FIRST RACE FIRST WIN FOR FARREN
Cycle racing is a demanding sport at any level so anyone who decides to enter competitive road racing does so with a certain degree of trepidation. When training, a cyclist works at a level chosen by himself or herself but in a race the speed and tempo is invariably set by others. A rider’s first few races constitute a journey into unknown territory, the form and fitness of the opposition and anticipated speed of the races all a matter of guesswork. So North Down Cycling Club’s Shane Farren’s achievement last Saturday, when he entered and won the first open road race of the season, was a remarkable achievement considering this was only his second ever venture into competition. Mind you, his first race, the North Down GP race for A4 riders last May, hinted at the possibility of future successes when he rode to ninth place against more experienced riders..
A good winter’s training had led some observers to predict that Farren was likely to have a rapid impact at A4 level so his win at Annaclone on a rolling, difficult course came as no great surprise to a few people. On the day he was accompanied by three North Down men also making their debuts on the open race scene. One such was Michael McMullan, returning to cycling after a long lay- off, having been a successful junior. Michael came fifth last Saturday but could well have finished on the podium had he not got boxed in on the final sprint for the line. Brian Simpson also enjoyed a good day finishing in the bunch sprint while Paul Kirk lost time, unsurprisingly as he was still under the weather following a chest infection..
The separate races for A4 riders, introduced last year, have proved to be successful, offering race opportunities for club riders over distances and at speeds less intimidating than those associated with major races that are open to the best riders in the country..
It is encouraging to see so many riders take a race licence for the first time and the experiences of these four debutants will certainly encourage others to have a go..
North Down’s two participants in the main Travers Engineering Annaclone GP had mixed fortunes. Matty Blayney enjoyed a very successful run at the end of last season but recent weeks has seen him dogged by minor injuries and on Saturday he was off the pace. Ross Blayney, by contrast, had a strong ride and was able to mix it with the strongest group on the day, only losing touch over the final couple of miles as the attacks from the likes of Ryan Sherlock (Team Giant) and Thomas Martin (Eurocycles) began to create splits in the small bunch. As it turned out Sherlock and Martin were fighting it out for second place. Earlier, Bangor rider Sam Craig (Curran Racing) had attacked from the outset accompanied by Matthew Adair, a junior rider who had dominated the cyclo-cross league earlier in the winter. With over a lap to go Adair faded and Craig stormed home alone to an impressive victory..
On Sunday the action moved to the Nutt’s Corner circuit where Phoenix CC promoted a full programme of four races. In the main race Mark Irvine was hoping to test his form having done some serious miles in training. It was not his day and mechanical trouble brought his challenge to a premature end. The race was won by Conor Murphy (Eurocycles) who gave a formidable display throughout and only John Madden (Curran Racing) was able to hold his wheel coming to the line..
The supporting race for A4 riders saw the welcome return of Declan McMackin to open racing. A feared and respected champion time trialist a few years back, McMackin rode to a respectable seventh place. Having been in the early break he lost touch as six riders got away. However, he demonstrated his time trialling prowess by chasing the break on his own, just failing to make contact at the finish..
All in all it was a successful start to the new season for North Down with one victory and two top seven places. Next weekend’s racing will focus on the John Haldane Memorial races promoted by Newry Wheelers. These races are taking entries on the day, signing on beginning at 9.15am and racing starting at 10.30am. The course is a flat and fast dual carriageway circuit on the Warrenpoint Road. The A1/2/3 race will be handicapped and there is a separate race for A4 riders. Race entry is £10 and race HQ is at Newry City football ground..
Riders are reminded to check regularly with the Cycling Ulster website which publishes notices of upcoming races and gives details of entry procedures..
Members are reminded that the next quiz will be on Friday, April 1st at Pickie Bowling Club. Quiz Inquisitor Ian Blayney reports that more than half of the tickets, which are £5 each, have been allocated. The price includes supper which will be prepared by Mark Brooks of Bow Bells..
The annual programme of club races and time trials has been arranged and this year club race secretary Eric Blayney has re-introduced a merit system that provides riders with performance targets. Gold, silver and bronze medal standards for 5, 10 and 25 mile time trials are now published on the club website along with the full programme of events. Details can be found at www.northdowncc.com.
North Down’s happy wanderer, John Hicks, has begun his latest overseas challenge in Thailand. His companion is an American cyclist, Jerry Griswold, a guy John met on one of his rides across America. You can follow his journey by logging on to www.crazyguyonabike.com and tracking down ‘A Brit and a Yank Tour Thailand’ by Jerry Griswold. The web diary is updated daily and there are plenty of photographs of John and the local attractions about which no more need be said.