Mar 282015

The Tour of the North International stage race takes to the roads of Northern Ireland during the Easter weekend. The NICF promotions group headed by Ballymena woman Joan McCullough(race director) has organised a challenging route comprising of three road races and one time trial.

The stages all start and finish in Ballymena and take in the roads of counties Antrim and Derry/Londonderry. One hundred and ten riders will race almost 200 miles in the three days. Stage One on Easter Saturday 4th April is a 65 mile loop in the Glens of Antrim with four King of the Hills primes. This will be a hard start to the weekend and the peleton will no doubt split into several groups. Easter Sunday begins with a 4 mile individual time trial in the morning which should see a further sort out of the general classification. In the afternoon Stage 3 is a 63 miles road race based on an eleven mile circuit between Ballymena and Randalstown. The final stage on Easter Monday is the longest of the weekend at 70 miles (113 kms) and it takes the riders on a loop around Co Derry/Londonderry including 2 major climbs at Springwell and Cam Forest. Detailed information of the route and passing times can be found on website.

This is the 51st edition of the Tour of the North. Former winners include the former world number 1 Sean Kelly (1976) and more recently the 2013 World Scratch Track race champion Martyn Irvine from Newtownards who won the 2009 race.

The race does not have a head line sponsor this year but it has secured backing from cycle clothing company Powerhouse sport and Ballymena Borough Council.

The start list includes teams’ from the United Kingdom, Ireland France and Holland.

Tour of the North

Included in the photograph are competitors who will be on the start line of the tour at Easter, David Hamilton (North Down CC) winner last month of the John Moore Memorial race, junior rider and U23 James Curry (Banbridge CC) one of Irelands best junior cyclists who has attended the UCI School of Cycling in Switzerland, Paul Mulligan (Caldwell Cycles) Omagh) the current Ulster Veteran road race champion who has competed many times in the Tour of the North and local man Hall Booth (Ballymena RC) who has raced successfully for over 20 years and also holds a position on the organising NICF committee.

The field is a good mix of local riders and visiting teams so it promises to be an exciting contest for the coveted yellow jersey for race winner.

The race also includes an Under 23 year old competition in which the leader wears a white jersey and the King of the Hills spotted jersey.

Brendan Kirk



Mar 232015

Mullingar cyclist Damian Shaw (Team Asea) was the dominant winner of Ards Cycling Clubs classic race, The Tour of Ards for the Tommy Brown Memorial Trophy last Saturday. He finished 2 minutes 44 seconds ahead of local hero David Watson (North Down CC) who beat Craig McAuley (Roe Valley CC) and the rest of the original breakaway group in the sprint for second. Newry men Mark McKinley and Sean Featherstone were fourth and fifth with Belfast rider Alastair McAuley (Team Asea) sixth.
Brian Stewart (Phoenix) from Carryduff won the bunch sprint for seventh. Eighty riders started the 65 miles race in cold and dry conditions. The strong men like Shaw ans Watson were already on the attack by Ballyboley Corner after just five miles. Several attacks in the first 15 miles came to nothing but eventually Shaw broke clear just after Ballyhalbert. David Watson jumped across to Shaw with five others following to form a strong break of seven riders. This was the move of the day with Craig Rea (Phoenix) being the only rider to loose out as he was dropped in the last few miles and bunch passed him just before the finish line.
The break gained a one minute lead during the first of two loops taking in Cloughy and Portaferry. Several chasing groups tried to bridge including a strong looking move by Glen Kinning (Kinning Cycles) and David Hamilton (North Down CC) but the bunch closed them down. On the second approach to Portaferry Damian Shaw made a powerful attack and no one had a reply. He time trialled the last twenty miles to a well deserved win. Shaw works as a fireman and also represents Ireland as a pilot on tandems in the World Paracycling events. He is racing for the newly formed Team Asea which is an American Health Products chain. He had high praise for the Ards CC promotion and the racing scene up north in general. Also in the team is Bangor man Fraser Duncan who won the Tour of Ards last year and was competing for the first time this year on Saturday.
David Watson (North Down) is having a career best season so far. He now sits third in the current Cycling Ireland rankings, having begun the year with a win he has been placed in the top eight in all five events he has started. The 28 year old works as a Construction Engineer and travels to Edinburgh every week. As a junior he won the prestigious Kerry youth Tour back in 2002 and represented Northern Ireland in the junior Commonwealth Games in 2004.
His aims for the rest of the season include the Tour of the North, Tour of Ulster and the An Post Ras in May.
Newtownards man Barry Hamilton was the next of a big North Down club entry to finish in 23rd place with Johnny Webb and Garth Beattie also in the top thirty. First Ards CC man and winner of the Simon Hamill Memorial Trophy was Ian Carson. Killinchy CC had its first Tour of Ards finisher in Paul Crossan. It was pleasing to see a rise in the numbers of junior riders competing including North down CCs Will Hamilton, Joash Lawrence and Andrew Chivers.
The race was sponsored by See Sense (local cycle light company) and Romas Bar and Restaurant.

Paul Kirk On Podium again
North Down veteran, Paul Kirk was in the prizes again last Sunday. He raced to a fine third place in the Masters event at Feeny, Co.Derry. This result leaves him in second place in the season long Masters league.

European Youth Selection Races
North Down girls Molly McLarnon and Katie Armstrong made the long trip to Westport for the first of four Olympic Youth selection races. Molly impressed with a 2nd place in the 10 kilometre time trial with Katie not far behind in fifth place. The European Youth Olympics are in July in Georgia.

One of North Downs newest members, 15 year old Jacob Kennedy took part in his first downhill event last weekend at Carlingford. He placed tenth in the dare devil’ race which is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Report by Brendan Kirk

Mar 142015

Portavogie cyclist, David Hamilton (North Down CC) won the John Moore Memorial road race on Saturday 28th February at Carryduff. Hamilton, who was runner up behind his team mate David Watson the previous Sunday, made a bold chase across to the two leaders in the last few miles of  the race. Despite his late efforts and being very active during the 56 miles race he beat  Andrew Bye(Newry) and Craig McAauley (Roe Valley) in the finishing sprint.

James Curry (Banbridge) led in the rest of the chasing group for fourth place with Angus Fyffe (Tomac CC Belgium) fifth and North Down man David Watson sixth.

This was a very tough race around a hilly seven miles circuit and the aggressive racing in wintry conditions resulted in only half of the eighty starters complete the race.

What we now call the John Moore Memorial race began back in 1989 as the Castlereagh Grand Prix. The promoting club was called the Belvoir Road Club and the winner in 89 was Mark Kane (Northern cc). The Belvoir changed its name to Castlereagh CC and in 2002 the race became a memorial to club stalwart John Moore. Ards man Martyn Irvine, the former World Scratch race Track Champion, is one of an illustrious list of winners.

Speaking after the prize giving Hamilton said “I’m really proud to win this cup, it’s a great race. On the last lap we could see the two leaders just up the road. I thought it’s now or never and took off after them on the drag up to the last corner. When I caught them, they tried to get me to come through to the front but i just sat tight. I used my head  …there was only a mile to the finish but I recovered enough to win the sprint. I’ve used a single speed bike this winter and pedalled smaller gears and I feel better for it. I ride from   Portavogie to Stormont where I work and that’s a big part of my training. I’m looking forward to the Tour of Ards now which is two weeks ahead.”

The North Down club had a big entry in the main race and first to feature in an early breakaway was James Ambrose who was in a leading ten man group until mid distance. Shaun Carey was at the front of the second big group to finish for twelfth place with Andrew Gregg, Barry Hamilton and Richard McCullough all finishing in a depleted bunch.


The supporting A4 race was won by Killinchy Cycling Clubs Paul Crossan who attacked late for a solo victory. Paul Kirk (North Down) sprinted well to place fourth while Ards cc riders Paul McMinn and Richard Hanna finished mid bunch.


Nathan Keown (North Down) did a strong race in the Errigal CC youth series in Dobhar, Donegal. Nathan was third in the under 14 category while Katie Armstrong had the bad luck to puncture at the same venue. North Down CC rider Lewis Ferguson ended the Spring Series in 4th place overall while Claire Oakley (XMTB) was 2nd in the women’s category. Killinchy rider Michael Rauch took 3rd in the B men’s category.

Report by Brendan Kirk

Mar 062015

katie-1As part of the work Forestside does with schools in the Forestside Life Programme, we are supporting Katie Armstrong, a young, up and coming sports person, who through her inspiration and motivation is achieving great results in her chosen sport of cycling. Forestside have sponsored Katie with a specialised track bike to help her as she strives to achieve her goals. Katie will be helping us in return by providing a monthly blog of her journey, sharing her experiences and hopes with other young sports people encouraging them to take part, perform at higher levels and succeed in sport and life.

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