Dalbeattie Forest Team Time Trial and linking stage
The racing gets interesting as Dalbeattie unloads with both barrels a frantic circuit of techy singletrack, roots and rocks, for the riders to charge headlong around, duking it out against the clock for the Overall Classification, reports Matt Skinner in the fifth of his daily reports.
Special Stage Two Dalbeattie Forest Team Time Trial Total distance: 15km Climbing: 800m
Linking Stage Four Dalbeattie Forest to New Abbey Total distance: 59km Climbing: 1,300m
Day four of the Chain Reaction Cycles TransScotland (Powered by Merida Bikes) and the campsite awoke to blue skies and crisp sunshine for the perfect start to the second special stage team time trial at DalbeattieForest. Following the 15km sprint, riders would strike out for New Abbey, another 59km and 1,300m worth of climbing distant, where they’d spend the night close to the shadow of the ruined abbey itself. After the monster haul of yesterday, this was slated to be a much welcomed ‘easy day’. But the flat out 15km time trial on Dalbeattie’s fine trails meant that it was going to kick off with a high octane intensity to really grill the riders until they were well and truly ‘well done’.
The course was both long and sustained with no real space to hide or rest: it was pedal to the metal big ring stuff with little margin for error. The flowing singletrack was folded with rocky and rooty tech sections, steep power climbs and speeder bike raised boardwalk: it was both fast and challenging, especially when taken at a redlining race pace, and a test of both the body and the skills of each rider.
Unlike the first special stage at Drumlanrig where riders raced in relay, the Dalbeattie special stage was a true team effort from the gun: both riders completed the full 15km distance at the same time; the results would be decided by averaging the two riders’ times. Seeded in the order of the last stage’s results also meant that riders would have clear runs with few stragglers to fight through, to charge cleanly all the way to the finish. Leading pair and defending Merida TransWales Champions, Ryan Bevis and Jonathan Pugh (RAM Bikes/Scott UK), stormed round the 15km course in an average time of just 38 minutes and 15 seconds, and underlined in no uncertain terms their seriousness in intent of securing the Chain Reaction Cycles TransScotland (Powered by Merida Bikes) crown also.
Although some riders flew, others had the wind from beneath their wings sucked from under them as the course bared its teeth and intimidated them into making mistakes, un-ceremonially dumping them onto the dirt. Mechanical gremlins also played their part and influenced a change in the overall standings, as yesterday’s Scottish Borders Veteran Women’s Solo leader Hilary Bloor (Team Planetfear) suffered mashed gears and a snapped chain that relegated her from first to third in one instant.
Fusion Bike’s Mansour Youssef showed that his third in the open men’s category at last year’s Merida TransWales as part of a team was no flash in the pan. Solo this year, he clinched second in time trial in the Scottish Border’s Open Male Solo category, just behind Whyte Bikes’ Andy Barlow. This second place saw him move up to second in the overall standings, displacing Ben Thompson (Nevis Cycles) into third. But with just seven seconds between the two, this promises to be a battle that will continue all the way to the line at Selkirk on Saturday.
Elsewhere, in the Veteran Women’s Solo race, following the mechanical gremlins scuppering Hilary Bloor’s transmission mid-race, Tatjana Troll’s strong performance earned her enough time in hand to move her up to the top spot in the Overall Classification a minute and 17 seconds up on Julie Dinsdale.
Following the blood and guts efforts of the time trial, the linking stage itself was a more leisurely affair. Retracing part of the singletrack employed for the special stage, the route then hit the coast road to run parallel with the picturesque Mersehead Sands before diving on to the dirt once more to traverse the flanks of Boreland Hill and Meikle Hard Hill up to a height of 300m. The trail then descended for five kms before it headed upwards on a severe gradient up a gravel climb. But then the pay off: a snaking, natural and constantly accelerating wooded singletrack descent that spat riders through mossy boulder slots, weaving through purple bloomed rhododendrons, and rushing headlong into New Abbey and it’s fine selection of public houses.
Tomorrow dawns with the third special stage which takes place at the 7Stanes’ MabieForest, just a short spin from New Abbey. The trails will offer thrills aplenty with fast and flowing progressive singletrack, berms and techy rock sections to get the red mist descending. It will be a key stage for all the overall classifications and the warm up to the rest of the day’s linking stage. The route will return the riders to Moffat, 64km north east and 1,200m of climbing away to the north via Ae Forest and the exposed Lowther Hills. With the weather turning from blessed blue skies to damp and squib, the going may be tougher and harder than the distance suggests. For although there are only three days left of the Chain Reaction Cycles TransScotland (Powered by Merida Bikes), the last two are monsters as the event heads back into the big hills.