ERC MCRT Blog
Monday, 15th December, 2014
I joined ERC in autumn 2013 so 2014 was my first year of racing – as a 2nd year Youth A. Little did I know it but I was in at the deep end. Over the winter I quietly trained and renounced chocolate bourbons – oh yes, this was serious business. I was filled with the anticipation of a good showing at the traditional year opening ERC season starter races at Ingliston.
The climb to Tan Hill – highest pub in the UK. The roadside fans can barely contain their excitement.
I got smashed. Well and truly. Looking at the results sheet I was actually mid-way down the field – which was good on the face of it – but the gulf between the front group and mine was frightening. Matthias Barnet – fellow ERC rider and now British Champion – took the win in both races. After the Ingliston debut things went a little quiet on the racing front as I trained over the spring months. Finally, at the start of summer I was invited to join the Martin Currie Race Team.
The big objective was now the Youth Tour of Ireland in Errigal. I felt I was in a far better position to take this on than I was earlier in the season. The Youth Tour of Ireland is a 4-stage race focused around the village of Churchill, with two hard road stages, a hill climb and a criterium. Stage 1 was wet, and having finished our warm up the ERC squad of myself, Matthias and John Macleod were surprised to find ourselves at the very back of the holding pen – clearly the battle for grid position took precedent over warmth. The start was delayed – this was Ireland, after all – but finally we were ready, there would be no more hold-ups. Wrong. A wedding procession, timing it perfectly to near seconds, was next to disrupt the race, ambling through at an appropriate, but irritatingly slow speed. How selfish of them. Around half an hour late the flag dropped. It was all downhill for the first few kilometres, so all three ERC riders desperately tried to race through the group to reach the front – with varying degrees of success. I saw Matthias stopped at the side of the road bending over his front wheel and sensibly concluded it was a puncture. Turns out it was an open quick release, a little more scary. I resigned myself that I wouldn’t be seeing him again in the race and tried to hold the bunch. Moments later a massive crash spread across the road and I was caught behind – luckily I managed not to go down. However it did mean I was detached from the main bunch in a group of 10 or so chasers. Miraculously Matthias bridged to my group and I helped him as far as I could, but I was beginning to lactate so he went off on a solo charge after the leaders. I followed the wheels in my group, led them across the line and picked up a top 25 placing – not bad. Stage 2’s hill climb became more of a flat TT due to the slippery conditions and I wasn’t powerful enough to challenge for a top 10. Stage 3, the second road stage, was wetter than the first and in what is becoming an ERC tradition I paid a visit to a roadside ditch, in exactly the same place as John had crashed in a previous year. After a second crash on treacherous roads I limped to the finish in a lowly bottom-half finish. Stage 4, the criterium, was a far more enjoyable affair. After the initial selection – which I made – I tail gunned the group for the next 40 minutes, finishing with the leaders only a handful of seconds down on the stage winner, fellow Scot Joe Nally. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable experience made possible by excellent coaching and the continuing sponsorship of Martin Currie and Braveheart.
Leading the chase on Stage 3
Stage 1, the final climb
I was brought back down to Earth, quite literally, at the Scottish criterium championships the next week, crashing out having been leading the race the lap before. This was a bitter pill to swallow as I really thought I could pull off a good result, or least provide a tactical advantage to my teammates. Following on from this disappointment results began to pick up – two 4th places in successive criteriums – but still the podium proved elusive. In mid-September I raced the Cairngorm Hill climb TT, a 14.4km route with the climb to Cairngorm Ski Station providing a brutal finale. This was my first competitive Time Trial, and I flew through the first 10km, confident that I could big ring this climb. One epic implosion later, I was crawling up the road in the proverbial granny gear. Miraculously, I can 11th overall and 1st Youth – a victory!
Looks impressive – in reality I was barely moving
The winning podium
It was coming into hill climb season and I was feeling confident. A solid 6th place and 2nd Youth in my first was justification of this. Another 6th place, this time at Kingscavil, set me up nicely for the Scottish Hill Climb Championships in Glasgow. However, the ‘hill’ (with an average gradient of 2%) actually saw the use of full TT equipment and wasn’t suited to my abilities. A frustrating 4th place ensued. The ERC club hill climb was my last action of the season, and I walked away with a win in the under-18 category.
ERC Hill Climb – a second win of the season
Racing with ERC has been a pleasure. In one season I have progressed further than I could have imagined – and even won a couple of races at the end. This is due to the great coaching I have received, and the supportive environment always encouraged in the club. Moving into Juniors is a scary prospect, but with ERC I know I can approach it with a positive attitude, and look to improve on top of what I have already achieved. 2014’s been a great year – roll on 2015!