It?s 21 years since a Scotsman won the Girvan, and Evan Oliphant reckons it?s about time the race had another home victory.

But it’s not national bias that makes the Plowman Craven rider one of the big favourites for this weekend’s Premier Calendar race.

Oliphant won a stage on his way to taking second place in the Bikeline Two-Day which kicked off the series. But the fact he?s got Scottish blood in his veins means all eyes will be on him.

Andy Ferry was the last Scottish rider to win the Girvan, in 1987. The previous year Martin Coll won. Two in a row. The Scots have rarely had it so good.

Since then it?s been a lengthy drought, and one that Oliphant believes can be ended now.

?It?s been a while, that?s for sure,? said the 26-year-old from Wick. ?And there?s a chance it?ll change this weekend.?

There are two Scots in the Plowman Craven team as Oliphant will be joined by the British criterium champion James McCallum.

Oliphant won the Scottish road title in the same area that hosts Monday?s final stage and, between them, he believes PCA can make life extremely difficult for Rapha-Condor-Recycling.

?That?s the plan. We really tried to unsettle them on the final stage of the Bikeline. We attacked early on a few times and made them chase, and then I had a few digs at the end but I couldn?t drop Dean [Downing, the eventual winner].?

Like the Bikeline, the Girvan will come down to a race of seconds in the end, making the time bonuses on offer to the first three on each stage absolutely vital.

?The first road stage can split up and if it does, you have to be in the front,? Oliphant said. ?The criterium is important too, but I think the race will come down to the final day, with the three climbs of Glenalla ? it?s known locally as The Windmill ? then Hadyard, then Nick o? the Balloch.

?If it hasn?t split up by then, it will on the final climb. The descent is tricky too and it?ll be in pieces by then.

?The climbs are not that steep but they?re grindy and if it?s windy, they can be really hard at the top.?

Oliphant said he?d like to avoid having to defend the leader?s jersey all weekend. ?You probably don?t want it until the final day because it?s hard to defend. Let someone else have the hassle, then take it on the last stage, that’s the plan. It will be all about the time bonuses so it could go to the wire.?

He cited Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor-Recycling), his brother Russell (Pinarello), Rob Partridge (Rapha) and Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek) as the other men to watch.

Another favourite could be Scot Alex Coutts, who will ride for a composite team, fresh from a stint racing in warmer weather, most recently at the Tour of Taiwan.

?I think he could be strong, as long as the change in conditions doesn?t affect him,? said Oliphant, who cancelled a week?s training in Majorca for fear that a week spent in the warm would not favour him when he gets to the Girvan.

?I was going to go to Majorca but the forecast for this weekend is cold ? three degrees at most ? and I?ve felt bad in the past when I?ve gone from warm to cold, so I decided not to risk it.?

Dean Downing listens carefully as Evan Oliphant explains how he’s going to win the Girvan. Possibly. By Andy Jones

GIRVAN STAGE RACE

Saturday, March 22

Stage 1: Girvan ? Girvan, 65 miles (starts 11am)

Stage 2: Girvan circuit race, 16.5 miles (5.30pm to 6.15pm approx)

Sunday, March 23

Stage 3: Newton Stewart ? Girvan, 89 miles (starts 11am)

Monday, March 24

Stage 4: Girvan ? Girvan, 72 miles (starts 11am)

TIME BONUSES

Stages 1, 3 and 4:
15, 10 and 5 seconds to the first three

Stage 2: 10, 6 and 3 seconds to the first three

RECENT WINNERS

2007 Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek)

2006 Kristian House (Recycling.co.uk)

2005 Robin Sharman (Recycling.co.uk)

2004 Malcolm Elliott (Pinarello RT)

2003 John Tanner (Life Repair Group)

2002 Not held ? funding issues

2001 Not held ? foot and mouth crisis

2000 Jon Clay (composite team)

1999 Gordon McCauley (Men?s Health)

1998 Jon Clay (Team Brite)

OTHER NOTABLE WINNERS

1973 Doug Dailey; 1975 Bill Nickson; 1980 Sean Yates; 1981-1982 Tony Doyle; 1983 Dave Lloyd; 1984-1985, 1995 Paul Curran; 1988 Shane Sutton; 1990 Wayne Randle; 1993 Keith Reynolds; 1997 Rob Hayles

MY RACE?

By organiser Ian Sinclair of Wallacehill CC

?The Girvan has traditionally been held on a hard, rural course, and we are constantly looking at the route to make sure it is faithful to that.

?This year it?s as early as it can ever be, with Easter falling so early, but we?re keeping our fingers crossed for the weather. Everyone thinks that typical Girvan weather is cold, wet and windy, but generally you get a bit of everything over the weekend. I daren?t look at the five-day forecast though.

?The first stage is shaped like a bow tie, and the finishing loop has proved decisive in recent years. It?s not that long, about 65 miles, and it?s not as hilly as the final two stages, so I?m anticipating a very fast average speed. It?s usually around 25 or 26 miles and hour but it could be even faster and it?s going to take a strong man to win it. Three or four could break away on the finishing loop but there aren?t many hills to break it up so it could be a sprint.

?The criterium is a hard race. It?s only 16 miles long and less than 40 minutes of racing but under-estimate it at your peril. With 65 fast miles already in the legs, the crit sorts the men from the boys.

?It?s very hard, with 11 corners on the circuit, meaning there?s a lot of hard sprinting out of corners.

?We?ve shortened the third stage a wee bit and it?s around 90 miles. We get support from Dumfries and Galloway so we take it down into that area.

?The opening loop is where the race will hot up. There are some long drags and some technical descents so you have to be a good bike rider.

?A couple of years ago a group got away and got about seven minutes before Recycling got to the front and dragged it back again on the run down to Newton Stewart.

?The final stage is traditionally the hill stage and this year is no exception. In recent years the Glenalla climb has been out of bounds because of the condition of the road but it?s okay this year.

?Then there?s Hadyard Hill and Nick o? the Balloch as well, which offer chances to attack.

?The Girvan became a stage race in 1968, organised by George Miller. It started as a race to give the Scots some stage-racing before they headed for the Star Trophy races.

?Now we have a sponsor, Scottish Power Renewables, who have backed us for the past three years and have just agreed to continue for another five.”

LAST YEAR

Stage 1

1 Chris Newton (Recycling.co.uk) 2hr 22min 33sec

2 John Tanner (Sportscover ? Planet X)

3 Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek) both same time

Leader: Chris Newton

Stage 2

1 Tony Gibb (Plowman Craven) 37min 52sec

2 Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek)

3 Chris Newton (Recycling.co.uk) both same time

Leader: Chris Newton

Stage 3

1 Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek) 4hr 22min 45sec

2 Gordon McCauley (Plowman Craven)

3 Chris Newton (Recycling.co.uk) both same time

Leader: Ian Wilkinson

Stage 4

1 Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor) 3hr 10min 35sec

2 Graham Briggs (Recycling.co.uk) at 3sec

3 Andy Roche (Pinarello) same time

Final overall

1 Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek) 10hr 33min 26sec

2 Chris Newton (Recycling.co.uk) at 3sec

3 Gordon McCauley (Plowman Craven) at 16sec

HOW I WON?

By 2007 champion, Ian Wilkinson

?Last year was the third time I?d ridden the Girvan and each time I?d realised that it comes down to the time bonuses on each stage.

?You have to be up there in the first three on every stage ? including the crit ? if you?re going to win it overall. You have to watch everyone and it can come down to those placings.

?When Kristian House won it [in 2006] he wasn?t out of the top three all weekend.

?You can be as strong as you like in the race, do what you want every day, but if you?re not in the top three you?re nowhere, so it?s a really intense weekend?s racing.

?I like the stage racing effect. I work full-time and don?t get the chance to train as much as some of the others so I like stage races because I get better as they go on.

?I really concentrated on those first three stages and got the time bonuses to take the lead from Chris [Newton] when I won the third stage.

?It only gave me a tiny lead and I knew I could lose it on the line.

?It disappointed me a bit when people said I only won because Recycling took back the breaks but the reality was it was me on my own. If you have a team of seven against a team of one you have to play to your strengths.

?I?m not the cleverest rider by any means but I try to learn from every race. Chris Newton is a very clever rider, very tactically aware and very hard to beat. But if Recycling, Plowman Craven, Pinarello all have three matches to burn and I?ve only got one, I can?t be chasing.

?I feel in good form again this year. I did well at the Bikeline [he won two stages] and I will be another couple of weeks stronger, so I?m looking forward to it.?

BATTLE OF THE BROTHERS

It?s Paris and Nicky Hilton without a tiny dog in a handbag?

It?s Venus and Serena Williams without the obsessive pushy parents?

Are we running out of sibling rivalries to reference already?

This is it ? the competition that has some riders considering changing their names by deed poll so they can be part of it.

British cycling?s Battle of the Brothers.

A brief recap of Round One, the Bikeline Two-Day: Dean ? the Rapha Raider ? absolutely owned Russell.

Now it?s up to the Pinarello Prince to show he?s up for the fight with a strong performance in Round Two.

Current score: Deano 1, Russ 0

CW?S SUPER TEAM CHALLENGE

Rapha-Condor-Recycling lead Cycling Weekly?s Super Team Challenge after Dean Downing won the Bikeline and Dale Appleby was third.

Can Plowman Craven get on terms this weekend ? and can Pinarello redeem themselves to overhaul surprise package SIS-Trek and regain the final spot in the competition?

STANDINGS

After one event

1 Rapha-Condor-Recycling 11pts

2 Plowman Craven 8pts

3 SIS-Trek 6pts

RELATED LINK

For detailed maps, history and the latest start list news, visit the Girvan?s official site

Girvan stage race: Official site