Now I've never raced in Scotland, much the same with England I thought? But looking down the start list for Stirling BC's Crit on the Campus I was slightly concerened to see a selection of big hitters, including Evan Oliphant of Raleigh GAC...
Lucinda was racing in the E1234 ladies race, and myself in the E123 mens race later. The numbers were pretty big, with 30 in the ladies race and around 70 in the men's, I had no real idea about course, expect it was super technical, abit like Crystal Palace (for my southern readers) but on acid...
The HQ was Stirling University, and I've got to say, it was stunning, having grounds surrounds by mountains and having their own Loch was quite cool, certainly a bit better than Sheffield Hallam. Running upto the event @critonthecampus were very active, giving some useful insights and information, such as Tunnocks provided upon registration. CPCRITS, take note... Facilities were excellent, good selection of food, all you really needed. There were loads of spectators around the course, heckling, shaking cow bells, it actually felt quite like a cross race. Full race commentary on all the races meant the atmosphere was great, probably one of the best Crits I've raced.
As the name suggests this Crit was run around a university campus, so not a purpose made circuit. This made it tough, speed bumps, curbs and road furniture all played a part, not to mention a varying degree in the quality of surface. Looking at the map it was difficult to get a sense of gradient and climbing, however upon seeing the finishing hill sprint i had a feeling this was going to be pretty tough.
Lucinda's race was first. 40 minutes + 5 in what seems a pretty stacked field, including local and national teams and clubs. I knew the hill finish would work well for her and positioning was going to be key with this field. I was watching from the side, on the final S bend before the hill finish, a good location I, and many others, thought. Within the first lap the race had become quite fragmented, clearly pace from the off was hot, the front group of 5 consisted of Shani Bloch-Davidov, Cha Joiner (Commonwealth Silver medallist)and Sarah Bradford among others with a second chasing group of 7, of which Lucinda was present. Over the next 15 or so minutes from leaders gap was growing, albeit their group shrinking and now consisting of 1 breakaway and 2 chasers, the other 2 had been swallowed up by Lucinda's group, now at 8 riders. 5 to go and it was a lead group of 2, and the chasing group, still at 8 strong. Lucinda was in a great position, looking very strong up the hill, so I fancied her chances in the sprint, well, that was until the final S bend, on the penultimate lap when a rider rolled a tub, hit the deck, along with two riders who fell on top of her, including Lucinda. Nothing broken, bike ok, so she got back on and rode the last lap, alone, but coming in 9th. Not quite the sprint finish she wanted, but a great result non the less.
Now it was my turn for an hour of pain. 1 neutralised lap and a bit of napping meant I rolled upto the start, right at the back. Think I need to sharpen my elbows... Right from the off and because the course was fairly narrow and technical there was 1 long line of riders. I moved up and continued to do so, going through a few groups, riders getting shelled out the back at an alarming pace. 10 minutes in and I wondered if I could keep this up? The lead group were off in the distance now, and on every lap were pulling away, slightly disheartening seeing this, but, all the same the group I was in worked well and certainly wasn't easy! We continued to work together, picking up a few riders that had been shelled from the front group. I was pretty pleased when the 5 lap board came up, I've hung on. Penultimate lap and the leaders caught us, a small break away I think. I rolled over the line 28th so mid pack, not great, but then not awful, and skills to build on. The men's race was won by Joe Nally of Hardie Bike, 2nd was Evan Oliphant of Raleigh GAC and 3rd David Lines of Wheelbase Altura, so all in all a pretty strong field.
Thanks to Stirling BC for putting on such a great event, brilliant course and atmosphere, certainly one i’ll be doing again next year, i’ll even try and bring some other riders from South of the border.
You can find out everything you need to know here: http://crit.stirlingbikeclub.org.uk/
Photo credits to Andrew Gerrie: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewgerrie