We are delighted to have secured the strongest line up in the history of the South Carrick David Bell Memorial. Felix English heads a full Rapha-Condor-Sharp team against Ben Greenwoods’ Vanillabikes.com team and Robbie Hassan’s Herbalife Leisure Lakes squad in our 100mile event this Sunday.
The action kicks off in Girvan at 11am, where local school children will wave the riders off after a ceremonial lap of the Victory Park criterium circuit. 100 miles of classic Ayrshire terrain, including the ascents of Nic O Balloch, Glenalla, and the Screws serve as a main course before two nail-bitting laps of the Byne to please the spectators.
The Davie Bell is a classic of the Scottish racing calendar – with a list of illustrious winners including Robert Millar, Jason MacIntyre, Evan Oliphant and outgoing champion James McCallum of Rapha Condor Sharp. For 2012 we were delighted to secure National A Status thanks to the backing of a host of local sponsors, including South Ayrshire Council and South Carrick Community Leisure.
A real buzz has surrounded the build up to the race, with former winners describing their victories, local children creating the event artwork, and amatuer riders taking to their bikes as part of the new supporting event, the 100km Highwayman Challenge Audax.
Rapha Condor Sharp will be hoping to make it two in a row, with a team fresh from the Ras. We spoke with rider / mentor James McCallum last night to share his memories of winning last year, and to evaluate this year’s field.
James – you’ve just climbed off your bike after the Colchester Tour Series, how was it?
Brutal – I managed to avoid the crash and all that jazz, but it’s a long series, with a lot of travel, and the level is higher than ever. We’re keen to consolidate our 2nd place in the team standings and try and make in-roads on Endura. All going well.
As a crit specialist you’ll be racing the Smithfield Nocture this Saturday, so won’t be able to defend your Davie Bell crown
Its a shame, I want to be home and to be there. The Davie Bell is now the biggest day race in Scotland and I’ve great memories of winning. I loved the atmosphere of the race especially the romanticism of the off-road sections [last year’s editions featured 16km of unsealed forest road]
You’ve become a bit of a specialist in the Roubaix-esque races
I had a great ride at the Rutland CiCle event, getting third. But I should have got second. In fact, I wanted the win, but of course! Its different to the Davie Bell, with different sectors all the time, and 200 riders trying to do the same thing.
And for Sunday, who do you think is likely to win?
Richard Handley (Rapha-Condor-Sharp teammate). He’s fresh from the Ras – just posted a 3hr 40min 100 time; he’s not hanging about. All the guys who’ve been at the Ras will be chapping at the door, they’re in their element. It’s the ultimate prep, I know how it benefitted me last year. It’s a great opportunity for the young guys in the team like Felix… We’ll keep the race in the Rapha house!
And the others?
Guys like Ben Greenwood (Vanillabikes .com) are going to be up against it – he’s got real grinta but no Ras! He’ll need to get away on his own to pull it off.
Robbie Hassan? You’ve got to make sure you don’t take him to the finish. He’ll be a factor! But at the same time, he’s been on a heavy Tour Series programme. He’s young but it will take its toll on him.
Pedal Power Endura Forme will probably admit themselves that their season has been sluggish, but Gary Hand is wise and knows how to play his cards.
I’m out the loop with most the Scottish riders, but Evan Oliphant (Raleigh GAC) and I were discussing how the racing in Scotland is definitely changing – there’s more info and knowledge now. The gap between and Scotland and England is getting smaller.
Your favourite Davie Bell memory?
Ripping down Tairlaw with over a minute spare – I couldn’t believe it when the commissaire confirmed it. It was emotional to be on my own in the final ks thinking about stuff. It was also great to dedicate the win to my wife’s grandfather who had just died. I almost never win away on my own, it was really special.
And if we get Premier Calendar status for 2013 you’ll be back?
Definitely – but you need to bring back the gravel!
And with that James signed off, but not before betting £200 on Richard Handley to take the win. We’ll need a witness to that, so get down to Girvan on Sunday to see for yourself!
As for the gravel? All of us are disappointed not to be going there in 2012. Race promoters Ayr Roads CC and the Forestry Commission are are already in discussions to ensure more gravel adventures in 2013.
Richard, first up, we are on the offensive. In your rather splendid book ‘In Search Of Robert Millar’ you somehow failed to include mention of 18yr old Robert’s stunning 1977 win in our event – favouring instead mention of a 5th place in the Girvan, and an Ayrshire APR. Your excuses please!
No excuses, only apologies. I can only think that, in my mind, the Girvan was a more significant race [fair comment, historically! - ed]. But to win such a tough race as the David Bell at 18 is exceptional (though Robert Millar managed quite a few exceptional performances), and it should probably have been mentioned… in my defence, I didn’t want to list every race he’d won/performed well in. I had to be quite selective.
I remember less of this race than I should. It’s very strange how you remember some races really vividly, even minor ones – and I certainly have far clearer memories of races that I really suffered in. I could talk you through every metre of those races… I do remember that 97 was my best year, and so this was one of several memorable results, if not performances.
I didn’t know the race that well, though I knew the roads from the Girvan. I think I finished 7th in the Girvan that year: the first time I was really climbing with the leaders on the Nic O’Balloch and Tairlaw – proper mountains as far as I was concerned. I’d done two things the previous winter: started following a training programme faxed to my dad’s office every week by Roddy Riddle; and lost a lot of weight. I really felt like a different rider. Winning the David Bell (or “The Davie Bell” as everyone knew it) came in the midst of that breakthrough season for me, which is probably why I recall so few details of the actual race. Weirdly, I think I remember that it was in late July, maybe the 29th? (I used to memorise the calendar in the SCU handbook)… I have a hazy memory of approaching the finish in a break of 4 riders, and having a club-mate, Graham Moore, there. I think it was Graham! He was no relation but we both rode for Sandy Wallace that year… and he was really strong but couldn’t sprint, so he helped me a bit at the finish, riding on the front and leading it out a bit (though we were hardly HTC-Highroad).I remember winning the sprint quite comfortably but can’t remember who I beat. I think Neil Cameron might have been in the break as well…? “Myra” would have been the big threat. And maybe Gary Paterson? If Gary was there, I would have felt quite confident. Gary was no sprinter. I remember when he won the Sam Robinson Memorial the following year, from a break of me, Brian Smith and Drew Wilson – all team-mates. Brian had to push him across the line and Drew had to put his brakes on not to beat him.
At the time, Graeme Herd was newly appointed as Scotland manager and tasked with picking the 98 Commonwealth Games team. Was winning the Bell as stepping stone in securing the spot on the team?
Actually, no, though of course it was great for the confidence. But in terms of the Commonwealth Games, it was the dawn of a new era, when results in Scottish races were considered meaningless. You had to get results in Premier Calendar races. My big goal was to go to the Commonwealth Games, but the selection criteria were quite clear, which I appreciated. You knew what you had to do. I think you had to win a Premier Calendar or finish top six in four events, or something like that. It was the first Commonwealth Games where the team was picked that way.
When I started I thought the previous era had been classic, but maybe you always think like that. There were some other good riders as well – Andy Young, Andy Matheson, Willie Gibb, Neil Brown… I’m still friends with most – the Riddles and Gary especially – and really enjoy seeing some of them at the Braveheart dinner. I also see Andy Young a bit – he lives near London, where I live. And how could we forget Julian Coia! He’s a tube driver in London and I caught up with him recently. We were juniors together and he was really talented – maybe too talented. I think it came too easy to him when he was a junior and he struggled when he turned senior and started getting the odd kicking – something that was normal to most of us.
Jason McIntyre had his best years after I stopped in 99. But I remember meeting him for the first time while on holiday in Ardnamurchan. There was an advert in the Fort William swimming pool for the local chaingang – this must have been about 1992 or 93 or something. I went out on this chaingang and there was Jason, and he was strong, but it was another couple of years before I started seeing him at races.
If I’d known I was going to write a book about him I’d have tried to get some more information out of him. He was quiet. Very nice and encouraging, though he realised that we weren’t going to do much in the race and so didn’t expect too much out of us (linking to the earlier comment about vividly remembering races in which I suffered: I can remember every second of that PruTour…). He tended to contribute occasionally to the conversation at the dinner table, but only with some really dry, frequently dark, observation or quip.
Well I live in London now so have lost touch a bit with Scottish racing. But I look at some of the results, or the start sheets, and cannot believe the sizes of the fields. There seems to be an explosion of interest, which is great. And there are a lot of people not racing, but still cycling pretty seriously in sportives and so on. I hope there are ‘pathways’ from those events into road racing, because I always felt that road racing was pretty intimidating, especially for someone who comes to cycling a bit later. I was glad I started racing when I was 13, because I didn’t really think about it. But I can see why people would be nervous about entering their first road race.It’s funny that we talk about the 90s or 80s as classic eras, because fields back then were often very small. I don’t know much about the standard of races these days. I do think that the sport has suffered in lots of ways from the ‘death’ of the club run. It was on club runs that you made friends and learned how to ride in a bunch and ‘wheel about’, which simulated racing. I could be wrong but I think for a lot of people cycling’s become a more solitary activity, whereas for me it was a group activity – and so much more enjoyable (and educational) for that.
Haven’t a clue! But I do note that, like in 97, the Nic O’Balloch comes pretty early on. As they say, it’s not where the race is won, but it can be lost there.
Oh god! It was a Reynolds 853 frame made by Paul Donohue, a framebuilder in England. Sandy Wallace gave me it. I only raced with it for a few months because it arrived mid-season, and then I joined Brian Smith’s new team, and rode a Raleigh 853 in 98. I never really knew much about bikes, to be honest. But I think my favourite, ever, was a cheap Shogun alloy frame that I raced on in 96, then kept riding around town until it was eventually stolen in about 2003. I’ve got a carbon Cervelo now with Dura-Ace bits and all mod-cons. Best bike I’ve ever had, slowest I’ve ever ridden.
Thanks again to Richard for taking time out to share his memories of road racing in Scotland and for access to his photos. Who knows, perhaps Richard may well be writing the biography of this years winner somewhere down the line! Keep up to date with Richard’s current work at his personal website: http://richardmoore.co/
This week we introduce another two-time winner of the South Carrick David Bell Memorial. Anyone who has hung around the Scottish racing circuit long enough will have been made to suffer by Mr McGarrity at some point. For your correspondent this was the 2002 David Campbell Memorial in Fife. Charging back along the flats from Cupar the bunch was strung out in a big looooooong line. There were no more gears on anyone’s bikes, and gaps opening towards the back – “to think someones actually at the front pushing this on!”. A few hours later there’s Graham sprinting down the hill into Kennoway, arms aloft…
First up; how are you Graham, and how is the leg after that awful smash in 2010?
Almost fully recovered from the accident. I’ve not had that many crashes on the bike but that one certainly made up for that. Strange thing was the only damage to my bike was that the rear mech hanger was slightly bent and I only had a small tear in my shorts, but my femur was broken in five places. I remember the first doctor who saw me kept saying ‘This is a motorcycle injury; you shouldn’t be this bad coming off a bike.’
Although it was obviously a painful experience one positive of my accident was the number of messages of support I received and the number of people who popped in to see me – mostly from members of the Scottish cycling community, many of whom were people I hadn’t seen or heard from in a long time. That was touching and made me realise that Scottish cycling is a good thing to be part of and it also made me want to return to riding and racing as quickly as possible.
I was back in hospital in October for an operation to get the plate and screws removed from my leg. That went well but meant I was back on the crutches for a month. Jason Roberts from the Glasgow Wheelers did the operation and he’s been great in giving me advice on just how far I can push the training. My leg feels a lot better than it did when I had the metal in so I’m hoping that will be reflected in getting some decent results this year. Last year was frustrating as I felt I just didn’t have the necessary power in my left leg. The training’s been going well this winter so we’ll see how the season pans out. Davie Bell is already marked on the calendar.
You won the Davie Bell twice – let’s talk about 1994 first. Already twice national champion, this granted you a hat-trick. Can you remember much about the race?
I remember going into the race hoping for a top 6 finish. I’d picked up a knee injury earlier in the year and had missed a lot of racing so by the time of the championship I’d only done a handful of races. I’m fairly hazy about the first part of the race. What I do remember is that after the Nic and Tairlaw a break of 6 had been established but we were starting to muck about and it looked like we might get caught. I decided to attack, not thinking I’d stay away, but more to try and galvanise the break into action. I ended up staying away for about 10mls, but it had the desired effect and the chasing group didn’t get across. There were a few attacks in the last few miles, with Neil Cameron particularly strong, but nothing was sticking and it came down to a sprint finish which suited me perfectly. The finish was on the road beside the old racecourse in Ayr and was a finish I knew well from previous editions.
Davie Miller made the break that day but he punctured and didn’t get back on; who knows the result might have been different had he not punctured as Davie was the master of getting the jump on you in the last mile when everyone was setting up for a sprint finish.
You were up against Andy Matheson (1990 winner) and Neil Cameron. What did you do right that they didn’t?
Both Andy and Neil had medalled in numerous previous RR champs but both of them had never won. I reckoned that they would be feeling nervous, whereas I’d already won twice so I was a bit more relaxed. I was also confident in my sprint; I didn’t often get beaten in the gallop (although when Andy won in 1990 he beat me by ½ a wheel in the sprint) so really all the pressure was on Andy and Neil. Coming into the finish things slowed down with the usual cat and mouse tactics, everyone watching each other and nobody wanting to make a move. I think Andy panicked, because he jumped first from quite a way out, I got on his wheel and once I’d done that I knew I’d win and I had time to get both hands up which felt good. What I do remember is seeing Neil Cameron, totally frustrated, throwing his helmet away; something I thought was more funny than he did. Neil did eventually win the RR champs a few years later.
Records show you completed the 96 mile hill fest in just 4hrs, 7mins, 7 secs. An average speed of 23.5mph… there can’t have been much hanging around?
As I said I don’t remember much about the early stages of the race, but yes, there was a lot of attacking and no piano and at any point. I do remember I decided to wear a skinsuit (marginal gains and all that) so I must have been expecting a fast race. A few of the guys were ribbing me about the skinsuit, but it just always made me feel fast when I wore one in a RR. Plus it puts the pressure on you as you look pretty daft going out the back with a skinsuit on.
Five years on and you were back with the Scotoil Aberdeen Multisport team to win for a second time. What are your memories of this event?
Like 1994 I hadn’t done much early season racing. I’d packed in racing the year before as I’d just lost interest, wasn’t getting the results and I was getting guilt trips about leaving the family at weekends. I could justify it (to some extent) if I was getting results but I wasn’t, so about May I stopped and didn’t miss it at all. I didn’t stop riding the bike, though and was still going out with the mid week bundy bunch. The 1999 season started and I still had no intention of racing but come about May I was starting to twitch. I was training with guys who were getting results so I thought I’d do the occasional crit. So obviously that meant I entered the Davie Bell!
Again, like 1994, I can’t remember much about the early stages – I think the Nic must numb my brain – but I’m sure the break went early, just after the Heads of Ayr. On the run in there may have been about 10 of us away. On the climb out of Maybole Gary Paterson put in a savage attack which dumped a few guys. I managed to hang on and when I’d done that I saw that I was as strong as anyone else, I knew then I could win; then the thought process changed from concentrating on not getting dropped to ‘I’m winning this’. There were the usual attacks on the run in past Butlins but they all lacked conviction so it was always going to come down to a sprint. Robbie Hassan’s dad, Liam, had been going well that year and had gained a bit of a reputation as a sprinter. Gary Paterson was riding for Active Office, the local race for the team, and he was looking for the win, so I think everyone was expecting one of those two to win. It was a fast finish. I can’t remember who went first but they went early, I got on their wheel and then launched my sprint and I remember thinking I’m going really fast here, there’s no way anyone’s going to get round me and I ended up winning by quite a few lengths. Neil Cameron was in the break that day too, finishing 4th ; he managed to keep his helmet on that that day!
That was a good day. Nobody expected me to win, I didn’t expect to win, my wife and children were there to see the finish and after the race we spent the rest of the day at the beach. Aye, good day.
Who was on your team, and who were you marking?
Ali Watt and Phil Duncan would have been riding. I wasn’t marking anyone in particular. I knew who was going well and knew where the damage would get done in the race.
What did it mean to win the Davie Bell?
A lot. Both times. I’d been training with guys like Davie Miller and Jim Ferrier since I was 16 and they always spoke in reverent terms about the Davie Bell. They’d talk about The Nic, Glenalla, the Screws and these climbs just sounded surreal almost mythical so the Davie Bell has always had an aura and has always had a reputation as being a race only good guys win and a race you want to say you’ve won. The winners of this race are a who’s who of Scottish racing; it feels good being on that list. I first rode the race in 1983 and I’ve ridden it maybe 20 times since then winning twice, getting 2nd once and a few 3rds, 4ths and 5ths.
In recent years the Davie Bell has fought with the David Campbell Memorial for the ‘toughest’ title. As a winner of both (2002 for DC), can you settle the argument for us?
I’ve won the David Campbell twice, 2002 and in 2004 when I took James McCallum in the gallop. But I have to say I reckon the Davie Bell is the more challenging of the two. The DC has got a lot more difficult now with the extra finishing circuits, but I reckon the Nic is the hardest climb in Scottish RRing. Add in the heavy roads, some daredevil descents and an absence of any real flat and the DB has the upper hand in terms of difficulty. VC Astar’s Anderside classic (I won that in 1993) was on a par with the DB but since it moved from Strathaven it’s not now as difficult and the DB is now the hardest race on the Scottish calendar.
Have you had a chance to see the route for the 2012 Davie Bell, and if so what are your first impressions?
I’ve only seen photos of the off road sections and heard from people who rode last year. I was over the Nic and Glenalla with Stuart MacGregor, Paul Rennie and Jim Murdoch a few weeks ago. The roads haven’t got any smoother and the Nic’s still as horrible. The off road sections certainly look ‘interesting’.
Where do you think the race will be won?
Going by what I heard about last year it’s going to be the off road sections that will decide who won’t win, but it’s Scottish racing so the race could be won anywhere.
Who in Scotland do you think has a chance of lifting the title?
Hopefully it will be somebody wearing a Dooleys’ jersey. I know Paul Rennie would love to win, and we’ve got some new blood in the team and the race will be a target for us. James and Evan will obviously be favourites with Robbie Hassan in with a shout. I reckon young Scott McCrossan will be in the mix too. I’ve done a few rides with him over the winter and he’s going well. He’s a bundy man too so he’s got to carry on from Davie Miller and me.
Finally, we are running an Audax based on the Davie Bell route the day before with a prize for best retro bike. Can you tell us about the bike you rode to win in 1994?
It was a Colnago built with Columbus SL steel tubes and had lots of chrome. Equipment was Campag and I’d just started using Ergo levers. I think I’d given up on tubs by then and would probably have been using Veloflex tyres as the team had sponsorship from them. Would have been 53×39 with an 8 block probably 13 -21.
And a wee video of Graham’s famous sprint skills – the 2008 Billy Warnock
Thanks again to Graham for taking time out to share his experiences and photos, and good luck to him and his Dooley’s team who have confirmed their intention to line up for another lap of Scotland’s Toughest Road Race!
Our next Former Winner Series Interviewee is a two times David Bell champion. Despite being 5x Scottish Road Champion, when asked for his palmares he simply answers ‘Grass Track Champion’! Yup, a big thank you to Evan Oliphant for taking time out from the Team Raleigh Training Camp in Majorca to share his experiences of winning the David Bell.
Evan, you have won the Davie Bell on two occassions. the first, in 2007, made you Scottish champion. What are your memories of the day?
I came back from racing in Belgium with DFL to ride it. From 2004 myself and Jason Macintyre had taken it year about at winning the scottish champs and he had won in 06 so it was my turn again in 07. Unfortunately Jason was not with us when the 07 champs came along and it made it even more special for me to win it that year being the Davie Bell and the Scottish champs and it brought back good memories of the times we spent racing and training together. I remember puncturing at the top of Tairlaw and having to chase back on down the slippery decent as it was a horrible cold wet day and I was pretty glad when we got to the finish there were some tough moments during it but I was delighted to win and it was also my 2nd scottish road title. I think towards the end there was only 4 of us left and 2 of them were from Velo Ecosse and since I was previously with the team myself and had lots of help from Gregor over the years I was more than happy to help them to get the other medals that day.
I did have to drive back to the top of Tairlaw though after the finish to find my wheel as neutral service had forgotten to pick it up when they changed it over. [sorry Evan!]
At the time you were riding an international programme with DFL Cycling News Litespeed – bringing a wee bit of glamour to straiton! – how did you find returning to race in Scotland?
I had returned to Scotland for a couple of races when I had no commitments with DFL and it was still always tough as its a completely different type of racing to what I was doing with DFL. The racing with DFL was much faster but you spend most of the time sitting in sheltering from the wind which means you gain lots of speed but you sometimes lose some strength, but returning to Straiton takes a different kind of power as I had to spend a lot of the time on the front and it really wears you down especially when you are not used to it but I like coming back to race in Scotland.
2007 was also an event marred by mishaps – with the lead car even going off course at one point [read the Velo Veritas Report here]. What was the feeling among the riders on the day?
I remember the race was stopped but I cant remember the feeling among the riders that day but im sure if it happened now I would be quite happy for the stop and a nice little rest. I do have some pictures somewhere standing at the side of the road when the race is stopped and I was having a chat with Gregor from Velo Ecosse about it and I have both my hands in the air not sure what I was doing maybe practicing for the finish.
But you came back again two years later and came second to teammate Ross Creber. This was just after the late move from Ploughman Craven to Endura. Can you tell us the story behind that?
I had started the ’09 season with Plowman Craven but after a couple of months they had no money left and Endura were looking to strengthen their tour series team so myself and Ross joined them for the remainder of the season. I think there was 6 or so of us in the break that day towards the end and Ben Greenwood was going very well on the climbs but I managed to get everyone to stay together and we brought him back after the last climb and then I was quite happy to help Ross or Callum win as they were both team mates of mine and as it worked out Ross was 1st and I was 2nd so was good day.
You won the Davie Bell for the second time in 2010, solo off the front. How did this win compare to the first?
I think I had more confidence going into it in 2010 and I knew my form was good and I spent most of the race off the front on my own. Its always nice to come into the finish on your own knowing the win is in the bag.
The 2010 win came just a couple weeks after the Scottish Championships, at which there seemed to be some problems with team unity… What were the feelings within the team by the time of the Davie Bell?
I think the problem was that we had lot of good guys in the team that year in Scotland and we had placed 1,2,3 and 4 at the Scottish champs and we had all wanted to win it, I know that if it had not just been us racing against each other at the end we would have ridden well together to make sure one of us had won for the team. As far as I was concerned I had no problems and I just wanted a good hard ride on the day of the race in 2010 and that’s why I went away early on my own that way there could definitely be no problems towards the end.
Due to calendar clash with the Ryedale Premier Calendar you were unable to make the 46th edition, but what did you think of the route change?
Yeh I saw the pictures on the internet and had looked at the maps online and I think including the off road sections made it a bit different and brought a new excitement to the race but no nic of balloch? Whats going on there? Glad to see its back for 2012.
You raced alongside Jason MacIntyre for several years – have you any ambitions to try and match his record equalling four victories in the Davie Bell?
I raced in the the same team as Jason for a few years and even when we were on different teams we were still close friends and raced together. I would go stay with him and his family to go training. I didnt know he had won it 4 times but I can see easily how he did as its always been a tough race to win and you have to be strong to win it and we all know he was. I would love to match his record of 4 wins if only I had tried a little harder in 09 to beat Ross I could be going for it in my next Davie Bell but that just means I will have to ride more of them now to try.
This year you have made the switch from Endura to Raleigh – how are you enjoying the new team?
Im actually on the first team camp with Raleigh while I write this and were only a couple of days in but we have a great group of guys and everyone is getting on real well together already so im really looking forward to racing for Raleigh this year and its also a big year for them being their 125thanniversary.
Having had the chance to see the proposed 2012 route, where do you think the race will be won, and who would you consider the favourites?
I have had a look at the route and I think the selections will still be made on the nic o Balloch climbs but the rough sectors could also play a vital role in forming the breakaways. Im not sure who all is riding but hopefully if I am then myself or one of my Raleigh team will be the favourites. I also think Ben Greenwood will be a hot favourite he also goes very well on the roads round there and is used to Scottish racing.
Lastly, as current Scottish Champion, are you optimistic about the future of cycle sport in the country?
Yeh I think cycling has gotten more popular over the past few years and you can see that at the races as the fields are much bigger again and there is more teams you would struggle to get an entry on the line these days. I also think once the Velodrome in Glasgow is built that will make a big difference to Scottish Cyclists I know I will be getting on it in the winter.
A big thank you to Evan! Follow his progress throughout the season at the Team Raleigh site
How best to introduce our next Former Winner Series interviewee David Millar? Four times champion, perennial fast man, a man who has inspired hundreds of other Scottish cyclists. I remember riding an evening ten on the Westferry in Summer 2008. It was a great night – still and warm, and I was happy to walk away with a low 22. While this was a PB, I took even bigger pride when my minute man, David Millar, failed to catch me. He still rode a low 21
Your first Davie Bell win was in 1982 (the same year I was born), yet you have remained active and successful to the present day. What is the secret to your motivation?
A few people have asked me that over the years, but there`s no secret. I`ve always enjoyed cycling since I got my first proper bike at around fifteen, especially the competitive side of it.I suspect ocd might be a factor as well.
Can you tell us about the first win, when you were with Glenmarnock Wheelers?
I can remember that occasion well for two reasons, even though it was thirty years ago. Firstly it was my first win in the event and secondly my rear mech.cable snapped after the Tairlaw descent.Dave Whitehall and myself had gone clear on the Nick, and just prior to my cable snapping Dave punctured and was caught by the chasers.
It was a hard struggle in the big gear,with quite a few nasty hills to come over the last 25 miles or so,until I reached the Heads of Ayr, when it was more or less downhill to the finish at the Old Racecourse.
What did it mean to win the Davie Bell?
It was regarded as one of,if not the hardest race on the calendar and gave me a great sense of achievement.
You would go on to set the record for the number of wins in the race (four, along with Jason MacIntyre). Were you conscious of this at the time?
I`m fairly sure that when I won my third no one else had won three,so I was aware of the record even before my 4th win. [True - see the complete list of winners here]
Your last win in the Davie Bell came in 1989 with Chryston Wheelers – how did this differ from the first?
Winning for a 4th time was on a par with my 1st, 7 years earlier,mainly due to me approaching 45 at the time.
Who were the riders you feared and marked on your way to success?
I feared all the sprinters as I couldn`t sprint for toffee. Every single road race I`ve won, I`ve always had to win on my own, apart from one. It was the Sam Robinson in 1996,when I was away with another rider. He let me do most of the work and then sat on for the last two or three miles. He then jumped me on the last hill at Strathblane with about a half mile to go. I was so angry there was no way I was going to let him win, so chased him down and came round him before the line.
As far as marking anyone was concerned, I had to figure out when to escape them, not follow them.
Having seen the race evolve, what do you make of the new 2012 route?
It looks a good deal harder than the original version. With the extra mileage and off road sections the course should provide a worthy winner. On a lighter note, I noticed on the course description that race times were given based on average speeds of 22,26 and 30mph. I fear you would need a motorbike to average 30mph round that course!
And having witnessed three decades of Scottish cycle sport are you optimistic for the future?
I`m rather out the loop as far as road racing is concerned these days, however there seems to have been a resurgence in the last few years with bigger fields ( when I was younger 40 was the maximum field size) and some new events, with challenging courses. The young up and coming riders seem to be looked after much better nowadays, with a much better coaching structure and financial assistance available from the Braveheart fund. In my day you were more or less on your own.
You currently race for Glasgow Couriers who we hope will enter a team – how do you think they will fare?
Jamie Kennedy is probably the Couriers best hope for a result.He`s been getting better every year and could do very well on the new course.
Can you remember the bike you rode to your first victory?
I was riding an Alan aluminium bike with the state of the art technology of the day,ie.down tube gear levers and toeclips and straps (laughs)
What advice do you have for the riders in this years’ Davie Bell?
The extra mileage over such a hard course will catch a lot out,and the two ascents of Byne hill near the end will have a major impact on the result. Anyone who wants to do well will need to be well prepared.
Thank you to Davie for taking time out to share his recollections with us, and for sharing images from his personal archive! Of the current crop of riders, Evan Oliphant sits with two wins, so will need another two to equal David and Jason. words Chris Johnson.
To kick off our former winners’ series, we invited Roddy Riddle to answer some questions about his Davie Bell win in 1991. His was an astonishing ride, and clearly marked him out as a force over the next few years!
Start of with a hard question why don’t you, I’ve got to tell the truth I’m not sure!
I got away in the early move which stayed away, I punctured and took a while to get a wheel so I ended back in the peloton, on the Nick O Balloch myself and my brother Kenny got away, we got a good gap and after a crazy decent of Tairlaw summit we recaught the break, with about 20miles to the finish we turned left and went up last climb, it split up and I ended away with Davie Gibson and maybe a couple of other riders, Davie attacked a couple of times coming back in the rolling road past Butlins holiday camp, when we got to the last roundabout just before the finish it was a slight uphill I made my move and won my 1st and only Davie Bell.
I had ridden a 10mile TT the day before which I broke the course record on so I knew my form was good, at the start Andrew Ferry who had just returned from New Zealand with the Scottish team at the Commonwealth Games said to me “You’re the favorite for today, word has it you’ree the man on form” To win the Scottish version of The Tour of Peaks was always an ambition, to pull it of was a dream!
The main reason was because I had been riding well I was getting selected for races further afield, so missed out doing a lot of races I liked!
Up in the moors its pretty similar to many of the roads up here, I rode the SCU hill climb up a climb opposite Butlins [Carwinshoch on the Carrick Hills - ed] when I was younger and got bronze, great safe quiet roads’
When Andrew Ferry told me I was favorite it gave me a boost, but it was won with strong work from Kenny on the Nick and our crazy decent off Tairlaw.[Andy won the Girvan 3 day in 1987, and a few club 10s while a member of ARCC- ed]
Yes it has value, if it didn’t I wouldn’t remember it so well, outwith winning stages in Givan it is well up there as far as my Scottish wins go.
I knew it was a record that suited a road rider, so I split my season into two, first part I rode my normal stage races, the Girvan, Ruban, Ras and a few others add to this single day road races and time trials this was to give me my foundation, second part included travelling to Meadowbank to to various tests etc, my races were now only time trials on fixed. It was one of the nights where I peaked 100% it was like I couldn’t hurt myself, then I hit 47mins and don’t remember too much about the last 13mins, its by far the toughest race of my career!
Only that anyone with the power to win the Davie Bell and who can time trial well could go on and go for the hour.
Richard was always going to be talented, all I did was steer his traing in the correct way, he had a great period around 1997, he was winning nearly everything he entered so to be honest I don’t. [we'll come back to Richard and get the full story later]
With up and coming riders getting help from Braveheart which is ran by Alan Millar and ex pro Brian Smith, it has never been a better time for riders who show potential, so many good stepping stones up to Team Sky!!
Give the race major respect it needs it, look at the profile well in advance and if you want to win simulate your training to suit.
I was diagnosed with type1 diabetes in 2008, at 40yr old. It is quite rare to get type1 in later life, it is normally something that affects people from childhood. Sir Steve Redgrave also was diagnosed at same age!I have my diabetes well under control, it has not made much difference to my life.I wanted to do something big to raise awareness for diabetes, so a friend David Brandy suggested I do the hardest running event in the world the Marathon Des Sables, its a 155mile 6 day running race through the Sahara desert….http://runningsahara.com/the-mds/If by me showing that a type1 can compete and race the MDS and it gets people with and type1 and people at risk of type2 doing exercise its job done!