Saturday’s Storm Desmond may have decimated the sporting calendar but the non-stop rain and strong winds set up the course perfectly for the next day’s cycling spectacle at Irvine.
Dessie simply added a new dimension to the natural twists and turns of the seaside circuit with puddles the size of a small loch making the going even tougher than ever in the 2015 Scottish Cyclocross Championships,.
Some 500 entrants took part in the seven-race fixture which coupled the national contest with round 5 of the Raleigh Scottish Cyclocross series.
The success of the day’s proceedings and the all-time record turnout for a competitive cycling event is a feather in the cap for Irvine as a sporting location – and also for the organisers, Walkers Cycling Club.
The atmosphere at CX gatherings tends to be more rider-friendly and less taut than at events involving other cycling disciplines and this was, once again, very evident around the dunes on Sunday. Many families had travelled with competitors to offer support and enjoy the camaraderie around the race village.
Cyclocross, a combination of road and off-road riding, is generally played out in public parks or any grassy open spaces during the late autumn and through the winter. The popularity of the sport has grown considerably in recent years and the season has been extended into the spring with new events and new venues continuing to arise.
The Irvine meeting was number five in a series of six rounds around central Scotland. Other locations in the Raleigh-sponsored series have been Callendar Park, Falkirk; Knockburn Loch, Banchory; Strathclyde Park, Miotherwell, and Lochore Meadows, Fife. The next event is the Santa CX Worlds race at Mull, the final round in the 2015 series.
Sunday’s big race winner was World Cup mountain biker Grant McPherson of Peebles. He led from the front all the way, completing seven laps in 48 minutes and 15 seconds, a resounding two minutes, 26 seconds in front of Edinburgh’s David Lines. Third was last year’s runner up and former international rider Rab Waddell of Glasgow on 51.38.
Local hero was Neil Walker of Walkers Cycling Club who finished in fifth after a strong and determined performance on a heavy course which was well-worn by that stage. Neil, from Kilmaurs, produced a fantastic time of 52.38, which was just a minute away from a podium place.
He was, however, compensated for his efforts throughout the series by being awarded the gold medal in the South West Scotland CX Championship. Team-mate Kevin Pugh of Beith received the bronze while Ayr Burners rider JP Baxter of Troon received silver.
Medal-winning ladies in this part of the competition were Ayr Roads CC rider Janet Erskine of Prestwick (gold) and Walkers CC duo Lorna Sloan of Kilmarnock (silver) and Catherine Logan of Irvine (bronze.
Walkers returns from Sunday: Senior open – 5. Neil Walker, 32. Kevin Pugh 55.47 (6 laps); Vets 40 –58. Brian Mccutcheon 44.18 (5), 72. Kevin Gebbie 47.58 (5); Woman, vets 50/60 – 32. Russell Mowat 44.25 (5); 51. Lorna Sloan 46.24 (5), 56. John Walker 47.31 (5) (second in vets 60); 57. Robert Earp 47.32 (5), 62. William Gerrie 48.28 (5), 68. Catherine Logan 49.19 (5), 90. Fiona Walker 52.38 (4).
Event promoter Scott Kerr said: “Everything worked in our favour. The rain stayed away for most of the day and the sun even came out now and again. Thankfully, I have had many compliments about the course and the organisation.”
One talking point during the event was the appearance of a giant turtle next to the race circuit at Irvine beach. The loggerhead turtle, blown way off course by the weekend storm, was collected by the Scottish SPCA and taken to the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary in Oban. It will be cared for and eventually flown to Gran Canaria for release back in the Atlantic.