I forgot to mention in the first instalment, that at this point (2012) I was riding for the Glasgow Couriers. A club with a pretty proud tradition, I joined from Peebles CC because they were a far more road orientated club. Really it was a bit of a bizarre choice for a club, but at that point there were actually quite a few lads from round my way, Carluke, in the club. The way I heard it the reason for this was due to a guy from Lanark called Alex Hay. He had talked my dad and a few others into the couriers with chat about doing an 100 mile TT or a 12 hour I can’t quite remember. That never came off anyway, but there was born a Clyde Valley Couriers contingent, being part of which I enjoyed.
So, I was just home from the Dundee 2 day, and in search of my 3rd cat license. It’s amazing when you’re young how wrapped up you can come in something like cycling. Especially when you have someone looking after all the annoying stuff, maintaining the bike, buying stuff for the bike. Christ at that age all I had to do was turn up and ride, Dad did most stuff else, although as I started working at Cyclesmith in Rutherglen on Saturdays, I not only started earning my own cash to pay for stuff, but I started to learn how to fix my own bikes and look after them, so the days of being looked after hand and foot weren’t long. Anyway, my next race after Dundee was the Lothian Flyer road race, and this was still in the turn up and ride phase. This race presented me with a unique opportunity in that it was on roads that I often use to train on, the circuit being from Stobo village hall, out and up the Dreva turning left before the top and round to Drumellzier road and back round Dreva for a few laps, finishing the last time up to the top of Dreva.
On paper this race was a great chance for me to get some points towards my 3rd cat license, uphill finish suited me, although in hindsight I probably wouldn’t have got anywhere near a win, the guy that won it was a big strong guy that muscled his way onto the top of the podium. The story of this race is quite short. It was pissing with rain and on the first lap after going up Dreva, down and left onto Drumellzier road someone went down in front of me, I don’t know how it was a straight flat bit of road, and I went over the top. I remember seeing him going down then the next thing I knew I had been peeled off the road and stuck in the back of the first aid car. I must have hit my head pretty hard as the helmet was smashed up pretty badly. Day over, I remember being pretty pissed off I’d have liked to see how I went at the end of a day like that.
I scored some points a few weeks later on my birthday at one of the Ingliston 4th cat crits. I don’t remember much of that race, but likely I scuppered my chances of getting a win by riding round that bottom corner like a total pussy. I still do it every time. After that was the East Kilbride Summertime Classic, my first taste of the infamous Clunch Road circuit, a circuit that has been very good to me since. Paul McInally won that day, one of the most well deserved wins I’ve ever seen in a bike race. He was relentless attacking all day and in every move. Won it at a canter in the end, on his own if I remember correctly.
I got my first taste of racing in England after that, with me and my teammate Keith Laird heading to one of the CDNW events. For those that didn’t experience the CDNW events, they were this series of races in the north west of England (Cycling Development North West, duh) which always had an E/1/2/3 race and a 3/4 race, week in week out. Your team paid an entry fee for the series and had to commit a marshall for at least one of the events. In return you got some great quality racing. I only ever managed to go to the 3/4 events but I heard the E/1/2/3 races were of the highest quality, Matt Cronshaw won the E/1/2/3 that day, he’s still a big hitter these days. Anyway this race was quite an interesting one, it was on a countryside circuit, pretty mundane stuff apart from a really steep climb right in the middle, which turned out to not be that pivotal. What was pivotal was the wind. If you cast your mind back to the 2009 Tour de France (or if you can’t watch the documentary Chasing Legends, which follows the HTC Columbia team, and Mark Cavendish, that year) on Stage 3 there was this section of road that almost zig-zagged and the way the wind was blowing meant that they kept getting these high crosswinds and HTC Columbia hit the front in the crosswinds and managed to split the bunch. The race was all over the road, Cavendish won the day, but crucially Lance Armstrong made the split on his comeback tour, with his Astana Team leader Alberto Contador stuck in the back group. Anyway, this day at the CDNW, there was a pretty similar wind and road situation, and I reckoned that a few bodies going full gas through the section could split the race pretty decisively. It did. But I wasn’t in the move. Not having the balls to pick it up myself I missed out and chased in vain to get back in the break but couldn’t get there. In the end I finished 12th or thereabouts, sprinting away from my group with ease. Keith, who I was down with, finished 3rd and reckoned that if I had been in the break I would have outsprinted them all. So all the way home he called me a fanny and kept laughing at me. Wouldn’t let someone pinch my tactics like that again.
The next instalment of this is going to be a meaty one, dealing with my first experience of some of the politics that exist in amateur bike racing. Tune in for that.