We ride out with East Lothian club, Haddington CC
- Words by Trevor Ward, photos by James Robertson
Based: Haddington, East Lothian
Meets: all at the Corn Exchange, Haddington. Three groups — fast, intermediate and no-drop — leave at 9 am on Sundays. Fast ride at 9 am on Saturdays. Midweek TTs take place at 7 pm on Tuesdays. Hilly training rides take place at 7pm on Wednesdays during the summer.
There’s very little Chris Froome-style staring at stems during Haddington CC club rides.
This is partly to do with the views of the glorious East Lothian coast and countryside that the club has on its doorstep, but also a reflection of the club’s overriding philosophy.
This is summed up by club secretary John Archibald: “We’re not about racing, we’re about riding and socialising.”
Today’s turnout of 40 riders, on a day when the weather forecast was less than promising, shows just how this philosophy is working.
Archibald is forced to split us into two groups. Conscious of the mix of abilities, he briefs us: “We’ll keep both groups at 16mph, and don’t worry about taking your turn at the front, we’ve got volunteers to do that.”
That’s good to know, as the first half of the route takes us into a fierce headwind, though I feel slightly guilty to learn that the rider bearing the brunt of the workload, Chris Allan, only returned home from a training camp in Mallorca at half past two this morning.
Meanwhile, Ronnie Jones is pointedly ignoring the computer on his handlebars. “I’ve just joined Strava, but to be honest you have to stick the Garmin in your back pocket now and then otherwise you become too obsessed,” he says.
“I come out on these rides mainly for the blether. Previously, I commuted to work six miles every day for 15 years, but wanted a bit of company, so joined the club a year ago.”
But for those who want a challenge, the club will offer its support, whether it’s car sharing to sportives or providing encouragement for personal goals.
Garry Latimer is due to attempt the Scottish Hour Record —currently 46.65 km, set in 1996 by Jim Gladwell — at the Glasgow velodrome, while Alan Galbraith is planning an attempt to join the Club de Cinglés by ascending Ventoux three times in one day.
“It’s a bucket list thing, I choose a different challenge every year,” he says. Joining him will be Adam Cochrane, who failed on a previous attempt with the club in 2015.
“I have unfinished business,” he says. “Though I was three and a half stone heavier then.”
At the other end of the spectrum is Iain Farquhar, who only took up cycling three years ago after joining some workmates on a sportive.
“I really enjoyed it so got in touch with the club,” he says. “I turned up for my first ride on a hybrid. There are some clubs that would have laughed at me, but these couldn’t have been friendlier.”
The sentiment is echoed by Hamish Hall, who took up cycling 18 months ago to lose weight. He has the time to dedicate himself to the task as he only works three months a year: “I’m a sheep pregnancy scanner.
I scan 104,000 ewes from mid-December to mid-March and get paid per animal” — he says: “From what I’d heard about some clubs I was fairly apprehensive, but that first ride went really well and it’s been great ever since.”
By the time we arrive at the café, it’s already full with riders. Alan McCaskie tells me East Lothian is starting to become as popular for cycling as it is for golf.
“I work for a bank, and instead of corporate golf days, there is now a trend for cycling days,” he says.
Cycling the new golf? With scenery and quiet roads like this, it’s easy to see why.
The club was formed in 2012 after several groups of riders kept bumping into each other on local roads and later found themselves taking part in the same sportive (the Bealach Mor in the Highlands).
They set up a Facebook page and soon had inquiries from riders with a range of abilities, from novice to racer.
One of those original riders was Martin Dobbie, who says the group’s philosophy survives to this day.
“We’re a fairly relaxed bunch and we’re keen to promote the friendly aspects of cycling with lots of options available for those that wish to push themselves to the next level of racing or simply just be out on the road with friendly faces,” he says.
The club also aims to promote the merits of East Lothian, the county to the east of Edinburgh, Scotland’s grand capital.
“We’re lucky to have some wonderful roads, hills and scenery on our doorstep, so want to get as many people of all ages as possible cycling here,” says Dobbie, the club’s marketing manager and digital ‘guru’.
The club has made its mark on the Scottish cycling calendar, hosting a round of the popular Super Quaich CX series at Foxlake, near Dunbar, that attracted hundreds of competitors across all categories. “CX is the ‘acceptable’ side of racing, as it’s much more sociable,” says John Archibald, the club secretary.
The club reinforces its social emphasis with a monthly pub night that occasionally hosts guest speakers.
Graeme Obree was a recent visitor.
The club has hosted several overseas trips to iconic climbs, including Ventoux and Stelvio. This year’s challenge will be the Angliru, in Asturias in northern Spain, a regular fixture on the Vuelta.
The club kit design features a distinctive wraparound motif that, says Dobbie, captures “our philosophy that we all ride together and aren’t afraid of the hills, both the ups and the downs”.
– In 2012, Adam Cochrane was second in the Mark Beaumont 24-hour Cycle The World race at Knockhill, Fife.
– In 2015, Martin Dobbie, Chris Allan, Neil Clyde, Dave Gentle, Shona Bathgate and Alan McCaskie completed the Club des Cinglés Challenge, which sees riders complete the three ascents of Ventoux in one day (a total distance of 135km with 4,381 metres of climbing)
– Chris Allan was runner-up at the Dig in the Dock CX B-race this year.
– Shona Bathgate and Bruce Wilson competed in the Nice Ironman last year.
Haddington club run – Ride highlights
1 North Berwick coast road
This is a flat but exposed section that runs out of North Berwick and offers great views out to sea and the imposing, volcanic hulk of Bass Rock. It’s occupied by a colony of gannets.
2 East Linton
A postcard-pretty village that boasts a church with clock tower, village square with fountain, stone bridge over a burbling river and, should you need sustenance before you reach Gifford, a cafe.
3 B6369 descent
The home stretch is a long, fast and straight descent that, apart from one little bump, delivers you painlessly back to the handsome town square of Haddington.
The Lanterne Rouge is popular with riders not only for its food — cake and a cuppa for £4 — but also for its artwork celebrating moments from cycling history. There’s a giant map of the area on one wall so you can retrace/plan your route. The Lanterne Rouge, 1 Main Street, Gifford, EH41 4QH.