The inaugural Tour of Ayrshire Gran Fondo in Kilmarnock is different from the usual sportives. First off it is the closest to a European style event in the UK that I have taken part in. Second, it is a race at the front, you need a Full British Cycling Race Licence to sign on and enter the Race Pens at the start (split into official UCI Age Categories). The Sport riders (usual sportive rules) set off in start pens after the race pens. Thirdly, it is a UCI approved event and is the only Scottish qualifying event for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships, being held in Albi, France in August this year. Added bonus, closed roads. All very new and a tiny bit exciting 😉
The 3 C’s, that’s Ciaran, Costello and Carruthers set off at the crack of dawn – so much for the late 10am start – still trying to eat breakfast at 5am! Getting there was no problem and getting to the VIP Parking was well sign posted (long story but Ciaran was a VIP for the day and we all went in one car so used his parking voucher). Sign on was dead easy as it was still very quiet as we were very early!
Hanging about for an eternity, there were some stalls to look and a fine display of old bikes – Vic and David McC would be in their element! The start pens opened at 9am, but nobody was up for standing in the freezing wind for any longer than they had to, seeking shelter in the school Event HQ, behind vans, anywhere. So at 9:45 the organiser basically called us all to the start – to then tell us there was a 15 minute delay as there was a house fire and fire engines on the course!
Eventually, the first 3 age groups set off in wave 1 – bye Jamie. Five minutes later the next 3 age groups set off – Ciaran and myself included. BANG!! From 0 to 25 mph in the bat of an eyelid and we were going uphill! A bunch of 150 soon thinned out as bodies shed everywhere. Basically Ciaran and me hung on for about 4 miles then with the thought of another 65 miles at this pace decided to sit in the second bunch instead.
The group we were in then stayed pretty much together for the next 40 miles or so. The course was rolling, no major climbs, just constant up , down, turn around. A fair few of the surfaces were pretty awful too – seems a common theme across the whole country! What was a constant factor was the god awful gale wind that never seemed to be at your back – always seemed to be headwind or side swiped!
Need to look at my Garmin to see the route, as I really have no idea where we went. The joys of closed roads, didn’t have to look at signs or know where to go! There were great crowds on the roads, lots of the villages were busy with cheering and cow bells – was all very good.
About 50 miles marrk, going over a particularly exposed section with brutal wind, I was nearly taken out by someone who rammed my back wheel. I stayed up, he went off road into gorse and mud. It was just then I spied a solo Jamie a few hundred metres up the road and with a burst of rage and adrenalin (post ramming) I set off to catch him, dragging a few others with me. What was now a group of about 8 then tried working together, not always successfully, over some last lumps. The last few ramps seemed to take their toll and I pushed on with one other guy and when we looked back the rest were distanced. So with 5 miles of mainly downhill and at last a tailwind we worked well speeding to the finish and over the line. He did easily beat me in the sprint, but as he wasn’t in my age cat I didn’t care 😊
Finish was all set-up well, good crowds cheering you and a medal to all finishers along with water and alcohol free beer! Soon Jamie came home and then a few minutes later we were joined by Ciaran. It was then time to set off for some food and await the results.
We were joined by Karen and Steven Knight (surprise late entrants) and watched the podium presentations. The top 3 in every Race age cat were awarded prizes by the Kilmarnock Mayor who does seem a bit of a character (in a nice way). The podium presentations were an eye opener to how good some of these folks were – in every category. Once all the podiums were concluded it was time for the results to see who qualified for the World Championships. As you can see below, four of us did – Karen, Ciaran, Jamie and myself and we picked up our UCI Qualifier’s Medals. So we can head off to Albi in August and represent Team GB at the World Championships :-0
The event was well run, tough course, very tough weather and as usual pretty shocking roads. Would recommend it. There was a Chrono on the Saturday for the testers who want to go to the World Championships too, not just for roadie’s.
The times for the Wheelers were:
Name Time Cat Position
Graeme Carruthers 03:33:56 15th
Jamie Costello 03:42:19 24th
Ciaran Hannon 03:42:47 27th
Karen Knight 04:15:33 2nd !! – very well done, especially as “I’m not doing any events this year” 🙂
Stephen Knight 04:15:34 52nd
The route and stats on my Garmin: