Women’s Tour of Scotland – Heather’s Photo Special!

Photo Gallery: It is more usual for Heather Morrison to fly off to Italy to cover the Giro or Lombardia, but as the first Woman’s Tour of Scotland is practically on her door-step… Unlike Italy, the weather was no friend, but there was still some hot racing. Heather started with the pre-race press conference, missed the rain soaked and cancelled stage 1, but hit the road for more rain on stages 2 and 3.

Katie Archibald, Anna Christian and Emma White

Press Conference
I went to the press conference for the Women’s Tour on Thursday. It was held in the same venue as the teams were staying for the 3 day event, the very beautiful Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hotel. In attendance was Katie Archibald, Emma White, Anna Christian and a very excited Brodie Chapman who was chuffed to bits to be in Scotland for the 1st time, and wanting to do an Ancestry search. If she disappears over the 3 days we’ll find her in a local church searching for records.

Brodie Chapman, Katie Archibald and Anna Christian

After the question and answer session we all headed outside for some photos and the TV interviews. You have to keep remembering that this is the inaugural race of a National Race in Scotland since the 80s, and it’s for the women. It’s quite an achievement to get this off the ground and hopefully will lead to bigger and better events for all, across the country. So hundreds of representatives from the TV and written media… no, just BBC Scotland and STV. (Not) Surprisingly Eurosport “the home of cycling” was not there. A few cycle Mags were represented. When we were mingling outside I heard some grumbling about kit and training for the Team Scotland Women who do not normally ride together on the road, but generally the overall mood is excitement ahead of the race.

Drops’ Anna Christian talks to the TV

Race photographer, Simon Wilkinson. Giving advice to Brodie Chapman and Anna Christian?

I headed home knowing that I would not be able to make it on the Friday for the kick off as I had a proper job to go to. In the end I missed nothing due to the weather causing the stage to be cancelled after 63 kilometres, but I was looking forward to getting up the Dukes Pass on Saturday.

The press conference line-up: Emma White of Rally UHC, Anna Christian of Drops, Katie Archibald of Scotland, Sophie Wright of Bigla and Brodie Chapman of Tibco–SVB

Stage 2 Glasgow to Perth (via Dukes Pass)
After Fridays stage 1 being rained off due to the weather and standing water on the road, when I got up Saturday morning I was surprised and please to find the sun shining brightly. I decide not to take the chance of going to Glasgow for the start and I head directly to Dukes Pass at Aberfoyle in the blazing sunshine. I wanted to make sure I got to a good spot for the 1st QoM. As I turned at the base of The Pass the sun was shining and I climbed (in the car) to the 1st QoM. Pleased to see so many on the road waiting for the race which had just set off from Glasgow and was about 45 minutes away. There were great crowds gathering. I was going slowly to find a parking space. I sneak into the very back of a tiny lay-by, I turn off the engine and the heavens opened.

Just to prove it

The rain calmed down fairly quickly, but it was still drizzling. Although it had dropped a mighty load of water on the ground, I gave it a few minutes before I left the car, watching the clock to be sure I’d be out for the lassies passing. Walking to the QoM banner I took a couple of photos of those waiting sitting in the rain, makes me proud to be Scottish, we don’t care what kind of rain it is, it’s not going to stop us.

Typical Scottish weather

I walked down the hill a bit to find a good spot and the rain finally stopped enough for me to get my jacket off so I could sit on it in the grass and wait for the race. It wasn’t long before they came, one lone rider was out-front but the peloton were hot on her heels, led by team Bigla Pro cycling en masse protecting Ludwig’s polka dot jersey from stage 1.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig leads on the climb

The Bigla team was strong

Once the girls have passed I head back to the car and begin the chase to try to beat them up to Perth, they were ahead of time despite the epic rain fall. I haven’t been able to see the media guy yet so don’t have a photo bib so in a wee panic to ensure I can get to the finish.

The tough climb split the peloton

Made it to Perth in time for the race finish, however, Perth was having some kind of crazy event bonanza. On this day there is the 30th anniversary Pride March through the centre, a Half Marathon, a medieval market was also in the centre of town, and they are making an attempt on the world Record open air Ceildh in the evening. Also the finish of a stage of the inaugural Women’s Tour of Scotland… So, as you can imagine parking was at a premium. Who though up the logistical nightmare must’ve chewed their fingernails to the elbow.

Alison Jackson of Team TIBCO – SVB won the stage

I get parked and head to the pressroom… no one there, they hadn’t made it through the traffic. So a few tense moments ensue waiting to see if they will turn up with photographer bibs to get me up front. People begin to arrive in dribs and drabs, eventually the boss arrives… with no bibs, they left hem in Glasgow. So he procures me a TV bib and sneaks me in just in time for the flame rouge shout out.

Van De Velde checks her power

It was a hard day

Points jersey for Leah Thomas

Alison Jackson of Team TIBCO – SVB wins the sprint finish, with Emma White (Rally UHC) and Stine Borgli (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) in 3rd. First Scot over the line was Anna Shackley, QoM was the Queen of smiles herself, Bigla Pro Cycling’s Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig. Youth leader in the Deloitte Jersey was Rally UHC’s Emma White and points jersey winner was Bigla’s Leah Thomas, remember that name it may come up again. Brodie Chapman also made the podium, as most aggressive and she duly demonstrated for us on the podium.

Mountain Queen – Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

Emma White – Best Young Rider

Top Scottish rider – Jennifer George

Stage 3 Edinburgh to Edinburgh
Got to Edinburgh in time for sign on, the first sign on I have made this race, so imagine my astonishment, only 500m from the Scottish Parliament, the commentator, who having previously introduced Team Scotland, introduced “and now a big welcome for your National Team, Team GB” you’re in Edinburgh pal! I don’t think he’ll be back.

The Rally team arrive at the start

Team Scotland, ready for the off

Ale Cipollini on the sign-on podium

Once Bigla sign on I head to the banner marked ‘START’ at the base of the climb up The Mound. I walk up to the 15km sign and wait for them passing, people are gathering, we’re waiting and I’m thinking what has happened, I check twitter, this is the start for the kiddies later on… the race has started in the opposite direction. That’s the second time I’ve done this, I missed the podium in Il Lombardia thinking I was smart and heading to a podium I’d spotted when I arrived, which turned out to be the podium for the Gran Fondo… Will I learn… we wait to see.

Norwegian weather?

A big day ahead for the Bigla team

Cheers – Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

As I had missed the start I decide to try and move my illegally parked car and see if I can find somewhere better. So I drive round in circles a couple of times, and end up back in the exact same position. When I leave the car I decide to leave my big red rain jacket, its dry and warm and I have a light jacket in the car, so I put this on and head back to where the podiums are as my nephew is in town and is coming to see the race finish. Of course as soon as I am too far to just turn back to the car… the rain starts, and there is zero sign of it stopping. I meet my nephew for a cup of tea and then head back along the course and up the mound to get to the QoM to wait for the race.

Bigla had a plan

Leah Thomas heading for victory

The race will do this circuit of the Mound 3 times and then finish. Its great, I have an assistant, he eventually offers to take my bag… he had offered to carry my cup of tea? Men? So I warn the boy that we can catch their 1st pass and then will need to run for the finish. We get to the QoM point and decide this is it, it is filling up with people and there are umbrellas (please ban umbrellas) – so I decide I will cross the road for photos when they get close. I’m so wet it doesn’t matter, so I cross to the other side where there are no umbrellas and plonk on the grass and wait. The lead car appears and the riders are there immediately. Again, Bigla were leading the charge to the top, you can see Leah Thomas’ Red Points jersey on the front. They come through in groups, pain of this 12% climb on the faces of many of the riders… and they’re past.

Scotland’s best – Jennifer George

Hard for a track rider – Katie Archibald

We get everything packed away as the rain is pelting down, and we take off for the finish. Before we get to the base of the Mound Ludwig flies past us again, my nephew, surprised, “is that them coming back again?” Yes, we need to move it. We get to the finish-line just in time and I get into the pack, you can barely see thought the rain, and I’m taking photos with luck more than technique, no idea what I’m photographing. I could see red and so assume it’s the ever present Leah Thomas again.

Stage and overall for Thomas

Once the riders all get through they gather for the podium shots. This rain… everyone is searching for supermarket bags to cover cameras. And they have us standing cameras out at the ready in the pouring rain for 30 mins at least before the podiums are ready. Mark Beaumont and daughter present the top Scot. Bigla’s American Leah Thomas, gets her stage win and swaps her red jersey for the yellow of winners jersey. TIBCO’s Canadian, Alison Jackson takes second overall and Norwegian, Stine Borgli of FDJ Nouvelle was third and Cecile Ludwig is ‘Queen of the Mountains’.

Stage winner – Thomas

QoM – Ludwig

Points – Thomas

3rd overall – Stine Borgli

So that was the inaugural Women’s Tour of Scotland, I think it has been a good race, well organised great parcours, and they got the bad weather in their first edition. I hope to see it back again next year, maybe with some Scots involved in the results. After saying goodbye to my nephew, I headed for the car, luckily for my car seat I had a blanket to protect it from my sodden clothing, time to head home and dismantle my cameras and wrap the bits in towels.

See you next year in the sun!

The final podium – Stine Borgli (Norway), Leah Thomas (Bigla) and Alison Jackson (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank)

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