.
Last year’s podium finisher Ali Rutherford (Wheelbase Altura MGD) won’t be riding either due to family commitments curtailing his racing this season.
So with several top riders competing against the other domestic pro teams, the Irish county teams and some international teams over the Irish sea, the way could be open for some of the amateurs to fancy their chances in the Scottish national road race.
U23 rider Craig Wallace, formerly of Granite City (seen below finishing 20th last year) will be cheered on by a home crowd and should be in fine form after spending most of the year so far racing in Belgium for the ASFRA Flanders team.
Veteran Jamie Kennedy (below) of Paisley Velo did an impressive ride and got a result to match at the O’er the Crow ‘n Doon race a couple of weeks ago, breaking away and staying out in front of the bunch, eventually finishing down on pro riders Evan Oliphant and Ben Greenwood.
Craig Adams of GJS Cruise Racing has also posted good results this year, as he did last season, which earned him a start at the British National Road Race in 2012. Other riders going well in Scotland this year include Peter Murdoch (Paisley Velo), Andrew Whitehall (Equipe Velo Ecosse) and Callum Wilkinson (thebicycleworks.co.uk).
Riders above (L-R) Peter Murdoch (in black), Craig Adams (in white), James McCallum (black), David Lines (blue/red) and Gary Hand (green) at the Falkirk BC May Day Gallop. image by Ian Henderson
Scott McCrossan (below) of Rock to Roll Cycles, like Liam Cowie a former Pedal Power/Endura development team rider, has also posted good results, most recently in the Kilmalcolm Kermesse where he placed third behind Greenwood and Oliphant, and ahead of some pretty big names in the Scottish scene.
However Gary Hand of Herbalife-Leisure Lakes Bikes (below) may be one of the men to beat. Although he expressed disappointment with his top 40 in the first Premier Calendar of the year, the Lincoln GP, he was off the front in the closing laps and is sure to be in good form.
David Lines is riding for MG Maxifuel Pro Cycling this year- seen below gritting his teeth on Gary’s wheel. Again, a glance at the BC rankings might suggest he isn’t in top form at the moment. However results/placings do not always tell the whole story.
James McCallum, Rapha-Condor JLT 2012 champion (below), isn’t doing the Ras and will be there for Rapha. A look at the BC rankings shows a winter on the track- I would expect him to be strong as usual but this time last year, when he won the Scottish, he preceded it with a podium finish at the Rutland whereas he was some way down in 2013.
It is hard to pass judgement on riders’ form without following the race season closely, and utilising only a smattering of internet research – but above are some of the riders who spring to my mind.
The route is a tough, hilly 80 mile+ course that will give the riders little respite. It is different to the Endrick Valley course, which was contested over 12 laps of an 11 mile course, taking the racing to crowds who gathered in Balfron. I don’t know the Aberdeenshire area but it looks like it will more of a traditional Scottish course, i.e more rural. From what I can gather there is a long rolling loop of around 60 miles with one significant climb near the beginning, followed by a shorter loop of around 20 miles which takes in the climb a second time, with the Suie climb near the finish, which may well prove decisive.
The Suie climb was covered on this blog by Ali McGill some 3 years ago and coming at the end of the race will provide a platform for the strongest to get away. There is a long descent to the finish in Altford which will provide the opportunity for some cat-and-mouse if a solo rider is not away on his own, or for a small group to get back together for a sprint.