07 July 2010

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Over the past few years North Down Cycling Club has grown to the point where it is now one of the biggest clubs in Ireland. The main growth area has been in recreational or leisure riding but North Down has a well established reputation as a club that has produced its share of top racing riders. Like other clubs and other sports for that matter, it is realised, however, that future success depends on attracting new blood, in particular young riders. The success of British and Irish riders on the international scene ensures the presence of cycling on the sports pages and, more importantly, on our television screens. Viewers disappointed at the tired and uninspiring fare served up by many teams at the football World Cup, need only to have tuned in to the early stages of this year’s Tour de France to have seen non-stop, full-on action in a competition generally regarded as the toughest event in world sport.


Cycle racing is physically very demanding and with most road races being staged on open roads, there is understandable apprehension among parents about the risks that attend racing among normal traffic. There are alternatives and North Down has sought to create a racing environment which is traffic free by running a series of monthly races at Kirkistown race circuit, a series supported by Bike-It Cycles of Belfast. Club race secretary Eric Blayney has invited young riders from local clubs to participate in youth races as a prelude to the main race for club riders. However, most youngsters tend to own mountain bikes which are not very suitable for racing on tarmac. As an inducement to get more young riders to try road racing club chairman Ian Blayney has been successful in striking a deal that he hopes will result in more youngsters having a go on a proper road bike.


Prior to the recent opening of the Decathlon superstore at the Holywood Exchange, Ian met with senior executives of Decathlon and, having learned of North Down’s plans to encourage youth road racing, the company responded with a very generous offer of three bTwin road bikes and a supply of safety helmets and water bottles. The club took possession of the bikes this week and hopes to have them in action at the next round of the Bike-It Kirkistown race series on 21st July.


July tends to be a fallow period for open road racing in Ulster but North Down’s weekly club events continue. Last week’s event was a 25 mile time trial on the Newtownards – Portaferry road. On a difficult night no-one managed to break the hour; the ten fastest riders were as follows;
1.P. Dorman 1.03.58
2.W. Polly 1.05.37
3.M. Blayney 1.06.03
4.G. Swenarton 1.07.50
5.M. Hodgins 1.08.17
6.D. Hewitt 1.09.08
7.B. Simpson 1.09.19
8.G. Wilson 1.09.52
9.P. Anderson 1.10.23
10.L. Togneri 1.13.27

This week’s event is a hill climb on the Carrowreagh Road, Dundonald. The first rider to defy gravity will set off at 7pm.


North Down’s Rachel Mitchell is a track specialist and her current good form earned her a place on the Cycling Ulster track team that travelled to Dublin last weekend for an international meeting. The outcome was a success for the Ulster team, jointly managed by Brian Cardy and North Down’s Anthony Mitchell, with Terry Mackin setting a new outdoor record for the flying 200 metres, doing 11.96 seconds, the first rider to break the 12 second barrier. Newtownards man Martyn Irvine, a rider who has competed at World Cup events and is more familiar with the wooden boards of a modern velodrome, also set a national record clocking 36.23 seconds in the 500 metre time trial. Rachel Mitchell, riding in the Under 23 category travelled with reasonable hopes of a podium position but an unfortunate crash on the unforgiving tarmac scuppered her chances and she was unable to take part in the remaining events. This was Rachel’s second crash of the season, having had a fall at Orangefield earlier in the season. Let us hope she recovers quickly enough to compete later in the season.


Next Tuesday, July 13th, will be the date for North Down’s traditional summer ramble. The ride, which normally covers approximately 100 miles, will take the traditional route to the Mournes and a lunch break in Newcastle before returning via the Strangford ferry and the Ards peninsula. The ride will leave the clubrooms at 9am next Tuesday, weather permitting. Should there be any change in arrangements, members will be notified by club email.


The latest batch of club clothing has arrived. Members wishing to buy clothing should go to the clubrooms on Thursday 8th July between 7.30pm and 8.30pm. Advance orders will be honoured.

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