Capital cyclist Bruce Croall will head for Glasgow this weekend with his sights on an eighth successive Scottish kilometre time trial title. He is equally determined to shave fractions of seconds from his personal best and reinforce his claims for a place at next year’s Commonwealth Games.
The City of Edinburgh rider recently set an age group world record on his way to winning the World Masters title for the 35-39 years age group. But his time fell agonisingly short of the 1 minute 2.889 seconds qualification standard for Glasgow 2014.
For Croall, whose personal best is a mere 0.223 seconds shy of the requirement, Sunday’s event at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome offers a chance to move a step closer to his dream of representing his country.
Recent results confirm that the 35-year-old is in outstanding form at present. However, Croall’s current fastest time was set at Newport and his recent world best at Manchester. And although the shape of the track will not affect Sunday’s ride against the clock, he admits that the Glasgow boards call for a different set of skills.
“I’m not sure how fast the track is. The transition is very steep and you can feel it taking the speed out of your legs,” he says of the impact on sprinters. “It is quite hard and there have been a lot of crashes at the track. You have to ride it a bit differently.”
Nevertheless, he is delighted that Scotland now has an indoor facility, meaning his training over the coming months will be more focused than in the past when the outdoor track at Meadowbank Velodrome was unavailable over the winter.
“In previous years I have had to train on the roads. You tend to lose speed,” he explained. “This year, I’ve been doing sessions with Scottish Cycling. The good thing is that you know when you go through there that the session will be on. And it means you can keep your speed going through the winter.”
Croall’s achievements – he was British champion two years ago and fifth this year – are all the more impressive for a rider competing against full-timers who have the substantial backing of British Cycling.
He combines his sport with a job as an architectural technologist at SouthSide Property Management in the Capital. A flexible working arrangement with his boss enables Croall to make the trip along the M8 to work with Scottish sprint coach Kevin Stewart – a former City of Edinburgh team-mate.
“I do a lot of my training at night,” he adds. “It makes it tougher I suppose. When I am resting it tends to be when I am sleeping. The full-time riders have better rest periods.”
Even achieving the requisite time on Sunday does not guarantee qualification as he discovered four years ago, when he was overlooked for Delhi as selectors opted for younger riders to prepare them for next year’s home Games.
Now, his primary objective is a place in the five-man Scotland sprint squad. Riders will then be allocated to the Keirin, individual sprint, team sprint and kilo. Croall hopes to feature in the latter two.
Should he secure a place in the team sprint squad, he could find himself lining up next summer alongside his City of Edinburgh colleagues Callum Skinner and John Paul. That trio should be medal contenders, and Croall is also capable of challenging for a podium spot in the kilo.
The existence of the track in Glasgow means that Scots now have unprecedented opportunities to progress. But, while happy that he is able to train properly without being at the mercy of the elements, as was the case at Meadowbank, Croall believes that an emerging trend is discernible.
“There are lots of things going on,” he said. “There’s a lot of youth clubs in Glasgow and I think the power is moving that way. Right now track cycling in Edinburgh doesn’t have a lot going for it.”
However, concerns over the lack of facilities in his home town will be set aside on Sunday, which could be his best chance of achieving the qualifying time before the deadline next May.