Racing and Social cycling in the Borders and Northumberland.     

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.