The 46th Davie Bell Road Race

Courtesy of race organiser Christopher Johnson of Ayr Roads CC, comes this preview of the Davie Bell Road Race.

The 5th June 2011 will see the 46th edition of The David Bell Memorial Road Race, which incorporates round 4 of the Scottish Power Renewables SuP6R Six Road Race Series. The event, more commonly referred to as ‘The Davie Bell’ commands a certain respect from Scottish cyclists. Known for its rugged parcours and unpredictable weather as much as for its heritage, it always takes a strong man to claim victory.

Like many of the classic Scottish road events, the event is named in memorial of a local cycling hero. David E.T. Bell (1907-65) was a founder member of the host club, Ayr Roads CC. It is somewhat ironic that the event has come to be an elite milestone, as Davie Bell was anything but an elitist. Through his regular contributions to the local paper, The Ayrshire Post, under his penname ‘The Highwayman’, Bell built upon the enthusiasm for the outdoors and introduced a great many to cycling with his writing. Whilst a guiding figure for younger talent, including Scottish champion and record holder Harry Fairbairn, Bell was as much at home on ‘the rough stuff’. It could be argued that Bell had as much of a claim as Joe Breeze to the title of mountainbike pioneer. His trip up the Merrick is now enshrined in local folklore.

For 2011 we have tried to capture something of Bell’s spirit, by being the first road event in Scotland to go ‘off-road’. With two passages of the unpaved Carrick Forest Drive featured in the route, riders will experience some of the adventure found in a Highwayman column.

Looking forward, the 50th edition is not too distant, and having grown up with Ayr Roads and the Davie Bell i’d like to see something special. The forest drive seemed like a fitting project to start with, and should hopefully attract some greater interest. And more importantly it also panders to my own imagination; my fiancé Marie hails from south west Belgium, minutes from the pavé of L’Arbre, and just a short ride from the Flemish Ardennes. As I never get fed up playing VDB or Tchmil out there I figured why not try in Scotland? Another Paris-Roubaix rip off maybe, but still suitably appropriate to Bell’s memory.

Like the race the Forest Drive also seems to evolve. Our first outing last summer was in a torrent of rain and mist was superb, hardpacked, good grip, smooth. Next time in the sun and dry it felt like riding through toothpaste, and just last week it was loose and free. Come race day… We approach the drive from the Loch Doon Road, a beautiful meandering ribbon of tarmac that has us all a little nervous due to its narrow width. Extra precautions are being put in place to deal with oncoming traffic and service requests. Positioning will be key in the run into the forest to ensure the best line across the ‘strada grigio’. It is pretty much a gradual ascent between the lochs Doon, Riecaw and Braden before we emerge at the top of Tairlaw summit for the familiar descent into Straiton.

Pedal Power / Endura have dominated the last few editions, with Gary Hand, Ross Creber and Evan Oliphant taking glory. Unfortunately we are doublebooked with the Premier Calendar at Ryedale, so not sure yet if we will see Evan bid to match Jason MacIntyre and Davie Millar with 3 victories. Still, we are delighted to have some top names signed up already, including a few curious riders from south of the border.

2010 Davie Bell RR

Like all races, the Davie Bell evolves. Our European Masters Track Medallist John Mason has stepped down as organiser after three successful editions that revitalized the race. John remains an integral part of the race committee and I take over as the 11th organiser. One contentious decision was not to run a ‘B’ race. I believe Ayr Roads pioneered the format in 2008, the season before the SuP6R Six. We got better at it, and last year was a real success. But as a relatively small club we also have to recognise our limitations and I took the decision to focus our efforts on delivering one event, the Davie Bell, well.

We have also been pretty fortunate with our sponsors, all local businesses who were keen to get involved. It has been a little easier due to the increased media coverage over the last couple years. We can now show conservative estimates that the column inches in print media alone could be valued in excess of £15,000. This doesn’t even include online media or social networking, so it makes sponsorship of a bike race a far more appealing proposition than traditional advertising. This again should help us grow towards the big fiftieth!

Race website
Ayr roads twitter
Preview discussion on Braveheart forum