Last week top North Down Cycling Club time trialist, Paul Swenarton, once again demonstrated why he is one of the best in the country in the ‘race of truth’, when he recorded a superb 1hour 59 seconds for a 25 mile time trial on the Portaferry Road. This was a quite excellent time in far from ideal conditions and was nearly 3 minutes faster than a rejuvenated John Hunter. The very next night in an open event on the Clady course Paul again returned a superb time of 23.27, less than 2 mins behind elite time trialist Stuart Bennett!
In the 25 mile time trial, however, third placed rider on the night, Mark Hodgens, had perhaps most to celebrate as he scored 6 points in the Pacemaker Challenge and regained the lead in that competition from Matt McInerney, who has one point to spare over Stuart Henry.
It was great to see Matt McInerney roll back the years and be so impressive in the Ards Criterium. This was Matt’s first Criterium in years and it underlined not only his class but also that he is gradually regaining the sort of form that he had a few years back.
The race was a personal triumph for Ards rider Kirk Sloan who went on the attack half-way through the race and soloed to a well deserved victory. However, his victory was not an easy one as a group spearheaded by our own Paul Ferguson, Glenn Kinning (Castlereagh) and Michael Murray (Clann Eirrean) tried desperately to close him down. In the end Kirk managed to defend his lead and come home with 30 seconds to spare, with international rider, Kinning in second place and Paul Ferguson taking a well deserved third place – a quality finish from a quality rider.
North Down had two riders in the under 16 event, Jessica Laird and Nathan McLeer. Like the senior event this race was fast and furious from the very start and the bunch quickly fragmented. However, young McLeer produced an excellent, gritty performance , covering every move with tenacity. In the end Nathan, who has been close to a podium finish on numerous occasions this season, was rewarded with an excellent second place in a close sprint with Aaron Baines (East Antrim Audi), with David Neil (Team Madigan, Carricfergus) third. Jessica once again demonstrated that she was not going to be over-awed by the fact that she was the only female in the event and came home in a very creditable sixth position.
All-Ireland Criterium Championships
The Phoenix club in Belfast promoted the All-Ireland Criterium Championships in Belfast and once again the pink and black of North Down was well represented. In the under-age events whish preceded the main race Nathan McLeer put up a sterling performance to take fourth place behind ‘crit’ specialist, Jack Wilson (East Antrim).
The seniors and juniors championships were combined in an hour-long battle for the coveted medals. Paul Ferguson represented the club in the senior event whilst Stuart Henry carried the club’s colours in the junior category.
The pace of the race was high from the start and as is so often the case in Criterium races there were several spills, which resulted in the bunch splintering. In the end Peter Hawkins (Usher IRC) achieved his ambition this year when he rode to victory ahead of Stephen O'Sullivan, (Myhome.ie, Dublin), with Kirk Sloan demonstrating that his Ards victory was no fluke, taking third spot. In the junior category, Jonny Beers (East Antrim) outsprinted Henry for gold with Dane Dunlop (Enniskillen) taking third spot.
Hill Climb Championships
It’s the season of championships, with the Ulster Hill Climb championships being promoted by Ards CC on the Scrabo Climb. The victory on this occasion went to the very talented, former Irish International, Mark Kane (Northern) who had 13 seconds to spare over Tour of the North King of the Hills Glenn Kinning (Castlereagh) with Graham Boyd (XMTB) third. Interestingly, North Down’s premier grimpeur, William Barclay, who is only returning to racing after a bad fall earlier in the season was a mere 22 seconds off the podium. Well done, William!
Now that the Coastal Challenge is over and blood is beginning to circulate once again around the extremities of one’s body, perhaps the arctic condition faced by all don’t seem as bad as they actually were. If that is the case, you may well be ready to join the North Down club on one of their many cycles. These take place on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. There are also cycles which leave the Groomsport roundabout on Tuesday nights. Information on all these cycles can be found by visiting the North Down Cycling Club’s website.