BERWICK WHEELERS CYCLING CLUB
10th Sep by Andrew Leigh (Photos: Andrew & Alec)
Late summer’s arrival ushers in a change of pace for the domestic cycling season, and of incline! For riders across the nation, weekly preparation becomes less about studying wind speed and more about grimacing at gradients, as flat time trials give way to the upward trajectory of the hill climb.
At Berwick Wheelers, a refresh of the club calendar meant this year’s menu of hills had somewhat of a sense of new beginnings. Coastal behemoth Burnmouth Brae retained its pride of place as the season ending lung-buster, but the preceding weeks saw members tested on what for many was less familiar terrain.
With ongoing road works rendering the now traditional Duns to Grantshouse route unsuitable for use, an alternative setting was needed for the first of the club’s trio of hill centric timed efforts. As such the decision was made to venture into north Northumberland for a new 10 mile course, visiting the villages of Duddo and Etal in what is a segment of the club’s Reivers Road Race route. Bookended by the immediate sharp ascent of Allerdean Hill, and the long finishing two mile drag up Ford Bank, the rolling nature of the roads presented a varied test of talents, with technical bike handling and descending confidence as paramount as pure climbing ability. A rider with a rounded skill set was sure to prevail and it was Chris Cowe who came up with the goods, crossing the line in 29.06 to take the spoils. Either side of the 30 minute mark, Andrew Waring (29.30) and Michael Cornish (30.39), claimed second and third, with George Johnston (31.24) and Joyce Mark (32.32) rounding out those who finished within five minutes of the victor. Michelle Highfield (34.12), Tracy Ian Forsyth (35.09), Benjamin Johnston (36.46), David Stott (37.23) Victoria Curry (38.10) and Mark Lane (38.45) completed the field, and with the new course receiving favourable feedback from the competitors it could potentially become a staple of future seasons.
Duns was to play host to the next instalment of climbing action, with the ascent of Hardens Hill returning to competitive use for the club following a lengthy absence, all be it with a slightly altered start and finishing point. For some members, including Forsyth and Stott, this was their first experience of the gateway to the Lammermuir’s climb, and although its changing gradients never feel insurmountable, the little respite the slope offers meant that knowledge of how to pace an effort would prove to be a distinct advantage. Perhaps unsurprisingly then it was Andy Waring who secured the quickest time of the night on what is his home terrain. Sitting stock still and spinning serenely up the steepest sections, he clocked a blistering time of 9.42, beating the equally rapid and rock like Harry Armstrong by a meagre 11 seconds. Keeping both men honest, George Johnston came in third just 9 seconds further adrift, whilst son Benjamin put in a fantastic performance to stop the clock at 11.38, just shy of Andrew Dickson and David Cairns at 11.23 and 11.28 respectively. Bobbing out of the saddle Michelle Highfield recorded a time of 12.07, whilst Forsyth and Stott performed admirably with 12.21 and 13.35 to their names and another climb conquered to add to their collection.
If the slopes of Hardens Hill were at least occasionally forgiving, then those waiting at Burnmouth were anything but. Thankfully the promise of freshly grilled burgers on arrival at the top was incentive enough for brave members to engage their most forgiving gear and grapple with the eye popping gradients. As if the severity of the incline wasn't test enough, matters were further complicated by rain throughout the day, which rendered the climb greasy and made rising from the saddle a lottery, with back wheel traction far from guaranteed. None of this seemed to bother Waring however, who went off first and laid down a gauntlet time of 2 minutes 26 seconds that seemed set to be extremely difficult to topple. So it very nearly proved, but one man was up to the task, with George Johnston gritting his teeth and accelerating up the vicious final ramp to snatch victory by just two seconds! Eight seconds in deficit of the winner Chris Cowe was to claim third, whilst two further riders were to haul themselves upwards in under three minutes, with Tim Caine clocking 2.45, and young Benjamin Johnston showing he's inherited climbing prowess by reaching the line in 2 minutes 59. Burnmouth debutants Steve Dick and David Stott were undaunted by the task with 3.03 and 3.21 to their
names, whilst long standing Wheelers Neil Cruickshanks and Andrew Beeke were separated by just a solitary second, the former hitting 3.11 to Beeke's 3.12. Ian Forsyth (3.31) and Michelle Highfield (3.37) rounded of their time trial season's with solid rides, whilst tackling the challange on the knobbly tyres of his cycle cross bikes, Jim Blythe closed off the timing sheet, finishing in 3.57. Gruelling as ever the Brae left an imprint that ensured, for most riders, twelve months will have to pass before they contemplate another encounter with its brutal angles.
Whilst some of the riders still have races on their agenda, the rest of the club will now start to turn their attention to next season, and if 2018 can mirror the positive successes of this year then the next twelve months promises to be an exciting time for Berwick Wheelers.
5th Sep by Andrew Leigh (Photo: Sophie Charles?)
'Eager to capitalise on the steadily ebbing evenings, August is a busy period for the cycling fraternity. Keen to reap the dividends of the extra training hours the years longest days have provided, the final summer month is a time for riders to target races and tie up trophies. In this respect the members of Berwick Wheelers are no different, and one particular event awaited their attention, the conclusion of the club’s hotly contested 10 mile time trial league.
After six rounds Harry Armstrong had manoeuvred himself into a strong position atop the points table, but his
absence in week seven provided the opportunity for some of his close competitors to mount a challenge for the prime spot, and two of the clubs sharply improving riders were to do just that. Personal bests for David Cairns (25.27) and Michael Cornish (24.43) were to garner 10 and 9 points respectively, slashing Armstrong’s lead ahead of the final contest. For Cornish that time was good enough to secure him the second quickest effort of the night, trailing only Chris Cowe who clocked 23.24 to continue his consistent form across the season. Third was to be Robert Moscrop in 25 minutes dead, whilst Steve Dick was again to register a new fastest time stopping the watches at 27.38. Amongst the ladies Michelle Highfield and Joyce Mark were separated by a mere 8 seconds, with Highfield’s 26.12 edging ahead, whilst Rachel Crowe continued her upward curve with a time of 31.24. Furthermore the night saw a debut at the discipline for Claire Duff, who recorded 38.14 providing a good base for her future rides over the distance.
A fortnight later the riders assembled at Paxton once more for round seven, and the absence of Michael Cornish’s name on the start sheet meant that only extreme misfortune was likely to deny Harry Armstrong victory. Thankfully the fickle finger of fate had no intention of intervention and, putting the rubber stamp on his success, Armstrong sped to the fastest time of the night, 22.16, to grab 8 points and clinch his well deserved crown. The 23 minute barrier was to be breached twice more across the evening, with Dominic Blythe taking the 10 points on offer when he came home in 22.53, just pipping Andrew Waring into third (22.58). Joyce Mark and Michelle Highfield flipped roles from the previous round, with the former coming out on top on this occasion by an equally slender 10 seconds, whilst, on the personal best front, Rachel Crowe (30.22) and Tracy Tyson (36.18) lowered their marks once more, as did junior Benjamin Johnston with an excellent 28.28 to take forth to next year. Across the league season great leaps forward have been made my numerous riders which bodes well for the competiveness when next April rolls around. Before that however attention turns to the hills as the remaining weeks of the season see battle with some fierce local slopes commence.
Away from the art of striving against the clock, three Berwick Wheelers got a taste of what may lie in wait for them this winter, as they headed over to Tweedbank to take part in the inaugural Tweed Cross Cyclo-cross race. For a sport usually defined by biting temperatures and a proliferation of mud, it was uncharacteristically sunny and dry conditions that awaited the riders at the start line, but with plenty of steep ramps and technical wooded sections to be tackled this was still to be a significant test. As it was all three representatives acquitted themselves admirably. A heavily bandaged Darren Lindsay, nursing significant damage from a high speed crash at the David Campbell Memorial Road Race just seven days previously, showed his power hadn’t been impaired as he drove on robustly through the long flatter straights. For Tim Caine it was his stamina that proved the key, looking stronger as the race went on and mopping up riders who were paying for their early exertions, whilst debutant Jim Blythe bounced back from mechanical issues to catch and engage in action with those who had gained from his adversity. With appetites wetted each will be looking to further their cyclo-cross adventure when the season begins in earnest in late autumn.
On the same afternoon Michelle Highfield was to be found testing her skills on the more familiar medium of tarmac, once again heading south, this time to York, the area of her racing debut a little over one year previous. The York Cycleworks Woman’s Road race was to be Highfield’s second foray into competition of the month, having lined up at the Pedal Power Road Race in West Calder a fortnight before. In both cases the routes were to be deceptively taxing with frequent inclines to be negotiated but, approaching them with gusto, Michelle’s enthusiasm was to reap dividends. Once again pitted against the very best riders the area has to offer, the Wheelers representative came an excellent 16th in the West Lothian event, which also made her the highest finisher in her licence category, whilst at York a personal race average of over 19 miles per hour for the two hour duration shows just how much speed and strength Highfield has gained in her short racing career. Across a summer of regular competition Michelle’s determination and enjoyment for the task has been an inspiration for many.'
5th Aug by Andrew Leigh
The phrase 'Doing The Double' has percolated through much of the discussion around competitive cycling in 2017, with the sports foremost rivals both attempting the arduous - and seldom achieved - task of winning two Grand tours in a single year. Nairo Quintana was to fumble his mission before he'd even departed Italy, but Chris Froome will shortly head to Spain, hoping the top of the podium in Madrid feels as good as the one he's frequented in Paris. Closer to home however the double is old news, at Berwick Wheelers this week it was a Treble that was on the agenda!
Having previously secured victory in the club's 10 and 15 mile Time Trial Championships, Harry Armstrong arrived as the red hot favourite to add the 25 mile version to his growing collection of season's silverware. If his dominant displays throughout recent weeks weren't already enough to guarantee success, the absence of some of his potential closest challengers appeared to pave the way for a straight forward night for Armstrong, but conditions were to ensure that no easy task awaited any of the riders as they rolled off the line. Though late afternoon showers had subsided by the 7pm start time, what greeted the competitors instead was the companionship of a sapping headwind all the way out towards Greenlaw, with the prospect of being blown back to the finish the only motivating consolation. To that end Armstrong's ability to push a 55 tooth chainring was to play to his advantage further, and it was little surprise when, despite having departed last, he was the first rider to appear back on the horizon surging across the line in to secure a very well deserved victory. After opining on the difficulty of the wind, the champion found time to offer praise for the abilities of the riders he'd passed en route, the next of whom home was the rangy frame of Daren Lindsay, recording the second best time of the night to attain a podium spot and demonstrate again his prowess over longer distances. Rounding out the men's top three was to be David Cairns, rich reward for a season in which he has made significant improvements on a consistent basis, and surely a confidence fillip for what he can achieve in future at the club.
With the men's top trio wrapped up, attention turned to the ladies, and it was to be Joyce Mark who was to add the 25 mile title to her 15 mile victory a couple of weeks previous, crowning a red letter seven days in which she also gained qualification for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in September. Having been passed on course Michelle Highfield knew she would not be adding to her 10 mile success, but still did more than enough to come home in second and continue her hugely encouraging year. Perhaps the most inspiring story of the evening however was that of Rachel Crowe, who despite only trying time trialing for the first time at the club's 'Ride Like A Girl' event three weeks ago, didn't flinch at the prospect of going flat out for 25 miles and clocked a hugely impressive time for a novice to land herself that third podium place, and guarantee intrigue as to what could be achieved once she becomes fully familiar with the nuances of the discipline.
Indeed the positive implications of the 'Ride Like A Girl' were felt clearly the week before, when the clubs sixth 10 Mile league night of the season attracted seven ladies to the start line, three of whom - the aforementioned Rachel Crowe, Brenda Dixon and Tracy Tyson - were debuting at the distance after trying their hand at 5 miles the Wednesday previous. All three newcomers where to put in suitably respectable performances, and they weren't the only ladies to flourish on the night, with Victoria Curry recording a new personal best of 28.14 to continue her improvement in her first year with the club. The biggest step forward of the evening was to come from junior rider Benjamin Johnston who slashed a large chunk of time off his previous record, coming home in 28.56 and garnering 10 points towards the league table. Personal bests for David Cairns (25.55) and Andrew Dickson (23.52) saw them gain 9 and 8 points respectively, whilst Steve Dick (27.51) Darren Lindsay (23.30) and Michael Cornish (24.49) were also to score points with new fastest rides. The final personal best of the evening was to go to Mark Lane, hitting 28.52 and rounding off another week of tumbling times. With two league nights left, the first of which is this coming Thursday, the final push for victory is now on; Will Armstrong make it a quadruple or can someone else take home the trophy, the month ahead will reveal all.
24th July by Andrew Leigh
Nothing sits deeper in the DNA of Cycling in Britain, than the devotion to Time Trialing. Whilst Europe may have been blessed with a plentiful bounty of shoulder to shoulder road competition, for much of its long maturation the combative action on these shores relied almost solely on a diet of iron willed individual battles against the clock. In a progressive week for Berwick Wheelers therefore, it's wholly fitting that at the heart of events they retained the UK's scene's most traditional racing form.
Wednesday the 19th of July saw the club host it's primary 'Ride Like A Girl' night, an initiative aimed at encouraging the burgeoning number of female riders in the locale to dip their toe into the Time Trialing aspect of the sport, and sample a taste of the wider cycling club communal experience. On a hugely positive night filled with exuberance, seventeen ladies embraced the opportunity and tackled the 5 mile effort with gusto.
The Wheelers regular female contingent were on hand with Jami Blythe, Joyce Mark, Michelle Highfield and Gill Caine all present to offer guidance, inspiration, or quell nerves as needed, whilst the competitors, including one girl of just ten, enjoyed the full 'Thursday night' treatment thanks to Mark jones and Alan... taking care of the timing; Malcolm Wright's trusty camera skills capturing their movements; Belhaven Bikes providing maintenance help, and a number of other members on course to marshall and offer deserved encouragement. With a second such night proposed for later in the year, and the inaugural Reivers Women's Road Race looming in September, the club is making a concerted effort to provide opportunities for females to progress in to the competitive aspects of the sport, and as a launch event there was great delight at how it was supported by members and entrants alike.
It is hoped that some of the ladies will be eager to return and test their ability over longer distances in the coming weeks, and with that being the case they may in future find themselves competing in the clubs championship nights, just as some 13 riders had done the week previous. With the ten mile version ticked off at at the start of the month, on this occasion the riders were to push themselves five miles further in pursuit of overall or personal success, and for Harry Armstrong that meant an opportunity to potentially double up on his trophy count. Armstrong wasn't necessarily guaranteed to have it his own way however, and when penultimate rider Dom Blythe blasted home in a time of 34.30, taking a sizeable 41 seconds off his personal best, he could have been entitled for feeling that was a mark worthy of victory. Alas he already knew it was not to be, as Armstrong, who departed last on the night, came over the finish line in advance of Blythe, having passed his closest competitor on course to complete the 15 miles in a great time of 32.54 and seal another fine victory. Third spot on the podium was to be claimed by Andrew Dickson with an effort of 36.12, keeping at bay the 'flying fixie' that is George Johnston who powered his sole gear home in 37.36. David Cairns dipped under the forty minute barrier clocking 39.13, while Brian Cowe came in just the other side of that mark at 40.18. Jim Blythe matched up to his pre start prediction hovering just 13 seconds over 42 minutes, whilst Steve Dick was little more than a minute back at 43.38, and good friends Mark Lane and David Stott shared an unintended but doubtless enjoyed tight battle, managing to come home within 12 seconds of each others time, hitting 45.11 and 45.23 respectively, ensuring that bragging rights were all but shared.
Amongst the ladies the hierarchy from the week previous was to be reversed as this time it was Joyce Mark who was to triumph in yet another close contest. Victoria Curry continued her development in her first season with the club, recording 44.38 for third spot on the podium but the pressing question was who would stand beside her occupying the top step. Michelle Highfield did all she could to ensure that rider would be her, writing yet another personal best in an extraordinary spell, crossing the line in 39.39, but Joyce Mark was not to be denied. refusing to be put off by some confusion at the start and racing out in back in a time of 39.03 to retain her title by some 36 seconds, and illustrating that her hunger for delivering her best is as strong as ever.
Highfield however is equally driven in spirit, and she put herself to the test again last Sunday, returning to Hetton-Le-Hole for number three in Prima Team Racing's Summer Series of crit competition. Now a year into her racing education, these contests continue to be a story of learning and amelioration for Michelle. A greatly improved ability to accelerate from the start line paid dividends one again, ensuring the opportunity to settle into the body of the bunch for much of the ensuing action. Distanced as the pace and attacks ramped up in the latter stages she was none the less satisfied to finish on the same lap as the leaders and demonstrate the consolidation of her increased race craft and strength.
This Thursday the club holds it's sixth ten mile league night, with points up for grabs in the fight for the title it should be a fast and fun evening.
11th July by Andrew Leigh
With the cream of the professional crop now engaged in battle on the rue's and col's of France, the cycling season has arrived at its annual pinnacle. For pedal lovers worldwide eyes are fixed firmly on Normandy and Nice, Aquitane and Alsace, as they digest daily the evolving story of who will secure the sports most coveted prize, the famous yellow jersey. On a domestic level the desire to achieve individual prestige is no less significant, and for the members of Berwick Wheelers this month provides the opportunity for each to attain their own slice of success, with the commencement of the club's Championship nights.
Thursday past saw the first such event of the year, the 10 mile Time Trial, and If 'La Grande Boucle' (that's 'the big loop' to you and I) is a drawn out whittling down to glory, then Championships night couldn't be more different by comparison, with the fastest times there and then on the evening securing the spoils. With that in
mind a field of fourteen riders rolled up to Paxton, hoping that a combination of some good fortune, and the form they'd built in preceding weeks, would see them grab a spot on the podium and thus return back home with some silverware in hand. As it was, the battle for supremacy proved to be an intriguing affair, with both the Men's and Women's title being decided by relatively slender margins.
For the ladies, on a still but muggy night not necessarily conducive to fast times, long standing champion Joyce Mark showed her continued class, setting a highly competitive time of 26.06. Alas, on this occasion her efforts came up just short of obtaining another title, as Michelle Highfield pulled out an excellent new personal best of 25.49, to pip Joyce by 17 seconds and take the spoils, reaping the dividends of her consistent racing calendar so far this summer. There was also deserved reward for her dedication for Jami Blythe, who took the final podium spot, and with the club having launched it's 'Ride like A Girl' initiative this week, it's hoped the depth and strength of the ladies field will only improve further in the weeks and months to come.
Amongst the men it was Harry Armstrong who lined up as the man to beat, having had victory locked down in the discipline for much of the season to date. Even for those unlikely to reach the top of the timing sheets however, there were individual battles to be won and several riders excelled in this regard. George Johnson continued his weekly trend of shaving time off his personal best, riding a fixed gear to a time of 25.07, and similarly Michael Cornish again took a step forward clocking 25.03; both men will be targeting breaking the 25 minute barrier in the near future. Whilst Rob Moscrop continued to show his significant potential, recording 24.44 on a standard road bike, it was to be Andy Waring and Chris Cowe who contested the third step on the podium, with the latter taking it by 25 seconds in a time of 23.21. That left two men in the fight for first place, and Dom Blythe could do little more than he did, delivering a new personal best of 22.41 to keep Harry Armstrong honest. It was not to be for Dom however, as Armstrong, the nights first man off had set a time of 22.12 to record victory by 29 seconds and continue his run of success. There was some consolation for Blythe, with his ride secured him 10 points in the season long league format, a competition Armstrong also leads but with Moscrop and Cornish hot on his heels as it reaches its denouement.
This week see's the Championship nights continue, with the 15 mile version up for grabs. Blythe and Waring will be hopeful that the training gains obtained from their intensive week in the Alps completing the Marmotte Grand Fondo will push them into contention for the top spot, whilst Joyce Mark and Michelle Highfield will continue to push each other in an enthralling battle of well matched abilities. Contest isn't only reserved for the continent, Vive La Wheelers!
26th June by Andrew Leigh
Time-Trialing and technology are intrinsic bedfellows. Super streamlined frames, custom fitted kit, power meters; whatever fresh advancement that can be utilised in pursuit of shaving off those precious few extra seconds will be done so. For Berwick Wheelers though the spirit of innovation doesn’t halt there and this past week saw a fledgling foray into the world of live online broadcasting – more on that to follow!
Faced with their first 25 mile time trial of the season, there was a palpable sense of relief amongst the competitors as they gathered in Paxton on Thursday and discovered that sunny skies and a negligible breeze lay in wait for the evening ahead. With a number of ten mile outings now under their belts, the clubs riders are well established back into the rhythm of racing against the clock, but the significant increase in distance meant pacing their effort was going to be imperative if the riders were to record the fast times the conditions potentially offered.
Harry Armstrong was the initial rider to depart, surging away from the line in pursuit of the holy- grail, a sub sixty minute finish. If that was his priority, he was first to achieve another distinction; on reaching the turn to start the homeward leg he became the first rider of the evening to be filmed in 360 degree action, as race marshal Malcolm Wright recorded and broadcast back online the competitors from the half way mark, a fun addition to the nights action that will hopefully be explored further in the future. An expertly executed flip of direction was to set Armstrong up for a speedy dash back and he crossed the finish in 57.53 to record a time that would not be bettered on the night. He was not however alone in ducking under the hour as Andrew Waring, resplendent in bright orange, confirmed his readiness for his imminent trip to the Alps by securing second place with an impressive 59.36. Those two riders could easily have been joined by two more in the sub sixty club, with both Darren Lindsay and Chris Cowe setting significant new personal bests to slip just the wrong side of the hour. The former, perhaps ruing a slow departure from the line, came home in 1 hour 13 seconds, whilst the latter was a mere 3 seconds adrift of Darren’s time.
For Dom Blythe it was a case of what might have been, given his time of 1 hour 1 minute 16 looks particularly noteworthy in the context of being hampered by injury for the closing miles, whilst Andrew Dickson showed his predilection for longer efforts in managing 1 hour 2 minutes and 13 seconds. Continuing the positive trend, George Johnston crept 25 seconds inside his stated target of 65 minutes, whilst Michael Cornish showed little sign of weary legs from his weekend triathlon exploits, finishing just further back at 1hr 05.25. David Cairns (1hr 7.21) and Michelle Highfield (1 hr 7.38) can both be delighted with their performance, Michelle taking close to five minutes off her previous best mark, whilst Ian Forsyth (1hr 8.35) and Jim Blythe (1 hr 13.08) rounded out what was a night of quick riding right across the board.
If time trialling is the art of consistent speed, then it was explosive bursts of pace that were the order of the day earlier in the week, when Dom Blythe dropped in by the Lancashire Coast to take part in the latest Salt Ayre Circuit Race. Lining up against new faces, the category 2/3/4 race proved to be a tale of frequent attacks and significantly high power outputs, with the Wheelers representative acquitting himself well to finish 16th overall, placing Dom third in his category. With the Marmotte Gran Fondo in France now beckoning for Dom in the coming days, he’ll be hoping the training gains accrued from tackling the imposing chain of Tour De France mountain’s can reap dividends throughout the second half of the summer season.
The final round of The Border Trophy took place at Kelso last Monday and with an strong conclusion expected we’ll have details of how things shaped up for you in next week’s report.
19th June by Andrew Leigh
‘Why does it always rain on me?’ Fran Healy once lucratively lamented; a tune the assembled Berwick Wheelers contingent could be forgiven for whistling aggressively last Thursday night, as they splashed their way through puddles in pursuit of points at the clubs fourth 10 mile Time Trial league night of the season. Inclement weather leading to flooding on the course had forced the cancellation of any activity seven days previous, and a late afternoon deluge over the ‘Merse’ briefly threatened to usher in an identical scenario one week on. Thankfully though it was to be sunshine and quickly drying roads that greeted the twenty one competitors as they congregated at Paxton village hall for their pre-race preparation. If mother nature was
feeling benevolent in allowing the action to precede then she still had some mischief in mind, and no sooner had the bulk of the attendees begun their ride, when the heavens opened for a series of sharp showers that made sure to test temperament and bike handling talent.
None made it through the challenge better than Harry Armstrong, who continued his run of topping the timing sheet by coming home in a time of 22 minutes and 9 seconds. Chris Cowe secured another strong second place, finishing 59 seconds shy of the top mark, whilst third place was to go to Andy Waring, who continued his return to fitness by clocking 23.24. The ten points for the night were scooped up by Darren Lindsay, who recorded a new personal best of 23.38 to finish one spot outside the podium places, and more personal bests followed hot on his tail, with Andrew Dickson and Rob Moscrop separated by just four seconds – the former crossing the line in 24.13, the latter 24.17. No less than six more riders were to improve their individual course records across the evening, with Michelle Highfield hitting 26.09 to finish first amongst the ladies, seven seconds ahead of Joyce Mark. Ian Forsyth was to match Michelle’s time, whilst Michael Cornish (25.04), George Johnston (25.39), Garry Henderson (27.26) and Victoria Curry (29.16) can all be suitably satisfied with their numerical improvement.
For Victoria in particular, it has been a memorable few days, as the Sunday previous she made her competitive debut for the Wheelers, joining Michelle and Andrew Dickson in heading to the village of Embleton to take place in Alnwick Cycling Club’s open entry 13 mile Time Trial. In conditions that were again unfavourable the riders were tasked with tackling a route that contained a number of tricky turns. For Michelle that scenario may previously have appeared somewhat daunting, but such has been her improvement in skill and confidence over the last year that she navigated the course in a time of 35.13, to finish second fastest women on the day and earn herself her second podium presentation of a fruitful season. Victoria was the eighth female rider home in a very credible 42.02 and Andrew just missed out on a top 20 placing overall registering 34 minutes dead.
Buoyed by the belief from that outing, Michelle continued her mixed diet of Road, TT and Circuit racing by travelling back down to Hetton-Le-Hole last weekend for the second round of Prima Team Racing’s Summer Series. Again faced with a small but strong all categories field, the ‘Allanton Ace’ this time managed to get off the line quickly and consolidated that benefit throughout the duration of the race to ultimately cross the line in an excellent sixth place, a result she can be rightly pleased with.
With a number of club members competing in Gala at the third round of the Border Trophy last Wednesday we hope to be able to bring you details of their efforts in our next report once the results have been released.
5th June by Andrew Leigh, (photo by Alex Aitchison)
Aero helmets abounded and the hum of disc wheels punctured the air at Hutton last Thursday night as Berwick played host to the second round of the 2017 Border Trophy.
Having been blessed with fast conditions in the opening event at Hawick, a wholly different proposition awaited the gaggle of riders this time out, as raindrops pattered on the road persistently, making for slippery surfaces and ensuring circumspect cornering was the order of the day. None the less, a healthy 49 riders signed on the start sheet eager to represent their clubs in the inter-town competition and despite the precipitation and unfavourable grip the action was still to be fiercely contested.
The spoils of fastest time for the night were to go the way of Liam Beaty of Hawick CC, registering a blistering time of 21 minutes 27 seconds, a hugely impressive 33 second’s clear of second place Harry Armstrong of Berwick Wheelers. Indeed with two further teammates placing in the top four alongside Beaty, Hawick laid the groundwork for securing triumph on the night, their leading eight riders notching a cumulative time of 3 hours 10 minutes and 22 seconds. The result was not a foregone conclusion however, as the host club matched up well to push them close with an aggregate time of 3.12.30, whilst hot on their heels, Kelso came up just 38 seconds further shy, ensuring a tight tustle at the top. Though victory narrowly alluded them Berwick can draw significant pride from the turn out of the club’s membership on the night, with fourteen riders donning the blue and yellow and putting in a combined performance that did themselves, the volunteers and organisers rightly proud. One man with particular reason to feel gratification was Andrew Waring who put in an astonishing effort to stop the clocks in a time of 23.17 a mere five weeks after a crash in Mallorca saw him break a bone in his upper leg. With a depth of fortitude few are able to fathom it was a remarkable performance in what has been a rapid recovery testament to his drive.
The same stretches of tarmac were the staging ground for more competition the preceding Thursday as the third ten-mile league night of the Wheelers season took place. Premonistic of his subsequent Border Trophy form, it was Harry Armstrong who clocked the quickest time, coming home in 21.53, whilst Chris Cowe continued to hover at the top end of results sheet with a 22.46. Rob Moscrop yet again gained a personal best hitting 24.34, and for Michael Cornish a new strongest effort of 25.23 enabled him to scoop nine points in the handicap system. The recent theme of continued improvement wasn’t to stop there as George Johnston (26.02), David Cairns (27.01), Garry Henderson (28.33), Mark Lane (29.14), Steve Dick (29.08) and Paul Graham (29.42) were all able to knock time off their previous records, reaping the benefit of regular commitment to the discipline and ensuring plenty of happy faces at the close of proceedings
Another rider who can be happy with his efforts is Dom Blythe, who felt the lure of the circuit on Sunday and headed down to Prissick to get some racing pace back in to his legs. Having been stymied by a mechanical before reaching the start line at Croft a few weeks previous, no such misfortune befell Blythe this time and he was able to take the battle to the amassed cat 3 and 4 field. Despite not having competed since January, Dom showed surprisingly little rust and was able to put pressure on the rest of the group, setting the pace on the front in the closing laps before still finding enough energy to come in just outside the top 10 in the closing sprint. An encouraging return to action and one that suggests much promise lies ahead.
22nd May by Jami Blyth & Andrew Leigh, (photo by Andrew Leigh)
This week's press report is a triple whammy. Sportive ventures, 'TT PB week' and our own article published in Cycling World (thanks to those who sent photos to submit for this)
The time of the year for big miles has arrived, and as such our members are now stuffing their kitbags to the brim, stocking up on ever more intriguingly flavoured gels, and pondering just how to squeeze three bikes into the back of a mini – yes its sportive season!
Last weekend there were Wheelers dotted far and wide flying our flag, so here is a summery on what some of you have been getting up too.
The prize for venturing furthest afield goes to Stephen Jones and Ian Forsyth and their partners Jo and Tracy,
who took themselves down the east coast to Norfolk, to take part in the ‘Boudicia Sportive’ - an event that pitches itself as ‘more than just signs and banana’s’. None the less we expect the bunched fruit might have come in handy along the way, as Ian and Stephen covered a whopping 180km’s over terrain that belied Norfolk’s reputation of being entirely flat. For their part Jo and Tracy put in an equally impressive shift, tackling the 100km route, a great achievement and one to build on. Chapeau to all of you.
From Banana’s to cake....well Bakewell at least, as Nigel Carrick swapped his slicks for knobbly tyres on the on/off-road ‘Peak Pioneer Adventure Cyclocross’ in Derbyshire. A true test of bike handling skills, this was the first of four in the aptly named series which takes riders away from the tarmac and, forces them to become familiar with the more remote challenges of our less forgiving natural ground. After 115km, it was the perfect taster for Nigel to wet his appetite for more adventures ahead.
In another nearby set of Dales one more of our riders was setting to work, as Harry Armstrong embarked on ‘The Struggle’ sportive, arguably one of the hardest mass participation events going! Taking in 108 miles and nearly 10’000 feet of climbing, this one is not for the faint hearted with some savage gradients to be tackled on famous climbs such as the Cote de Grosmont, Glaisdale Horror (clues in the name!), and the 30% slopes of the legendary/infamous (delete as appropriate!) Rosedale Chimney, a climb rated in ‘100 Greatest Cycling climbs’ as a 10/10 for difficulty. After nearly seven hours in the saddle, Harry can be delighted with his effort, though his legs might be feeling a little tight for a few days!
Finally, Garry Henderson was one of many cyclists flocking to pretty Pitlochry to embark on the Etape Caledonia, a firm favourite in the sportive calendar. Refusing to be daunted by the might of hills such as Schiehallion (or the battle just to pronounce it!), Garry found the rhythm of his pedals and, despite some reliably variable Scottish weather, completed the forest lined 81 mile route with a deserved sense of relief and achievement.
In competitive and social events this weekend our Wheelers family have covered over 600 miles, the equivalent of a trip to the Midlands and back, with a few more hills in between. Well done to you all, and if any of our others members are tackling Sportive’s in the weeks and months ahead why not get in touch and let us know how you got on. Happy pedalling!
Mimicking the evocative Sesame Street sign off, it was a case of ‘this week’s show is brought to you by the letters P and B’ last Thursday night, as a host of Berwick Wheelers clocked new personal bests at the clubs 2nd league night of the season, a 10 mile Time Trial. Cloud may have lurked overhead, but a pleasant temperature and minimal wind laid out favourable conditions for fast performance, and the competitors wasted little time in turning that potential to reality, as first man off Harry Armstrong roared back home in a time of 22.11 to set a mark that was not to be bettered by any of the eighteen riders who followed. Indeed, as if to clarify that the environmental balance remained optimal throughout, it was penultimate rider of the night Chris Cowe who came closest to reaching Armstrong’s effort, clocking up a time of 22.44, and in the process shaving just shy of three quarters of a minute off his previous fastest ride. Not to be left out of the pace party, Gary Smith was also to deliver a new personal high, hitting 25.41, and in doing so landing himself in a highly credible third on the evening.
On a night of widespread excellence, what took place in between the podium battle was just as noteworthy, with a serious of impressive efforts by an ever-improving band of riders who have brought new depth to the club. There was particular cause for celebration amongst the Johnston household, as youngsters Benjamin (31.30), and Samuel (30.36), matched dad George (26.28) in ensuring a trio of fresh top times for the family. The biggest leap forward of the evening was taken by Steve Dick who put in a remarkable performance, taking over three minutes of his previous strongest ride to dip under thirty minutes for the first time, freezing the stopwatch at 29.16. Indeed five more of the clubs male contingent were to record new personal bests on the night, with Mark Lane (30.17), David Stott (28.47), Mark Birkett (28.44), David Cairns (27.05) and Michael Cornish (26.04) ensuring it really was a red letter evening amongst the men.
The Wheelers ladies were not to be outdone however. Joyce Mark maintained her usual consistent quality with a winning time of 26.06 but she was to be pushed closer than ever by the rapidly growing in stature Michelle Highfield, who crossed the line just 11 seconds adrift of Joyce’s time, setting a personal best of 26.17 and ensuring that the battle for top spot could well be one to watch over the remainder of the season.
One man absent from Thursday night’s action was Andrew Dickson, but his time trial bike was not to remain idle for long, as on Saturday he took to the roads of Cramlington to pit his wits against some of the north’s best riders in the discipline. Though the 10 mile distance may have been significantly shorter than that which Dickson faced last week at Rothbury, unwelcoming wet weather, and a series of roundabouts to be negotiated, made for no less of a challenge, with concentration paramount. Unperturbed however, Andrew attacked the course with gusto, knocking 8 seconds off his quickest time, crossing the line in 22.46, to place a very good 27th out of the 67 riders who braved the elements.
South seemed to be the direction to travel for stretching racing legs, as on Sunday Michelle Highfield was in action again, this time taking part in round one of Prima Team Racing’s Summer Series at the Hetton Lyons Country Park circuit. Tasked again with facing up against riders from all categories of ladies racing - including teams such as Edco Continental and Team 22 WRT who cross the sea regularly to compete on European roads - Michelle acquitted herself well, being distanced by the rapid start, but tagging on to the back of the bunch later in the race and staying with them to the end to gain valuable experience of the speeds and movements required at that level.
A successful week across the club and one that promises much for the forthcoming months.
15th May by Andrew Leigh
Success breeds success, so the popular coaching maxim goes, and for Berwick Wheelers the opening weeks of May have seen their members stepping forward to make true on the mantra.
After Michelle Highfield landed herself a podium ceremony at the Sharon Argue Memorial Road Race, the club only had to wait a day further for more positive news, with Darren Lindsay placing 5th in a Category 4 race at Edinburgh’s Ingliston circuit to secure the first, and well deserved, points of his nascent racing career.
Having battled through an eventful learning curve of winter cyclo-cross competition, and then accumulated valuable training miles in the Mallorcan sun, Lindsay made his return to criterium racing the week previously at the same west of the capital venue. Placing 12th that night, but having done a mountain of work on the front of the bunch, Darren drew on that experience second time around to produce a wilier ride and deliver himself to an excellent top 5 finish.
The confidence garnered from that performance was to roll forward to later in the week, where Lindsay was one of the Wheelers to set a new Time Trial personal best in the first round of 2017’s Border Trophy. Six riders donned the blue and yellow colours and took to the newly resurfaced Hawick course hoping to get Berwick off to a strong start in their pursuit of the inter-club team trophy. In Lindsay’s case this meant him clocking a time of 23.51, taking 14 seconds off his previous fastest mark to dip under 24 minutes for the first time; nor was he alone in breaking through a long coveted barrier as Dom Blythe stopped the clocks at a very impressive 22.52, a first occasion below 23 minutes. Chris Cowe was to power home in a time of 23.30 whilst Joyce Mark (26.20), Michelle Highfield (26.41) and Ian Forsyth (26.54) all produced very solid rides to ensure a respectable showing across the board for the Wheelers ahead of the next round of the event to be hosted on home ground on June the 1st.
In the club’s own time trials, held on the same evening as the Border Trophy, Harry Armstrong emerged victorious with a time of 23.21 in what were somewhat blustery conditions. Michael Cornish (27.06) and Gary Smith (27.26) claimed second and third respectively, whilst Victoria Curry was the fastest lady home in 29.58.
The time trialling for the week didn’t cease there as Andrew Dickson represented Berwick Wheelers competitively for the first time on Sunday, tackling the hugely demanding route of Tyneside Vagabonds Mountain TT. A stern westerly wind did little to dampen the standard with the overall winning time coming in just around a minute shy of the course record. The arduous climb laden 47 mile route included the long ascents of Bilsmoor and Winters Gibbet and Dickson performed admirably registering a time of 2 hours 27 minutes and 31 seconds in what can only be described as a true test of focus and desire. Former Wheeler Andrew Scorey also took part in the event placing a very strong 5th on the day.
Thursday sees the second league night of the season take place at Paxton and with so many riders hitting good form it could well make for a very competitive affair.
4th & 7th May by Andrew Leigh
As summer creeps in, Berwick Wheelers riders begin to make their mark. Fresh from their summer training camp in Mallorca, many riders have used this as a spring board to start their season well. Best wishes go to Andrew Waring who is recovering from surgery to a broken leg following a bike fall in on the island which saw him miss out on valuable training time in the Tramuntana Mountains.
The first ten mile time trial league took place at Pistols with 21 riders starting at the line. The club has seen a surge in membership this year, meaning new personal bests have been set to tempt individuals to improve upon these throughout the season. The competition for points begins now, as the nights become lighter and the weather a little more predictable. Last week’s league evening was blessed with less breezy conditions than the previous prologue events meaning a good chunk was taken off many times, just in time for the first handicap race.
Dom Blythe pushed hard for his winning time, with Chris Cowe beginning to edge closer as the weeks pass, slicing nearly a minute off the previous weeks time. Andrew Dickson and Darren Lindsay battled it out for third place, with Darren only just taking an advantage of seven seconds. Joyce Mark stole a clear lead amongst the ladies while Michelle Highfield and Victoria Curry provided consistent positions once again. Victoria’s triathlon background will no doubt see her improve times throughout the rest of the summer. It was also fantastic to see Andrew Beeke getting stuck in after being seriously injured in an accident two years ago. The full results were (with points awarded shown in brackets):
D Blythe 23.02 (7), C Cowe 23.35 (5), D Lindsay 24.32 (3), A Dickson 24.39 (9), R Moscrop 25.02 (10), S Rowley 25.32, J Mark 26.32, B Cowe 26.51, M Cornish 27.05 (1), I Forsyth 27.21, D Cairns 27.31 (8), S Grimwood 28.11, A Beeke 29.32, V Curry 29.46 (2), D Stott 30.08 (4), S Dick 30.10, M Lane 30.51 (6), P Graham 31.27, L Sinton 31.58, J Blythe 32.29, S Johnston 33.11, B Johnston 33.24.
Yellow and blue was proudly represented this Sunday when Michelle Highfield ventured onto the Falkirk roads for her first road race. Taking part in the Sharon Argue Memorial Road Race, part of the East and Central Scotland Road Race Series, Michelle’s winter training regime was well and truly put to the test. A 6 mile prologue time trial was sure to warm the legs up on the hilly course beginning in the village of Slamannan. Starting amongst 42 other riders, including sponsored national team Edco and other familiar names, Michelle’s time of just over 18 minutes placed her in a good position going into the 30 mile road race later in the day where cumulative times would count toward the final results. The weather held stark contrast to the grey and cold day left behind in Berwick with blue skies taking the edge off the tough 4 lap circuit. Described as ‘undulating’ the roads certainly presented some good challenges with a consistent, relentless and long uphill push at the start of each lap. After a fast start, the bunch predictably worked together within their teams and Michelle fought hard to bridge the gap between the novice and more time served riders. Just missing out on a break of three midfield, she pulled away from other newcomers and battled alone for the remainder of the race. Michelle’s grit certainly paid off with her fighting spirit earning her third fastest newcomer of the day. A podium finish topped off her first road race experience with a well deserved cheer from fellow competitors. The Sharon Argue Memorial does well to encourage new racers to the fore and this platform was certainly a fitting start to Michelle’s racing career.
TT summary (6th & 20th April) by Andrew Leigh
This week's press report is two weeks of time trial results as we begin the season:
With the lazy ease of a slowing spoke, the clocks have clipped forward an hour, ushering in longer, lighter nights, and as a consequence a return to Time Trial action for the Berwick Wheelers.
A refreshed calendar for the summer months sees the Thursday night diet of league and club championship events retain centre stage, augmented by some new additions to the itinerary; most notably the inclusion of a hill climb time trial on the demanding slope of Hardens Hill, preceding the usual end of season curtain closer at Burnmouth Brae.
April is not the point to be testing climbing legs however, and as such the club has designed the early spring schedule as a week by week drip feed to ease its members - both those new and returning - back into action. Thursday the 6th saw the hosting of a taster session, with a guided group ride allowing riders new to the discipline to familiarise themselves with the roads they’ll be racing full tilt along in the coming months, whilst also debuting Paxton village hall as a meeting point and social hub for members prior to and on commencement of the action.
Those new warm surroundings reaped immediate dividends the following week, when cold and very blustery conditions greeted riders at the start line for a five mile ‘prologue’ time trial to launch competitive action. Despite the uninviting weather a healthy field of twenty one individuals signed on to participate, with six ladies and fifteen men looking to give their legs a first stretch of the year. Dom Blythe clocked the quickest time of 11.33, with Chris Cowe (12.01) and Darren Lindsay (12.15) coming closest to threatening Dom’s lead. Amongst the ladies it was Joyce Mark who topped the timing charts registering 13.35, whilst Michelle Highfield (15.06) and Victoria Curry (15.20) proved tightly matched in setting the second and third best efforts respectively.
Wind was again a huge factor on Thursday the 20th, when bright skies and fairly warm temperatures were negated by the strong breeze that competitors were faced with battling into on the outward leg of their ride. This first 10 mile test of the season saw another great turn out of twenty riders, with a number of different faces from the week before serving to highlight the depth of interest the club now has in its time trialling events. Joyce Mark, once again recorded the fastest ladies time (27.06) with Michelle Highfield (29.36) and Victoria Curry (31.48) mirroring last week in rounding out the top three. On the men’s side it was Chris Cowe (24.31) who got the better of Darren Lindsay (24.56) with Steve Rowley (26.39) edging out Rob Moscrop (26.54) for the final podium place.
Another 10 mile effort awaits riders this week (Thu 27th), and whilst a number of the club’s membership are currently pedaling the roads of Mallorca, a good field is never the less again anticipated, with the opportunity there for other riders to put down a marker for the summer ahead.
Falkirk Wattbike Sportive
The aptly named ‘no excuses’ Falkirk Wattbike Sportive saw three local ladies travel north of the border on a glorious weekend of sunny weather. Blessed with the warmth of the spring sun, Tracy Tyson, Helen McCulloch and Claire Duff ventured to Falkirk to take part in the early season ride amongst over 500 riders. With a choice of two routes (62 with 3600 ft climbing and 45 miles with nearly 2700ft climbing) the ladies put their weekly training into action and got stuck in to the hilly courses, allowing them to see the benefits of their winter commitment to two wheels. Starting just north of Falkirk itself, the route edged Callender Park, passing the appropriately named California then skirted the shores of Black Loch. The longer route swung out to the country roads around Torbothie before rejoining the main route back to base. The heather clad fields and signs of spring eased the woes of tired legs. Relatively new to cycling, their smiles, good spirits and a bag full of determination saw them successfully finish with medals in their hands. With temperatures reaching those expected at the height of summer, the Scottish weather came through for them. Rest stops and fluids were their blessing and their sense of accomplishment shone. Well done for your massive achievement so early in the season!
Gifford (20th March) - by Neil Wilson
It was a case of ‘in at the deep end’ for two Berwick Wheelers aiming to make a splash at their first road race of 2017! The pretty East Lothian village of Gifford once again played host to the curtain raising round of the East and Central Scotland Road Race Series, but murky cloud blanketing the Lammermuir hills, and persistent rainfall, made navigating the rural bends of the eight mile circuit a significantly less attractive proposition. Unperturbed, Darren Lindsay and Andrew Waring took to the start line together for the category 3 and 4 race.
Early signs for both were promising. Despite being wet behind the ears - and on this day everywhere else - Lindsay showed growing tactical acumen, positioning himself well towards the front of the bunch as conditions took their toll and the field began to whittle down. Waring also kept himself out of trouble and stayed towards the front end of the race on a day which brought real possibilities of crashes due to the misrable weather conditions.
With Alan Dean (Edinburgh RC) and Charlie Johnston (Spokes Junior Racing Team) making what proved to be a decisive break off the front, Lindsay was struck low with a broken spoke on the third of five scheduled laps, bringing a cruelly premature end to what had been an encouraging day. Waring also pulled over to the side on Lap 4 with a suspected punture but fortunately he was OK and a brief chase to get back on pursued. In the end it was Johnston who edged out Dean for the win, with Waring contesting the bunch sprint for third, ultimately placing just outside the top 10. In conditions that were universally agreed to be amongst some of hardest riders have faced for some time, Lindsay and Waring can be well satisfied with their efforts and confident that their form is going in the right direction.
The following morning's weather prospects were thankfully incorrectly forecast as Darren Lindsay kitted up once again for another days racing, this time for the Lang Whang 30 mile Time Trial in West Lothian. Reaching the half way turn point slightly behind his target time, Lindsay was graced with some glorious sunshine on the return leg. Catching his one and two minute men, the possibility of seeing more on the horizon to chase down was short lived. With increasingly blustery conditions, staying upright became the focus. A lack of bigger gears saw Lindsay out of options to chip away any further time. With a time of 1 hr 21 mins Lindsay was pleased with his first TT of the season, particularly after such a gruelling fight with the elements the day before.