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/