Girvan 3-Day Stage Race
STAGE 1: Girvan to Stranraer
The Easter heatwave continued and guaranteed a blistering start for the 34th running of the Girvan 3 Day Cycle Race, restored to the calendar after an absence of two years thanks to the support of South Ayrshire Council. More than 70 riders, spread across 21 teams, took the start at the Girvan Academy, rolling out through the town bound for Stranraer. Immediately after the neutralised flag was pulled in, the riders began the first and only hill prime of the day on the climb of Byne Hill. Matt Larner (Team Lichfield) was first over the climb and secured the polka dot jersey of King of the Mountains leader.
11 miles into the stage, the Hot Spot Spint at Barrhill, saw Keith Haddon of Ashfield RC taking the decision ahead of Team Velo Ecosses Jason McIntyre. Enthusiastic crowds lined the streets of Newton Stewart which was reached after 28 miles of racing and they greeted a 16 man break whose lead reached a maximum of 37 seconds before splitting again.
Through Wigtown at 35 miles and the leading group had grown to 20, including John Tanner (Life Repair CRT, Chris Newton (GB) and McIntyre. But the chase was now on and another 11 riders detached themselves from the peloton in hot pursuit. Included amongst them were Matt Stephens (North West Select), former National Junior Champion Keiren Page (GB) and the resurgent Malcolm Elliott (Yorks & Lancs Select), back to racing after a 5 year retirement. The driving force in the chase was time trial champion Gethin Butler representing the Cumbria Select Team.
As the race passed through the beautiful coastal scenery of Port William with 54 miles covered, a more select group formed during relentless attacks from the lead bunch, with the remains of the peloton by now more than 3 minutes in arrears. As the race headed for a new finish on the outskirts of Stranraer, it was clear that the big guns would be contesting the honours, with Newton, Mark Lovatt (Life Repair CRT), Elliott and Tanner to the fore.
Newton got the better of Lovatt on the long finishing straight and crossed the line first, arms aloft. They were followed at a few seconds by Elliott and Tanner, with the Life Repair man having to give best to Elliott, a former points jersey winner in the Tour of Spain. The action continues this evening, with the always closely contested criterium stage at Victory Park right in the centre of Girvan.
STAGE 1 RESULTS
STAGE 2 Girvan Criterium
The Great Britain team completed a successful day at the Girvan by taking the first two places in the popular evening criterium stage around Victory Park. The sun continued to shine as crowds lined the barriers at the finish line in South Park Avenue. Chris Newton started the stage in the leaders jersey but 15 laps later it was to be his team mate, former Junior National Champion Kieren Page, who would be pulling on the yellow. Kieren finished second to another GB team member, Tony Gibb with Ian Wilkinson of Science In Sport.com securing third.
The action was enlivened by additional prime prizes donated by stage sponsors Active Office Scotland, the company run by former Girvan organiser George Miller. It was GB Under 23 rider Russell Anderson who came off best here, taking two of the sprints. A leading group of 9 riders got away from the main field within a couple of laps and gradually increased their lead as the race progressed. A valiant solo effort by long distance time trial specialist Gethin Butler (Cumbria Select) was in vain as he never got closer than 20 seconds to the leaders.
Newton, who earlier in the day had said that he wasnt particularly looking forward to the criterium stage, was content to finish in the main field at over one minute down. However he was among the first to congratulate his teammates Gibb and Page on their ride, happy that the race lead was staying with the GB team. The race continues tomorrow (Sunday) when the longest stage of the race takes in some more stunning coastal scenery around Dunure and Croy Brae.
STAGE 2 RESULTS
STAGE 3: SPONSORED BY SOUTH AYRSHIRE COUNCIL (DAY 2)
A cloudy sky and a chill wind greeted the 67 starters for the longest stage of the 2003 Girvan 3 Day. The course took in some more spectacular Ayrshire coastal scenery with two passages of Electric Brae a strangely deceptive road which appears to run downhill but is actually uphill!
Great Britains Keiran Page started the day in the race leaders yellow jersey, but attacks came thick and fast with five riders taking a small advantage just a couple of miles into the stage. Scotoils Graham McGarrity took the first hot spot sprint at Crosshill, but as the race made its way towards the coast and the sun started to shine, a leading group of ten formed, include Mark Lovatt (Life Repair CRT), Tony Gibb (Great Britain) and Bryan Russell of Scotland. By the first ascent of the Dunure prime the group was down to seven, but had been joined by Stage 1 winner Chris Newton of Great Britain.
Barry Clarke, better known as a mountain biker, took the Dunure hill prime and went on to take the Alloway prime 6 miles later enough so give him the lead in the Carrick Gazette sponsored King of The Mountains competition. As the leading group started the second circuit of the Dunure climb their advantage stood at 1:22 on the peloton, but the chase had begun and both Malcolm Elliott (Yorks & Lancs Select) second on GC by just one second - and John Tanner (Life Repair CRT) were among those trying to close the gap. Gethin Butler (Cumbria Select) was again prominent in driving the chase. It was Lovatt who collected the second Dunure KOM points, whilst the Alloway hot spot went to Ian Wilkinson of Scienceinsport.com
Team Velo Ecosse rider Jason MacIntyre, together with Lovatt and Elliott, mounted an attack as the race approached Dalrymple with 52 miles gone. It was short lived though and they were reeled in again as the race passed through the town. This was the springboard for Mark Lovatt to go up the road and for a while he clung on to a slender lead over the chasing group of 8, with the main field now more than two minutes back.
By the races return to Dailly on the run in to the finish it looked as though Lovatts determined challenge might just succeed as his advantage had reached 30 seconds - despite Elliott working hard in the chase behind. Turning left at the distinctive White Cottage on the outskirts of Girvan, Lovatt now had more than a minute with less than two miles to go.
He entered the finishing circuit at Victory Park alone and crossed the line 1:12 ahead of David Clarke (North South Select) who was making a brief return to UK racing from his Spanish club. Elliott just edged out Wilkinson for third with John Tanner fifth. It initially seemed as though Malcolm Elliott had secured the yellow jersey by the smallest of margins from Lovatt, but further consideration by the judges concluded that it should be Lovatt who will start Stage 3 as race leader.
In the best Under 23 rider competiton, Andrew Stuart of Ashfield RC took over the lead from Kieran Page who finished the stage seven minutes in arrears.
STAGE 3 RESULTS
1. Mark Lovatt LRG 2'56'19'
STAGE 4 - Girvan to Girvan
Although the fourth and decisive stage of the 2003 Girvan was actually the shortest road stage of the event, none of the 66 starters were under any illusion that it was going to be easy. With three King of the Mountains primes along the route including the notorious climb of the Nick OBalloch after just 15 miles - and the return to more traditional Girvan weather as the rain fell steadily, whoever took the final yellow jersey of race winner would certainly have worked hard for his prize.
It was Mark Lovatt of the Life Repair Group CRT who began the day in yellow, carrying a slender 3 second advantage over Malcolm Elliott (Yorks and Lancs Select) with his Life Repair team mate John Tanner third on GC, 13 seconds in arrears. Despite being one of the most successful and consistent riders of recent years, victory in the Girvan has always eluded Tanner, 2nd overall in 1995 being the closest he had ever come to the win.
When the race radio gave news of a four man break going away after just 3 miles, it seemed likely to be an opportunistic attempt by lower placed riders to get some recognition. A quick check of the numbers revealed that this was far from the case with the four comprising of Tanner, Stage 1 winner Chris Newton (Great Britain), Andy Collis of Team Litchfield and King of the Mountains leader Barrie Clarke riding for Scienceinsport.com. Clarkes presence in the break made sense when he claimed the first King of the Mountains points on offer after just 4.4 miles, as the climb of Penkill gave way to the long twisting descent of The Screws.
By the time the bottom of the descent was reached and the race sped into Barr Village, the leaders had a 36 second advantage over Scotlands Hamish Hutchinson, North West Selects Matt Stephens and Southern Selects Roger Morgan who had broken clear of the rapidly fragmenting main field, already over 1 minute behind the leading foursome.
There was little respite before the start of the ascent of the Nick OBallogh, and as the race climbed the tree lined slopes, the leaders stretched their advantage to 2:18 over the peloton. Clarke added the Nick to his string of KOM victories, and with just one classified climb remaining look set to retain his polka dot jersey.
Passing Tairlaw Summit at 1407 feet, the narrow roads and heavy rain made the long descent towards Straiton a supreme test of bike handling. A chasing group of 14 riders had now formed, 1:43 behind the leaders, and this contained the yellow jersey of Mark Lovatt, Malcolm Elliott and Gethin Butler who was yet again working ceaselessly to develop the chase. With the stage not yet at half distance it was beginning to look as though the selection had already been made.
Barry Clarke took the final climb at Largs to secure the Carrick Gazette King of The Mountains and went on to take the Hot Spot sprint in Patna as well. With the hills behind them at last, and the rain giving way to brighter skies, the lead groups advantage held steady at 1:40 over the yellow jersey group. Then news came that Gethin Butler had fallen on a tricky corner but was back up and trying to regain contact.
With just inside 20 miles to go, as the race left the village of Kirkmichael, John Tanner went on the attack which immediately brought a response from Chris Newton. Within two miles they had 30 seconds over Clarke and Collis with the Lovatt group 1:30 back and Tanner the yellow jersey on the road. There was now little Elliott could do and Lovatt surely would not work to bring back his team mate.
As the two leaders entered the outskirts of Girvan, the gap had closed slightly but there was now no chance that they would be caught. Into the finishing straight on South Park Avenue and the crowd cheered a powerful sprint by Newton as Tanner settled for second, secure in the knowledge that the overall victory would be his.
Malcolm Elliotts remarkable return from retirement continued as he took 2nd overall, finishing the stage 45 seconds down in the company of Mark Lovatt who would take the third spot on the podium. Graham McGarrity took the Best 2/3/4th Cat prize for the home countrys ScotOil Multisport team, while the Pete Longbottom trophy for Best Under 23 finisher went to Andrew Stewart of Ashfield RC. Unsurprisingly with both Tanner and Lovatt in the top three, the team award went to Life Repair Group CRT.
Speaking after the presentation, John Tanner expressed his delight at finally winning the Girvan and was already looking forward to a return in 2004. Whether that will happen is still in the balance as funding from main sponsor South Ayrshire Council was only confirmed in February with no guarantee for future years. But all credit must go to race organiser David Miller and his team for putting together another superb edition of the Girvan 3 Day in just 9 weeks.
The final stage of the Girvan 3-Day has been won by Great Britain's Chris Newton, his second stage win of the race while the overall was a win, the first of the year, for John Tanner from the Life Repair Racing Team.
STAGE 4 RESULTS
1. Chris Newton GB 2'56' 4'
1. John Tanner LRG 9'17'46'
OVERALL PLACING KOM COMPETITION