Trevor Ward rides with a Scottish club that continues to hold its own in a rugby-mad town
- Photos by James Robertson
Based: Hawick, Scottish Borders
Meets: Clubrooms, 12 Teviot Crescent, Hawick, at 9.30 am every Sunday for a club run. Club time trial series on Tuesday evenings during the season.
Just a few blocks away from the clubrooms of Hawick CC on the banks of the River Teviot are the town’s angling and boxing clubs. But it is Hawick’s rugby heritage that has caused the club committee most concern.
“If it’s not Xboxes and video games, we lose a lot of potential young members to the rugby clubs,” says Ian Anderson, one of the club’s longest serving members and a former Scottish junior champion. “They only end up joining us when they’re older and finally realise rugby’s quite dangerous!”
One member who resisted the lure of the oval-shaped ball was David Henderson, who joined the club aged 12 in the 1970s, despite the town’s most famous son — BBC rugby commentator Bill McLaren — visiting local schools as an evangelist for the game.
“I preferred riding my bike and the weekly club ride out for a ‘drum-up’ with some teabags, tins of baked beans or even condensed soup,” recalls Henderson.
Another concern facing the newly appointed committee is the club’s lack of a qualified cycling coach. “It’s something we definitely need to address,” says treasurer Steven Harkness, a former player with Hawick Linden RFC and one of several ‘rugby refugees’ in the club. “We have these great clubrooms and should really use them more, such as for coached turbo sessions.”
The lack of a coach doesn’t prevent the club from supporting and encouraging new members, however. Barry Renwick, a member since the 1990s, has seen numbers steadily increase. “We only had 20 members back then because everyone played rugby, but now we are starting to see some younger blood coming through and starting racing, which is great,” he says.
His wife, Linsey, is the club’s new secretary and recognises the challenge in keeping those members. One idea is to get the club’s ‘star rider’, former pro jockey Wilson Renwick who is now a first-cat racer, to supervise regular turbo sessions.
But for now, as we thread our way through Hawick’s deserted streets and start the gradual climb out of town, Linsey is more concerned with the half-wheeling from some of the club’s male contingent. One of only four female members, she says it helps that she’s got “a thick skin” when the men start getting competitive. “Plus I can give it out as good as I get,” she adds.
While we are regrouping at the top of the first climb, Sean Linton tells me how he joined the club after an ankle injury forced him to give up playing prop for Hawick RFC.
“I was 17 stone then, now I’m down to 14,” he says. “I used to train two nights a week with the rugby club and then play at the weekend, but they could learn a lot from the diets and training used in cycling.”
The descent into Newcastleton takes us down the B6357, which was climbed in the opposite direction by the pros during a stage of the 2015 Tour of Britain. This stretch of road has a special significance for Liam Beaty. He’d set the fastest time on the 2.7 mile-long climb just two weeks before the Tour of Britain, and had managed to hold on to his KoM on Strava by just six seconds after the professional peloton had passed through.
“The first I knew about it was when a mate sent me a text saying, ‘You’re famous,’” he tells me over coffee and cakes at the cafe stop. “I climbed it in 9-35, which wasn’t bad considering I’d been at work [at the Forestry Commission] with a chainsaw all day.”
Since then, Polish pro rider Marcin Bialoblocki — who last year smashed the British 10 and 25 TT records — has narrowed the gap by one second.
Formed in 1881, Hawick CC claims to be one of the oldest surviving clubs in Scotland, with early accounts recalling its official “grey uniform, badge and maroon caps”. An early member was Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was persuaded to join while campaigning for Parliament in the town in 1905. He donated half a guinea to the club’s coffers.
The club’s most famous member is Kenny Laidlaw, who became the first Scot to complete the Tour de France when he was selected for the Great Britain team in 1961. He made headlines in the French newspapers after winning the Combativity Prize for a daring breakaway on the 11-mile climb up to Superbagnères in the Pyrenees (he was eventually caught by a group including Jacques Anquetil).
A sportive named after Laidlaw has been organised by the club every August since 2007, but is under threat by a rival event that has moved its date back from April to within a fortnight of Hawick CC’s. “We can’t compete with a big commercial operation like theirs and so had to cancel last year’s event,” says president Tosh Scott. “I’m hoping to meet them to see if we can come to some arrangement for this year.”
Meanwhile, the club’s distinctive jersey design almost caused “a civil war” when it was unveiled five years ago. Designer Hamish Smith, a member since 1957, had incorporated the club’s traditional colours of blue and yellow, but an empty ink cartridge meant it was printed out blue and cerise. “We showed the designs to members and it started a war!” says 69-year-old Hamish with a smile.
“A couple of death threats later we tossed a coin and the current kit — blue and cerise — was born.”
- Ken Laidlaw, 65th overall in the 1961 Tour de France.
- Allan Richardson, multiple Scottish road and track titles.
- Mike Law, East of Scotland champion; junior road race series champion, 1981.
- Tosh Scott, East of Scotland champion; Scottish and Welsh MTB Vets champion.
- Bruce Scott, silver medal in the British 100km Team Time Trial, 1993.
- Rab Scott, fourth in Junior Tour of Ireland.
- Alan Ainslie, completed Paris-Brest-Paris 1999 in 73 hours, 35 minutes.
- Wilson Renwick, podiums and top 10s in National B and Regional A RRs.
Hawick CC club run: Ride highlights (50 miles)
1 Note o’ the Gate climb
Our views were obscured by mist, but I looked at some postcards in Hawick afterwards and it really is a scenic climb. Don’t be confused when you pass the Alpine Shop and B&B near the top.
2 B6357 descent
A long, sweeping descent into Newcastleton, this was the climb used in the 2015 Tour of Britain. Despite that, the KoM still belongs to Hawick CC member Liam Beaty.
3 Cogsmill descent
This is the final stretch back into Hawick and a chance to spin out the lactate, or, as in the case of Hawick CC, improvise a full-on race scenario to the ‘Welcome to Hawick’ signs.
The main attraction at the Copshaw Kitchen Tearoom is the menu. It features an array of warming savoury dishes from breakfast rolls and soups to main meals including curries, burgers and seafood platters. Address: 4 North Hermitage Street, Newcastleton, TD9 0RB.