Wednesday 15th May 2019
Scottish Student Cycling On the Rise Again!
Read all about how our Cycling Programme has grown again this year, with more competitors from more institutions competing in more events across Scotland.
This year’s SSS cycling series built on the success of last year’s series and included an extra event. We had a balance of 3 road-based events and 3 off-road events. This allowed a well-rounded series with the aim of attracting as many riders as possible.
Round 1 – The Inaugural Hillclimb Championships
The first round of this year’s series took place on a clear September evening, and was the inaugural SSS Hillclimb Championships hosted by the University of Stirling. The race was run up the short and steep access road to the Wallace Monument which provided a dramatic backdrop for the gruelling climb. The climb, although only 460 metres long, has an average gradient of 14%, which would test even the strongest of riders’ climbing ability. The riders set off at one-minute intervals with their time stopping as they emerged from the trees at the foot of the monument.
The start list for the event boasted 29 students and 9 riders in the open (non-student) category. In the student male category was the 2017/18 SSS cross country mountain-bike champion, Colin Fleming from the University of Stirling, who was switching to skinnier tyres for this event. Other riders to watch were Alastair Woodhead of the University of Edinburgh and Alistair Merry from Abertay University who had both put in some good performances in recent local hillclimbs.
In the student female category, the University of Edinburgh had three strong riders competing for the title. Lulu Bartlett and Emma Wood have both won BUCS medals on the track, and Helen Wyld finished 7th in the Scottish Senior Road Championships. They were up against the University of Stirling pair of Ailsa Beck and Daisy Barnes.
On the night of the race, 25 students took to the start line to battle for the first SSS Championship of the year. First off in the women’s event was Ailsa Beck, setting a benchmark of 2:44.64.
Up next in the student category was Helen Wyld who recorded a time of 2:18.49 and went into the lead. Her time couldn’t be matched by either Daisy Barnes (2:22.39) or Lulu Bartlett (2:23.75) who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively.
In the student men’s category an early benchmark on 1:32.14 was set by Cameron Ritchie of the University of Edinburgh. As rider after rider came up the hill though it looked like he was safely in the medals.
Alastair Woodhead of the University of Edinburgh came close with a 1:33.67 but it took until the second last rider, Abertay’s Alistair Merry, for Ritchie’s time to be beaten. Merry recorded a time of 1:29.09 and was the only rider to go under 90 seconds on the night.
Round 2 – Cyclocross Championship
Following on from the success of round 1 of the series, round 2 took a turn off road. The Cyclo-Cross Championships were held alongside round 3 of the Scottish Cyclocross Series at Lochore Meadows in Fife.
The day started out overcast with showers but by the start of the women’s race the weather cleared and the sun was shining (occasionally). However, the earlier rain led to some slippy conditions on the 2.5 km course, which included a set of hurdles and a set of stairs that riders had to dismount and carry their bikes up. The start list for the women’s race included 4 riders from 4 different institutes meaning a 200% increase on last year’s championships.
The field although not yet having a huge quantity of riders, had depth in quality with a double British champion and three times Commonwealth Games rider, Eileen Roe representing the University of the Highlands and Islands. Also racing was bronze medallist from the SSS Hillclimb championships, Lulu Bartlett from the University of Edinburgh, Gemma Penman from the University of Glasgow and Abigail Corsie from the University of Dundee.
The men’s race was a more mixed affair with 3 riders from the University of Edinburgh; defending SSS Cyclo-Cross champion Charles Fletcher, current SSS Time-Trial champion Adam Wild and Tom Merry, 2 riders from the University of Stirling, and one rider each from the University of St Andrews, Edinburgh Napier, and Glasgow City College.
The women’s race was run over 7 laps of the course, with the 4 students taking part amongst 50 women racing on the day. From the off Eileen Roe took a commanding lead in the student event and was in a front group of 3 battling for the overall race win.
By a few laps in the field was spread round the course with the slippy conditions meaning the smallest of error could cost you highly, Gemma Penman was sitting in second place and Abigail Corsie in third. As the laps passed by it looked like only a mechanical or a crash would mix up the medal positions.
With 2 laps left and still contending for the overall win, Eileen Roe and fellow commonwealth games rider Isla Short came down on a slippy corner allowing Kerry MacPhee to ride away for the overall victory. Eileen was quickly back onto her bike and with a solid lead built in the student category held on for the victory and second in the overall race.
By the start of the men’s race the sun was shining again as 5 students took to the start line amongst 79 starters in the senior men’s event. From the off Charles Fletcher from the University of Edinburgh took the lead in the student event with Tom Merry, also of the University of Edinburgh, hot on his wheels.
The battle for the bronze medal was between William Hunter of the University of St Andrews and Stephen Walker from the University of Stirling, with Adam Wild of the University of Edinburgh in 5th.
As the laps passed by, Merry was steadily gaining on Fletcher, as the pair pulled away from the rest of the field. Hunter looked settled and was building a gap over 4th and 5th.
Using his time-trialing prowess Wild was steadily powering around the course and closing the gap to Walker. With 2 laps to go Merry made the catch and took the lead with Fletcher sitting on his wheel.
As they came over the hurdles with one lap remaining, it was nearly game over for Fletcher as his back wheel slid out of a tight corner, he ended up nearly sideways but stayed upright and was quickly back on Merry’s wheel.
It was looking like it would come down to a sprint finish as they entered the finishing arena with just the hurdles and a sharp corner to go. Fletcher led over the hurdles looking to put get himself the racing line into the last corner. Merry followed and almost tripping over the hurdles in his haste to get back to Fletcher, remounted his bike, he dropped his chain, giving Fletcher the crucial seconds to get away to retain his SSS Cyclo-Cross Championship title.
William Hunter took the bronze medal for St Andrews, Adam Wild having played the long game, had caught Stephen in the final laps, to finish 4th.
Going into the break in the series over the New Year the series standings had the University of Edinburgh in a strong lead.
Round 3 – Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bike Championships
The third round saw the series travel to the west coast for the MTB championships held alongside the 1st round of the Scottish XC series at Cathkin Braes MTB Centre. The trials built at Cathkin have played host to the 2014 Commonwealth Games MTB Championships, and last summer the 2018 European MTB Championships.
The course being used was a 4.8 km lap with a mix of short sharp climbs and fast descents on man-made trials. The women’s race this year saw last year’s silver medallist Erika Allen take the gold medal for the University of Strathclyde.
The men’s race had 5 riders competing for the medals; Colin Fleming was competing for the University of Stirling and was the defending champion having won the gold medal on the same course the year before.
The other 4 riders came from 3 institutions; Craig Owen and Alexander Pratt from Edinburgh Napier University, Jack Slicer from the University of Dundee and Tomasz Wysocki from the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The race looked like it would be a good battle from the go as Colin Fleming set out to defend his title, but fate wasn’t on his side as he suffered a mechanical on the first lap. It wasn’t just him however as Owen and Pratt were also forced to withdraw with mechanicals.
This left the battle for gold down to Wysocki and Slicer. As the 5 laps passed Wysocki built a comfortable lead and took the second gold of the year for the University of the Highlands and Islands, following on from Roe’s gold in the cyclocross.
For the series, as Edinburgh were absent, the was little change with the University of Stirling closing the gap a little to the University of Edinburgh.
Round 4 – Enduro Championship
This year’s Enduro Championships were held alongside the Vallelujah Tweedlove Enduro in Glentress Forest outside Peebles. Held over 4 Brexit themed stages; No Hard Border, The Laura Kuenssberg Tribute Stage, Deal (or No Deal), and The Backstop. The totalled race distance was 25 km, with riders riding between stages then being timed down the stages.
The men’s championship had 24 riders competing for the medals, including gold and silver medallists from last year’s championships, Calum Orr from the University of Dundee and Douglas Carchrie from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). Orr was in good company from Dundee with a team of 10 riders.
The University of Edinburgh also had a strong representation with 5 riders, including last year’s 4th place Alex Kinsley. The University of Stirling has 4 riders, St Andrews, Abertay and Robert Gordon University all had one rider each.
Orr and Carchrie were the favourites on the day and set down a strong benchmark being the only riders to go sub 7 minutes on the first stage. The fight for the final podium spot was close after the first stage with only 30 seconds separating 6 riders, leading was Alex Kinsley (Edinburgh) followed by, Callum Gordon (Dundee), Connor Brookes (Stirling), Angus Croudace (Edinburgh), Ross La Trobe (Dundee) and Douglas Miller (Edinburgh).
As remaining 3 stages passed by Calum Orr build a lead over the field, with Douglas Carchrie following close behind. They both finished with times under 18 minutes but Carchrie never managing to get the upper hand on Orr. Not only taking a win in the student championships, Calum Orr places 8th overall in the Senior Men’s category.
The race for the final podium spot soon became a fight between Kinsley and Croudace. Croudace managed to grab some seconds back from Kinsley on stages 2 and 4 but the early lead held, and Alex Kinsley rounded off the podium.
In the women’s championships Sarah Francis from the University of Strathclyde was the winner with a time of 32 minutes and 14 seconds. She also finished 12th in the senior women’s race.
The series had a bit of a shake up after round 4 with a strong showing from Dundee boosting them in the placings.
Round 5 – 10-Mile TT Championships
For the last two rounds of the series we turned back to the road disciplines, with the penultimate event being the 10-mile TT championships. There were 10 riders riding from 6 institutions.
As the event fell a week after the BUCS 10-mile TT championships we had a good indicator going in of the strong form of a few of the riders. In the men’s race, Sandy Waller from the University of Edinburgh was the 48th in the BUCS event with a PB of 21 minutes, 39 seconds which put him in a strong position for the SSS Championships.
In the women’s event Daisy Barnes, from the University of Stirling, who has previously won a bronze medal in the U20 European Duathlon Championships in 2018, had recorded a 25-minute time at the BUCS Championships and was on good form to carry into the SSS champs.
The race was held on a stretch of duel carriage way outside Irvine on a cold bright April morning. The wind was building as the day went on and the earlier riders had slightly better race conditions. The University of Glasgow had 5 riders competing with Innes Johnston the favourite of the 4 men for a medal spot and Grace Inglis for a women’s medal.
As mentioned, the University of Edinburgh were represented by Sandy Waller and the University of Stirling by Daisy Barnes. The University of Dundee were represented by Sean Douglas and the University of Strathclyde by Alexandra Michnowicz. The City of Glasgow College was represented by Nico Anelli.
Michnowicz and Inglis were out on the course first and it came down to only a second separating them at the finish. Barnes came in soon after and set a new leading time of 25 minutes and 7 seconds, over a minute faster than Michnowicz who recorded a 26:10
In the men’s race Waller set the benchmark with a time of 21 minutes 45 seconds. Next up was Anelli who fell just short going into second place with a time of 22 minutes and 15 seconds.
Johnston was the last rider on course and recorded a 22 minute and 3 seconds time putting him into second place and bumping Anelli down to the bronze medal.
With only one round left the University of Edinburgh had built an insurmountable lead at the top of the series but the battle for second and third was still ongoing between the University of Dundee and University of Stirling.
Round 6 – Criterium Championship
The final and biggest round of the series was held at the Fife Cycle Park in Lochgelly on a sunny Wednesday, with 43 students competing it promised to be great day of racing. This is the second year we have hosted a student only event at the circuit and provides an excellent opportunity to show the depth of quality in the student field and what the facility has to offer. The race was held over a 1 km circuit with twists and turns making it a course that would separate riders both in strength and technical ability.
The men’s field had 30 riders from 9 institutions competing for the title. Last year’s bronze medallist Cameron Richardson from the University of Stirling was a favourite going into having been selected for the Scottish Cycling performance programme this year. Favourites alongside Richardson were Finn Crockett, from the University of the West of Scotland and Tim Shoreman, from Heriot Watt University. Alongside these 3 institutions we also had riders from; University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of Dundee, Abertay University, Edinburgh Napier University and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The race was fast from the gun and as the laps ticked by in the hour-long race, the front group got whittled down.
Present in the front group were Tom Merry and Louis Moore from the University of Edinburgh, Cameron Richardson and Robin Downie from the University of Stirling, Joe Pollard from the University of Glasgow, Tim Shoreman from Heriot-Watt, Finn Crockett from the University of the West of Scotland and Alistair Merry from Abertay University.
Downie was animating the race throughout with repeated efforts to breakaway and his teammate Richardson doing his work to slow the rest down.
As the time passed and the pace lifted Pollard, Downie, Tom Merry, and Moore were dropped from the front group and the 4 were left to battle for the medals. As the last few laps approached it was looking more and more like it’d be a final sprint to the line to separate Crockett, Shoreman, Richardson and Merry.
As they came around into the finish straight to take the finish Crockett opened up his sprint first and had Shoreman drag racing alongside him. It all came down to the last few metres as Shoreman drew level and got himself half a bike length in front by the line to take the win from Crockett, with Richardson beating Merry to the final podium spot.
The women’s race was on the circuit next with 13 riders from 5 institutions. The favourites going into the race were last year’s silver and bronze medallists, Becky Storrie from the University of Stirling and Skye Davidson from the University of Edinburgh. The University of Glasgow’s Gemma Penman was also a strong favourite.
As the race started a group formed with 3 riders from the University of Stirling; Ailsa Beck, Becky Storrie and Sophia Green, 3 riders from the University of Edinburgh; Skye Davidson, Helen Wyld and Eleanor McKay and 2 riders from the University of Glasgow; Gemma Penman and Grace Inglis.
This group was slowly thinned down as the race went on with Penman making some moves to try to break off the front, as a result McKay and Inglis were distanced by the rest.
The University of Stirling were looking in a strong position with 3 of 6 riders in the front group but a crash for Beck followed by a mechanical for Storrie put both out of the race in quick succession. Luckily Beck walked away with cuts and bruises and the race continued.
Now the front group of 4 was 2 Edinburgh, 1 Stirling and 1 Glasgow. As the race reached the last few laps Wyld was distanced to leave it a 3-rider race for the medals. Coming into the finish straight Green lead out with sprint with Penman on her wheel and Davidson following close behind. As the line got closer and closer the gap got smaller between Penman and Green but Green held out to take the win for the University of Stirling.
Over the series we had a total of 122 competitors over the 6 events, from 15 institutions. With the Criterium being the biggest event overall for both men and women. This is a good increase on the 97 competitors over 5 events, from 14 institutions that took part in the 2017/18 series.
This year the series was dominated by the University of Edinburgh from the beginning and they maintained their lead with consistent results throughout the series. The second and third places in the series all came down to the final round, but the University of Dundee held strong to stay in second place. We awarded the trophy for the series victory to the University of Edinburgh after the final round of the series at Lochgelly.
If this level maintains or increases over future years it is good proof of the consistent participation of the students in student only and open cycling events.
This series would not be possible without the help of a huge number of people.
Particular thanks go to;
Martin Harris and Paul Zarb, Scottish Cycling
Kirsteen Torrance, Fife Council
The organisers from; the University of Stirling, Scottish XC Series, Tweedlove and the Royal Albert CC
Ken Whitson, Edinburgh Road Club
Mark Young, MY Laps Timing
Photographs courtesy of Dan Smith, Oscar James, Louise Smith, Michael Martin and the Royal Albert CC.
Report by Emma Borthwick, Scottish Student Cycling Chair