Girvan 3-day (Premier Calendar)
A nail biting finish
With five previous race winners amongst the 85 riders taking the start of the 38th Girvan 3 Day Cycle Race, and Chris Newton fresh from the World Track Championships in Majorca keen to regain his Premier Calendar leadership following his victory in the Bikeline Two Day, the first stage over 62 miles promised to be a competitive affair.
It was a nervous stage characterised by several crashes in the peloton. Giancarlo Checchi (Rapha Condor RT) narrowly won the first Carrick Gazette King of the Mountains prime at Byne Hill after 2.7 miles. Despite plenty of activity at the front of the race, the field remained together through the long climb and subsequent descent of ‘The Screws’ with maximum points on the second classified climb going to 1999 Girvan winner Gordon McCauley (Plowman Craven).
It was another former Girvan winner from 17 years ago, Wayne Randall (Sportscover), who briefly went on the attack as the race reached the 25 mile point on the approach to Straiton, but he was swiftly reeled back in by the chasing peloton driven by Adam Broyad (GS Invicta). By the first Endura Hot Spot Sprint at Kirkmichael after 32 miles, Recycling.co.uk’s Ryan Bonser had fallen victim to another crash and was working hard to regain the field. Meanwhile at the front, McCauley was adding a win in the sprint competition to his KOM victory and with top placings at the remaining primes he would secure both Polka Dot and Green Jerseys at the first podium presentation of the race.
With Plowman Craven driving hard at the head of the race, no attack managed to gain an advantage of more than a hand full of metres until the 40 mile marker was reached just outside the village of Dailly. By the final hot spot, as the race returned briefly to Girvan, a seven man leading group had become established, featuring McCauley, James Millard (Plowman Craven), Simon Holt (Recycling Espoirs), Matt Cronshaw (Science in Sport), Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello RT), Gareth Hewitt (KFS Special Vehicles) and Ross Muir (Rapha Condor RT).
They were soon joined by Chris Newton (recycling.co.uk), Dean Downing (Rapha Condor RT), Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport) and Robin Sharman (KFS Special Vehicles). With another former winner John Tanner (Sportscover) also making the junction the twelve leaders slowly increased their advantage as the race covered road surfaces described by one race official as ‘exciting’.
With less than 10 miles to go, the lead stood at 14 seconds and five
miles later it had increased to 40 seconds. A front wheel puncture for
Muir was efficiently repaired and he swiftly regained the lead group.
As the leaders turned onto the finishing straight it was Newton who just
managed to outpace
Stage 1 Results
1. Chris Newton recycling.co.uk 2h 22m 33s
Stage 2 – Victory Park Criterium, 16.5 miles
Just over four hours after the completion of stage 1, the riders lined up again for the traditional Saturday evening circuit race around Victory Park in the centre of Girvan. They were flagged away by multi World and Olympic medal winner Chris Hoy, who had spent the afternoon entertaining the large group of youth riders entered for the inaugural Scottish Power Renewables Youth Circuit Race, contested on the same circuit.
A fast pace was established from the start and again it looked unlikely that any breaks would be allowed to get away. Despite a brief effort by the winner of the previous week’s Tour of the Reservoir Dean Downing (Rapha Condor RT), and intermediate sprints taken by race leader Newton and Tom Barras (Ashfield Merlin), it was a large bunch that contested the final sprint at the line.
Plowman Craven’s Tony Gibb launched an attack in the centre of the road and narrowly edged ahead of Wilkinson and Newton at the finish. On the podium, Chris Hoy presented the leaders jerseys with McCauley retaining both Green and Polka Dot and Newton holding on to yellow with a 7 second advantage over Wilkinson and Tanner a further second behind. Sunday sees the longest stage of the 2007 race with 108 miles of racing to be fought out following a first time start in the town of Newton Stewart.
Stage 2 Results
1. Tony Gibb Plowman Craven Evans Cycles RT 37m 52s
Overnight leader Chris Newton (recycling.co.uk) took a slender 7 second advantage over Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport) into the third – and longest - stage of the Girvan, with 2003 winner John Tanner (Sportscover) a further second behind in third place.
Although Newton Stewart has featured as a finish location on several occasions, this was the first time the race would start in the town. An enthusiastic crowd lined the main street to cheer the riders away from the ceremonial start, and they didn’t have long to wait to see them again as the peloton swept back into the main street after a short circuit to contest the first Endura Hot Spot Sprint of the day. Gordon McCauley (Plowman Craven) holder of the green jersey further increased his lead in the competition by taking first place.
With 16 miles covered, the second sprint in Wigtown saw McCauley fail to score with Giancarlo Checci (Rapha Condor RT) taking maximum points. However McCauley was soon to launch an attack in the company of Alex Higham (Bike & Run London) and Neil Jones (Team OANDS).
They were swiftly joined by four others: Jason Allen (Plowman Craven), Dave Collins (Science in Sport), Robin Sharman (KFS Special Vehicles) and Checchi. However the peloton were very active and soon two further chasing groups merged with the leaders to give a 21 man leading group with 20 miles gone. Newton had made the junction along with Wilkinson and Tanner, but the break was not destined to succeed as the main field bridged the gap as Creetown was reached at 29 miles.
McCauley was not content to give up so easily and soon forced a new move in the company of Graham Briggs (recycling.co.uk), Checci, Sharman, Richard Cartland (Team Corley) and David Clarke (Team OANDS). By the first Carrick Gazette King of the Mountains climb at Pibble Hill the group had an advantage in excess of 30 seconds with Checci taking the prime ahead of Polka Dot jersey McCauley.
Pursued by three opportunistic chasers, the leaders stretched their advantage to almost a minute. It was time for the GC contenders to make a move and Newton and Wilkinson were aided by Ashley Brown (Sportscover) and Tristan Barnes (Wills Wheels) in a serious effort to close the gap. Quickly sweeping up the three chasers they were joined in their efforts by Sharman, Roy Chamberlain (Team Corley), James Millard (Plowman Craven) and Richard Sykes-Popham (Glendene CC).
As the race crossed the Bengray Hill prime the 6 leaders still had more than 30 seconds over the 11 chasers with the main field now more than a minute behind. Significantly both Tanner, and winner of the previous weeks Tour of the Reservoir Dean Downing (Rapha Condor), had missed the moves.
Just over half distance and the junction was made between the leaders
and chasers as the peloton lost more time. An attack by Millard soon opened
a gap and he was joined by Scott Gamble (Ashfield CC) and Clarke. The
high pace shed several riders from the lead group and by the start of
the final KOM climb of the day at Dersalloh Hill – site of a proposed
new wind farm for main race sponsor Scottish Power Renewables –
the three leaders had only a 16 second lead. Now the big guns really did
fire and Wilkinson, Newton and McCauley caught and passed the leaders.
In the final 10 mile run in back to Girvan their advantage steadily increased
with the three working well
Entering the finish circuit, with the rest of the race fragmented over several miles, the three could afford to play a game of cat and mouse as they angled for the best position in the final sprint. With a 15 second time bonus for the first across the line, and Newton’s advantage over Wilkinson just 7 seconds, the leaders jersey hung in the balance.
Forced to lead out the sprint, Wilkinson launched a blistering attack in the left hand gutter. Unable to overhaul the SIS rider, Newton also lost out on second to a fast sprinting McCauley and with it the yellow jersey went to Wilkinson by the smallest of margins. To add to his second place, McCauley retained both the Points and King of the Mountains jerseys.
It has been a consistent Girvan for Wilkinson so far, improving his podium place on each stage. All that lies between him and overall victory is the final 72 mile stage. However with 5 classified climbs along the route – including the notorious ‘Nick O’ Balloch’, the long twisting ascent of the ‘The Screws’ and Hadyard Hill – where last year’s race split apart – he was under no illusions that it will be an easy task.
Stage 3 results
1. Ian Wilkinson, Science in Sport - Trek 4h 22m 45s
Overall Placings Following Stage 3:
The Girvan has seen some nail-bitingly close finishes in recent years and with just 3 seconds separating the yellow jersey of Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport) from former leader Chris Newton (recycling.co.uk) the 2007 race would be no exception.
Lying third at 16 seconds behind the leader was 1999 Girvan winner Gordon McCauley, riding for the Plowman Craven-Evans Cycles team. No one underestimated the threat that the strong New Zealander would pose, already the holder of both Points and King of the Mountains jerseys since stage 1.
The final day dawned damp and overcast, a contrast to the warm and sunny conditions of the previous three stages. With five classified climbs on the route, including the Nick O’Balloch – a cruel ascent of over two miles on narrow and twisting forest roads - and Hadyard Hill, a decisive point in the 2006 race, there were also three hot spot sprints to be contested. It was going to be a hard day in the saddle for the 74 riders who took the start.
McCauley started as he meant to go on by securing the first climb of the day at Byne Hill, and as the riders headed for Barr the service crews were kept busy with numerous punctures caused by the damp roads and difficult surfaces. On leaving the village, McCauley launched his first significant attack but was quickly brought back by the attentive peloton.
However it was a marker for things to come and when he kicked again on the narrow roads approaching ‘The Nick’ a gap was soon opened and the Plowman Craven man was joined on the lower slopes of the climb by David Clarke riding for the composite Team OANDS – himself no stranger to the roads of the Girvan having scored a second place on a stage of the 2003 race.
Working well together their lead had grown to 45 seconds by the summit and McCauley tightened his grip on the Carrick Gazette Polka Dot jersey, again taking maximum points on the line. The technical descent down to Rowantree Toll then the climb over Tairlaw saw visibility reduced to only a couple of metres with the low cloud and steady rain and almost inevitably there was a crash in the main field.
This presented an opportunity for Lee Davis (Pinarello RT) and Philip Brown (Velo Ecosse) to try an escape and they quickly established a gap, though the prospect of catching the leaders grew increasingly remote as they powered toward the first hot spot sprint in Straiton.
McCauley allowed Clarke to take maximum points at the prime, and also at the next sprint in Crosshill after 37.6 miles. By this time the leaders had more than 2½ minutes advantage over the main field which containing both Newton and Wilkinson, making McCauley the yellow jersey on the road and offering the prospect of one rider taking all three major classifications in the race.
With 41 miles gone, and the chasers now back in the peloton, McCauley and Clarke still had over two minutes lead as they began the climb of Hadyard Hill. But, just like in 2006, the peloton – with Newton’s recycling.co.uk in particular – began to lift the pace and by the prime line had cut almost a minute from the lead. Back into Barr and straight on to the next climb – ‘The Screws’ – the lead continued to come down with Newton himself driving at the front of the peloton.
The efforts paid off as McCauley and Clarke saw their lead reduced to just 40 seconds. McCauley had settled for second place at each of the prime points, content that he had sufficient points to retain both classifications at the end of the race.
As the race headed back towards Girvan for a final 15 mile loop it was Sportscover rider Mark Lovatt who put in a strong attack and this was the catalyst for others to go too, and by the final hot spot at Victory Park the leaders were almost caught. The frantic pace had fragmented the peloton and when McCauley and Clarke were finally reeled in at 57.6 miles just 11 riders remained in contention for the stage win. Significant amongst them were Newton, Wilinson, Lovatt, Robin Sharman (KFS Special Vehicles), Dean Downing (Rapha Condor RT), Graham Briggs (recycling.co.uk) and John Tanner (Sportscover).
But McCauley was not giving up without a fight and launched attack after attack as Byne Hill was tackled for the second time. Accompanied by Lee Davies he managed to gain a lead of 5 seconds but Newton again closed the gap with Lovatt continuing to work hard too. Inside 5 miles to go and the leading riders were all together again.
With the rain reduced to a slight drizzle and some brightness in the sky, the crowd awaiting the final sprint in Victory Park were considering the prospect of the race outcome being decided by time bonuses at the finish. However as the riders came in to view and the sprint began, it was winner of the previous week’s Tour of the Reservoir Dean Downing who got a gap and jubilantly crossed the line ahead of Briggs and Andy Roach (Pinarello RT) who finished 4 seconds behind.
Fourth and sixth places in the same time for Newton and Wilkinson respectively meant that their overall GC positions remained unchanged and with McCauley in the same group he retained third place overall.
So a look at the final General Classification might suggest that the decisive stage of the 2007 Girvan had been something of a non event – but nothing could be further from the truth. Wilkinson and his young SIS team had fought hard to defend the jersey and managed to hold off the strength of Newton and the recycling team. A superb, aggressive ride by McCauley retained his third place overall and secured for him both the Endura Sprints jersey and Carrick Gazette King of the Mountains jersey.
The team GC award went to Pinarello RT whilst the composite Team OANDS took the club team prize. Seventeen years after his win in the Girvan, Wayne Randle (Sportscover) finished as best placed 2nd Category rider, whilst Dafydd Dylan (KFS Special Vehicles) took the Pete Longbottom memorial Under 23 prize.
Speaking on the podium after his victory, Ian Wilkinson admitted that he had a particular affection for the Girvan and was delighted to have come out winner to add to his third place in the seasons opening Premier Calendar event, the Bikeline Two Day in North Wales.
With another superb organisational job from Ian Sinclair and his team, and the continuing support of main sponsors Scottish Power Renewables the 38th edition of the Girvan enhanced it’s reputation as arguably the finest stage race on the UK racing calendar.
Stage 4 results
1. Dean Downing Rapha Condor RT E 3:10:35
Final Overall Classification
1 Ian Wilkinson Science in Sport E 10:33:26