Doyle’s recent training regime of riding 55 miles to work each way, prepared him perfectly for the climbs, descents, corners and gnarly surfaces of the “Bristly Country” as the Trossachs translates from the Gaelic language.
Cusick, Doyle, and Oliphant made up this year’s podium.
We decided to do the “scenic thing” first and drove the course, through the heart of Rob Roy MacGregor country.
Jaw-dropping views characterize the area.
The motel not far from the start is named after the great man – or cattle thieving rogue, depending on your point of view.
Then there was the Duke’s Pass out of Aberfoyle – the first of the day’s big climbs and named after Red Rob’s arch rival, The Duke of Montrose.
The descent to Loch Achray was bone dry, fast and beautiful with the Trossachs Hotel looking impossibly picturesque.
Romantic authors, William Wordsworth and Walter Scott first introduced the world to the beauty of the Trossachs; with Scott’s novels, ‘Rob Roy’ and ‘The Lady of the Lake’ both set in the area.
The technical section along the banks of Lochs Achray and Venachar was as rough as ever, with the ‘snap’ at Brig o’ Turk waiting to catch out those who hadn’t dropped into the inside ring.
The narrow twisting Inver Trossachs road by-passes Callendar and then it’s the second big climb of the day over to Thornhill.
The last five miles from Thornhill, home are tough – technical and into the breeze.
The course was shortened to miss traffic lights a mile-or-so from the finish; with the chequered flags positioned just a stone’s throw from the shore of the Lake of Menteith – Scotland’s only Lake and whose island has the ruins of an Augustinian priory, built in 1238. Mary Queen of Scots was given refuge there as a child in 1547.
With the historic, scenic tour done, we headed back up “the Dukes,” there were no more romantic notions as the digital stop watch was plucked from the bag.
Jim Cusick smashes onward.
The button was pressed on Cusick, off number 90 and his time was better than all comers, until Doyle forced his Cervelo past – still in the ‘tuck’ despite the gradient – and 48 seconds up.
James MacCallum enjoys the ride.
Last year’s British Elite Criterium champion, James McCallum (Plowman Craven) was smiling too much to challenge and Tour of Taiwan winner, Alex Coutts (Giant Asia) was 38 seconds down on Doyle, despite his attacking style.
Alex Coutts gave it a good go.
Oliphant was favourite and last man, but our watch said 11 seconds down on Doyle. Martin gave him a shout that he was ‘down on Doyle’ and Oliphant; “stepped on it” as he told us later, to take the hill prime at the summit of the Pass.
With the field through, we jumped in the car and headed back around the course the ‘wrong’ way.
There were four miles to go when we spotted Cusick and started the watch again.
“Never again!” Hollered Cusick’s team mate, Stevie Blom as he struggled past, having been caught and dropped four minutes by the eventual silver medallist.
Alistair Robinson (Hand in Hand) had been a slim four seconds down on Cusick at the first check but had slipped to 25 down.
Doyle hadn’t slipped though, he forged past 1-53 clear of Cusick; it was unlikely Oliphant would best that.
No one rivaled Arthur Doyle on Sunday.
And so it proved, as the man in pink and baby blue stopped the watch 1-43 down on Doyle.
But Cusick rode a stronger finalй than Oliphant and pushed the pro down to third. Robinson had put in a big finish too, but not big enough – fourth, eight seconds back from Oliphant.
Velo Ecosse man Ben Abrahams was fifth in 1-6-41 with up and coming Callum Wilkinson (thebicycleworks) taking his greyhound build to sixth in place on 1-7-09.
Oliphant was his usual laid back self at the finish; “I’ve not done much this last week, I’ve been racing since December and I’ve been trying to have a bit of a break. I rode a two-up with James McCallum last weekend, I felt great in that and we won, so I decided that I wouldn’t need to do much this week. But I didn’t feel good today.
Evan Oliphant managed a visit to the podium with 3rd.
I’ll be with Plowman Craven again next year, we’re hoping to ride one European race per month, next season. I’m off to Australia in November but I’m happy with how the season has gone. There were a lot of criteriums in the summer and it meant it was difficult to prepare for the British road race championships. I actually came home to prepare for the Tour of Britain, just getting out and doing the miles.”
Nobody was more surprised than Jim Cusick by his second place; “I wrenched my shoulder yesterday and didn’t think I’d be able to ride. I had a really hot bath this morning and Ian Sharp did some physio on it, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to ride. I’ve just been doing my usual rides to work, keeping the pedals turning, shoulder apart, I felt good today; but I’m surprised to be second with guys like Oliphant and Coutts in the field.
The first question to winner Doyle concerned his miles to work; “I live in Bearsden near Glasgow and I’ve been riding to Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy in Fife – that’s 42 and 55 miles respectively. Why? I wouldn’t do it by choice but it takes almost as long in the car, and I just can’t stand the traffic! I’ve been doing it three times per week – but I only rode one way on Friday and had Saturday off.
I think today was one of the best paced rides I’ve ever done, five seconds after I finished, I felt terrible, usually I blow at half distance and by the finish, I feel all right again.
Doyle also led Dooley’s team mates, former Trossachs king, Davie Gibson and Gary Robertson to the team prize.
And Rob Roy’s ghost has peace again – until next October.