WoSCA Riders' blogs

Tuesday, 24th June, 2014

Ewan Mathieson, Glasgow Riderz (youth A)

The Youth tour of Scotland 2014 was my first stage race so I was really nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. I arrived at Strathallan School on Saturday afternoon and met up with the rest of the WoSCA team. Once everyone was had arrived we went for a recce of the courses we were going to be racing on over the next three days.

The first stage was a crit race around Perth City Centre. Before the race started, everyone was randomly gridded. I unfortunately did not get a good gridding and ended up about three rows from the back. Because of this my start was not as good as I would have wanted although that didn’t matter as I managed to move my way gradually up the bunch. After a few laps of hanging on the back of the bunch I managed to finish about the middle of the field.

The second stage was a short 1.5km time trial. I got a reasonably good start but ran wide on one of the corners. Because I ran wide I lost some time and unfortunately the T/T was too short for me to make up any of the time I lost.
The third stage was the longest stage of the whole race, a 60km road race. This was 9 laps of a course that had a horrible climb in it. The climb started off steep then flattened out a little before ramping up towards the top again. I managed to keep up with the main bunch for half of the race. I was disappointed about getting dropped but I knew that I gave my all to stay with them as I had completely cracked when I got dropped.

The fourth and final stage was the stage I was least looking forward to. This was because it was 16 laps of a 2.5km loop. In this 2.5km stage there was this absolute killer climb, it was only about 50m long but by the time you have went up it a couple of times it doesn’t sound as short or easy. At the start of this stage I was nicely in the bunch until it started to string out going over the climb for the 4th time. Just group was coming together again there was a crash in front of me that blocked the road. This really split up the race and unfortunately I was still tired from the day before so I didn’t have the legs to chase back on to the bunch.

Overall, I found the Tour of Scotland was an amazing experience and I will never forget how exciting it was. Thank you to Neil, Martin and Scott for helping us out over the four days and for giving me the opportunity to take part in such a fantastic race.

Ewan Mathieson

Danny Mulholland, Johnstone Jets (youth A)

My first stage race as a Youth A (one of the big boys) was quite something. Spanning 3 days, four stages and nearly 100 miles, this race was huge, and rightly so. The longest race I'd done to date was in fact one of the best. My legs were there, mostly, and I actually managed to enjoy racing my bike, whilst I was racing. Even though it was freezing and what I still believe to be sleet. And I enjoyed the off the bike parts even more.

Stage one was a city centre crit, Perth City centre. It wasn't that long, as 45 minutes is what we would race normally, but it was faster. A lot faster, but I felt good so I was always up at the front, just hovering there and never showing my face to the wind. An accidental 5th in a prime (it's pronounced 'preem', not Optimus 'prime') was even acquired. But of course, something had to go wrong. Actually, two things. Turns out riding a slow puncture is pretty gosh darn hard, not to mention sketchy. Especially when your calf decides to cramp. Oh well, moving on.

Stage two was the same day, but at Strathallan School. Strathallan was the race HQ, and where we were staying for the race. It's was actually pretty cool, I mean, unlimited food? Anyway, stage two was a time trial. Or if you're Neil McLeod, An obstacle course (see, I am tuned in). A tiny TT that was more corners than straights. Here I placed first WOSCA, 24th, and happy.

Stage three was my favourite, a hulking behemoth of a stage. 9 laps of a 5 mile-ish circuit with a whopping great hill in it was found surprisingly enjoyable, and my legs reflected that. The neutralised start was downhill and I sat nicely on the second row, getting a nice makeover of grit and spray from some big guy in front. We had decided I'd ride for Andy, so when the neutralised section was over I hopped his wheel in about 5th wheel. From then on, it was a grueling grind. Attacks went, got pulled back, people crashed, but I didn't notice. Every lap it seemed, a few more guys trickled off the back. On one lap that was me, as I dropped my chain halfway up the steepest part of the hill in a crunching gear change. Slightly panicked, I hitched my chain back on and chased back on and it when I got back on it was safe to say my legs would've been less painful with a bear's teeth in them. I stayed in the bunch with only one other WOSCA, and Alex McRae, and I raced well. By the seventh or eighth time I traversed that climb I couldn't really feel it, either from the cold or my legs just saying no. But I hung in, biting my stem, and I finished. Belter.  And the shower after it was the greatest shower I have ever had. Ever.

Now stage 4, it really should've been mine. It was the one I had targeted prior to the start of the race, the one I had thought 'yes'. A little kermesse circuit with a savage little climb and off road trails should've (on paper) suited my punchy, Belgian-esque style perfectly. On paper. After the third lap of 16, there was a crash in the third line of the peloton, and I came down. Held down for at least a minute, I did all I could to reel back in the group. But to no avail, I just lost more ground. A consolation win in my group's sprint had no effect, I was still miffed. But, Andy V (my team mate) did the ride of his life on that stage, splitting up the bunch and just generally bossing it. Chapeau. Anyway, me being a dab hand at this stage racing lark, I've decided that this was the best run WOSCA team I've ridden on. Neil is the best coach, team manager and motivator ;-) Scott is the best soigneur, and the WOSCA kit is the best kit. Well done the girls team as well, even with my da managing them.

Danny Mulholland (in black) tucked in the wheels at the bell. 

Lewis Stewart, Glasgow Riderz (youth A)

I was very excited for the Scottish Power Youth Tour of Scotland as it was the first time I have raced this event and I really enjoy stage racing. Also I was happy to be picked for the WoSCA team because it was hard to get a place in the team as it was highly contested.

On Saturday the 5th of April I arrived at Strathallan School. Before we went to our rooms we went on a recon ride of the routes of stages 3 and 4. This helped with my understanding of what to expect. Then we ate and rested prior to stage 1.

6th of April (Stage 1 Perth Crit and 2 Strathallan TT)

When we arrived we headed to the gazebo and warmed up for our Crit. After the warm up lap they randomly gridded the start, I was lucky and was gridded on the front row. The race started and I stayed at the front for the first few laps but slowly worked my way to the back of the bunch. About half way through the race I hit a manhole cover in a corner and hit the deck. I was already feeling unwell and the crash didn't help. Then later my gears stopped working and my team manager Neil Macleod told me to sit up and rest for the TT as I was far down.
Later that day the next stage the TT was underway. After my warm up I rode to the start and waited until my start. The course was fairly easy apart from the 180 degree turn which caught a lot of people out (me included) I got a decent time that I was fairly happy with did my warm down and headed for my room.

7th of April (Stage 3 Forteviot 60km)

After the recon I knew this would be a challenging stage as it had a long climb and it was 60km long. We warmed up and rode to the start. The race started and I managed to stay at the front until the foot of the climb. We hit the climb and everyone flew past me (I'm not the most gifted climber!) I was dropped after the second lap and rode with a group of 10 which over the race was whittled down to me and another ride who I broke away from on the last lap.
Later that day we had the evening activity which was a Q and A with Ben Greenwood. I learnt a lot and it was good to hear an insight into the life of a professional cyclist.

8th of April (Stage 4 kermesse 40km)

It was the final day of racing and it was a difficult stage with a short and sharp climb. Yet again I stayed at the front until the foot of the climb but managed to stay with the main bunch for 4 laps before the speed up the climb was too much for me. After that I rode to the end and was glad to finish. I was glad it was all over but also sad it was over because I had really enjoyed it.

I really enjoyed the tour and will definitely do it again next year. Although it would not have been as good if it wasn't for WoSCA and the team managers. Neil was very well prepared and helped me a lot. He gave pre stage briefings which were very helpful and overall made the tour easy for me. I would also like to thank Braveheart Cycling Fund for their continuous support to WoSCA.

Lewis Stewart (in black) at the head of the bunch

Andrew Vettraino, Glasgow Riderz (youth A)

This was my 2nd Tour of Scotland and it was a good one! Thanks to Neil MacLeod, Scott Glasgow and Martin Mulholland for all their support throughout the race and all the organisers for putting together such a smooth running event.

The first day included two stages: a crit and a short TT. The crit was a fast 4 cornered circuit in the centre of Perth and the racing was furious. Having raced the course last year, I knew the importance of positioning and tried to stay in the top 20. The relentless pace caused a split in the final lap that I was on the wrong side of and I lost 9 seconds on GC in 22nd place. Next up was the TT which is my worst kind of event. I finished way down the field and because the GC was tightly packed from the crit, I dropped down overall. But no matter, seconds would become minutes on day 2.

Day 2 was a long hilly circuit which I had been greatly looking forward to. I felt really strong and was never outside the top 15 or 20 places and every time we hit the climb I moved up to the front of the bunch. A lot of attacks went and I did my fair share of chasing including a four man break that contained two of the Irish Talent Team riders. A solo rider took the stage by 15 seconds leaving the rest of us to contest a bunch sprint and I rolled in 12th. The group had been whittled down to about 25 riders with everyone else minutes behind which meant I was catapulted up the GC into the top 20.

Day 3 was 16 laps of a circuit based around one tough climb which had thankfully been resurfaced after last year’s hell. The race kept at a reasonably tame pace compared to the other stages for the first three laps but it suddenly came to life after one of the Irish lads crashed and caused a pile up blocking the way on the narrowest section of the course. All I could do was wait for the course to clear and start chasing the 15 riders who had survived the pile up. Thanks to a very strong Mid Shropshire rider, three laps later I was back in the hugely depleted bunch. A couple of breaks went but none would stick until two riders managed to escape the bunch and hold on for the stage. As my bunch, now only 12 strong, tackled the penultimate climb I attacked over the top to cause a split which contained just 3 other riders: the yellow jersey, the Scottish leader and the third placed rider on GC. It looked like we might stay away but despite our best efforts we were caught by 6 chasers and I rolled in 12th on the stage on the same time as the rest of the bunch. This was by far the best race I had ever ridden and I was rewarded with 11th on GC and 4th Scottish rider only 27 seconds down on the yellow jersey.

 Apart from the racing the tour was a great experience: I learned how to clean a bike properly, made some new friends and got to watch the epic Tour of Flanders live.  I learned a lot about racing; teamwork, race food and drink and tactics. And perhaps best of all I got to compete in the West of Scotland boys’ pool tournament which I believe Lewis Stewart won (although the organisation, regulations and refereeing were all rather questionable…)

Andrew Vettraino in black, second from left.

Sarah Bradford, Johnstone Jets (youth A)

As a team Jess Millar, Lusia Steel, Ellie Park and I were all very excited on the 5th of April as we arrived at Strathallan School ready for 3 days and 4 hard stages of racing. The first stage was a crit around Perth town centre, 35 minutes plus 4 laps. It was a fast start, with a strong first 10 minutes, after the first prime the group split, and I was in the lead group of three. I had had a sick feeling before the race and wasn’t feeling particularly well and ended up stopping at the side of the road. This obviously lost me a lot of time and I knew that I would have to fight back otherwise I would have ruined all chances of a successful tour. I managed to chase back to the lead group (but not the riders who had broken away) and got third in the bunch sprint, however after having done well in the prime lap at the beginning I was placed 4th on GC with the same time as 3rd and I was joint 3rd in the point’s classification as well.

Later that day there was a short, technical time trial around the grounds of Strathallan School. I was looking forward to this stage. I was annoyed at the way I had taken two of the corners, and so I was very surprised to find out I had got 2nd in the stage missing out by only 0.27 of a second. This put in me into 3rd on the GC. We won this stage as a team, giving us all more confidence before the road race the next day.

This road race came with a hill - not my strong point and I didn’t know what to expect. Due to Rhona Callander being the lead Scottish rider and leader overall, I got to wear the Scottish leader jersey (my first ever stage race jersey). After a good team effort, a failed attack, and some more great teamwork from all of us, Ellie and I managed to finish in the bunch with the same time as the stage winner. Ellie in 8th and me in 5th, this meant that I held 3rd in the GC whilst Ellie moved up to 5th overall. We were all thrilled to find out we had moved in to 3rd in the team classification as well. A good day out for the WOSCA girls!

The last day brought my last ever stage in the Youth Tour of Scotland, a 10 lap kermesse around a 2.55km circuit - with another hill, but it was a glorious day and I wanted to leave on a high. The race began at a comfortable pace. The groups strung out very quickly on the hill with a smaller lead group forming. The front group came down to four riders with Ciara Doogan (stage 3 winner- and leader in the queen of the mountain jersey) suffering from a puncture. Good team work lead to Rhona and Jenny (“east mid Scotland” team) getting away leaving Rosa Martin and I fighting it out for 3rd on the last lap. I managed to pull away before the hill to cross the line in 3rd with the WOSCA girls achieving 2nd in the stage. In the end I got 3rd in the general classification on an all Scottish podium.4th in the points classification, 3rd in the queen of the mountains (who would have thought … me climbing…?) and 3rd team overall. We couldn’t have achieved such a great team performance without the help of our team manager Martin Mulholland, and without the extra support of all the parents. I would like to thank Braveheart for the funding that helped us have such an amazing opportunity.

Sarah Bradford on the podium, with Craig Burn, Chief Executive of Scottish Cycling

Sarah Bradford attacking while wearing the blue jersey (leading Scottish rider) 

Jess Millar, Johnstone Jets (youth A)

This was my first time competing in youth tour of Scotland, I had been at Errigal last year but however this was quite a different experience.

The first stage was in the city centre which it was a 35minute +4 lap crit. The circuit was mostly flat with a slight incline prior to the tightest corner. 40 girls started I came 23rd I was hoping for top 20, I was annoyed at myself with this result knowing I could have done better. However onwards and upwards there were still 3 stages to go.

The second stage was a 1.5km time trial around the grounds of Strathallan.
It was I reverse order from the morning’s results. We had, had the opportunity to practice the course. It was mostly flat but on the monoblocks it was undulating, there were a few tight corners and one really tight corner that I totally messed up and lost some vital seconds. I came 18 out of 40; things were beginning to look up. Yey

The third stage was a 33k, hilly road race. Throughout the village of Forteviot.
We had discussed team tactics and new what I had to do. I think it went really well as after the race I felt I used all my possible sources of energy I had. I finished 16th, things where looking up. Yippee

The fourth stage was a 26km kermesse. Up to this point none of the WoSCA girls had any mechanicals (we were so lucky) I looked at the terrain of the kermesse and thought we are bound to get a puncture on this. We did 10 laps of the course I think it was the most technical stage out of the 4. The hill was short and sharp my legs burned every time I got to the top. I finished 12th and struggled to get my breath back at the end. Things had looked up!

WoSCA girls finished 3rd overall as a team. We all gave it everything we had and really enjoyed the experience; I hope to do it next year.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the brave heart cycling fund, Martin Mulholland, Neil Macleod, the best team mates ever and to all the parents (cheerleaders) for putting the easy up, up everywhere we went.

Jess Millar

Ellie Park, Glasgow Riderz youth B

I loved the youth tour of Scotland!  It is my favourite youth tour I’ve ever done riding as a team was really cool made me feel like a pro. There were specific times for everything, alarm call, Breakfast, lunch, dinner, to be at the team car, team meetings everything. For Sundays  first stage a crit at 9:15 in Perth city centre this was the schedule, alarm call 6:30 breakfast 6:45 sign on/gear check  7:00 at team car 7:30. The nerves were seriously kicking in now.  This first race seemed to fly by for me I knew I could not go with the winning attack a few laps in so I just bided my time and sat in the front group although some sneaky team tactics from another team forced me to do a lot more work than I indented to do which showed in the sprint finish with me finishing 8th some good points came from the race to though with me siting third for most of the race and picking up points in the sprint competition.

 For Sundays stage two a 1.2k time trial in Strathallan school grounds (where we were staying) my start time was 4.03 which gave me loads of free time between the two races to wash my bike and things which was good. The weather for my time trial was not so great, really strong winds and a little rain and I was already disadvantaged due to my restricted u14 gears! After this stage I finished 7th and moved up in GC by one place to 7th.

On Monday's stage three (my favourite stage) took place on the rolling roads of Perthshire it was nice to have a change from crits for once. This was the first stage where the KOM jersey came into place which made the race very fast. My role in the team for this stage was to help Sarah in the point’s competition as she was sitting third. One of the laps we were dropping the points leader so that was my queue to smash it on the front to try and get rid of her but she caught back on in the downhill section due to my U14 gears restricting me. No successful attacks this time until a split in the front group on the last lap which me and Sarah managed to get into which moved me up to 5th in GC and first U14.

Tuesday’s kermesse stage was the fourth and final stage of YToS which didn’t go to well for me. Made into the split on lap one but with about 5 laps to go Sarah struggled on the hill so me being her team mate went back to get her and bring her back into contention unfortunately this left me with not quite enough energy to stay with this small front group. Luckily I wasn’t alone I dropped off with to other U14 riders who were struggling too but this made me lose 1:30 to the leaders but I only dropped one place in GC which left me in sixth. A bit disappointing in the end because I would have won the young riders jersey which had been present the last two years but unfortunately not this time. WOSCA girls still managed to get third in the team competition which was really cool to get on the podium.

A massive thank you to Martin Mulholland for being an amazing team manager and brave heart cycling fund for making this trip happen.

Ellie Park (in black)

Lusia Steele, Johnstone Jets (youth B)

I ride for Johnstone Jets and completed my first ever stage race at the Youth Tour of Scotland 2014 riding for WoSCA.

Stage 1 was a crit in Perth City Centre.  Warming up on the rollers I was really nervous but I knew I wasn’t the only one I think all of us were.  The moment Martin took my pre-race bottle and gave me my race bottle was the moment I was particularly nervous. On the start line my nerves had gone and I was ready to race. I managed to stay with the bunch for the first couple of laps but when the bell rang for the prime I just couldn’t keep up with the bunch. I finished Stage 1 29th out of 42 riders

Stage 2 was a time trial, sent off in reverse GC order.  The time trial was one lap around the school grounds. I was not as nervous about the time trial as I was the race a couple of hours before. The course was very short but technical; there were tight corners and speed bumps involved. I finished 29th on the Stage.

Stage 3 was 5 laps of a 6.6km closed road circuit around Forteviot on a hilly course. I was almost as nervous about this stage as I was the first stage.  We did our warm up at the school then rode out as a team to the start. I managed to stay with the bunch for the first 2 laps but going up the hill to the KoM Prime I was dropped out of the bunch along with another rider. After a tough Stage I finished in 25th position.

Stage 4, the Strathallan Kermesse, was what I felt was my best day of racing.  Although I didn’t manage to stay in the front bunch I was still happy that I managed to work hard in the third bunch of 8-10 riders.  I managed to place 21st on the Stage and was happy with my ride. I could maybe have managed 3 or 4 better places but going up that hill one more time to the finish was just too much for my legs.

Overall I placed 26th on General Classification and, although I had targeted a top 20, I was happy that I had completed my first ever Stage race with a strong finish.

I really enjoyed the experience at YToS including the multi-day racing and being part of such a big event. It was also good to meet so many new people from across Britain and Ireland who I don’t normally get the chance to race against
I would like to say a huge thank you to my coaches Martin Mulholland and Neil Macleod as well as Braveheart Cycling Fund for making it possible for us to go as a team and get the full experience of it. The team kit that we had in WoSCA was great and I would also like to say a big thank you to Big Bobble Hats for supporting us.

All of our parents helped setting up our race base each day so a big thanks to them as well

Finally, thank you to my whole team for making my first stage race one to remember I enjoyed the experience and hilarity involved.

Lusia Steele in black leading the bunch


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