SIMMONS SHOWS EARLY FORM
North Down's Tommy Simmons came close last weekend to snatching the club's first win of the season. At the Sean McGreevy Memorial race held on the hilly Dromore circuit, Simmons and Peter McConville (Newry Wheelers ) broke away to take a commanding four minute lead over the rest of the pack but in the uphill finish McConville proved to be the stronger of the two and he forged ahead to win by eight seconds.
Simmons is a relative newcomer to the road racing scene. Until this year he was better known on the triathlon circuit where he was regarded as one of the most promising young athletes in the province. Having shown some promise last year in a couple of road races, he has decided to concentrate this year on cycling. Many triathletes are good time trialists, the time trial being an important element in a triathlon but road racing requires a different kind of fitness and it is encouraging to see Simmons make the transition so successfully.
TOUR OF THE NORTH
Easter brings the annual P&O Irish Sea Tour of the North and, in common with other years, North Down is to have a share of the action. Race director, North Down CC's Anthony Mitchell, has streamlined the race this year by arranging the finish for Easter Monday, one day earlier than previous years. Easter Tuesday is not a recognised public holiday in Britain so British based riders were having to take leave from their work in order to complete this race. Easter is a popular time for stage racing in Britain and Ireland so, in a move designed to widen the appeal of the event, Mitchell has introduced two new prize categoties this year, one for Juniors and one for Under 23s. This has turned out to be a smart move because the race organisers achieved a full complement or riders and had to close entries a couple of weeks ago.
STRONG BRITISH ENTRY
There are 135 entries for the race, including two previous winners, Ryan Connor and Tommy Evans, both recently returned from Northern Ireland team duties at the Commonwealth Games. Of these two, Evans is the more experienced but they have both being showing good form recently, Evans winning the Tour of the Ards a couple of weeks ago, pushing Connor into second place. Strong contenders from the mainland include former winner Andy Proffitt and elite rider Danny Axford, both riding for Arctic Shorter Rochford RT, and former British Under 23 champion Neil Swithenbank.
The Under 23 and Junior categories will be well contested. Top local Under 23 riders form the nucleus of the Northern-Dave Kane team. Adam Armstrong and David Watson have ridden for Northern Ireland at the Junior Commonwealth Games and they are joined by an in form Frazer Duncan. They are likely to face stiff opposition from a strong Agisko-Viner squad that contains riders with experience of racing in Europe.
NORTH DOWN ACTION
The Tour of the North begins with a short hilly time trial on Friday evening on the main avenue to the Parliament buildings at Stormont. The riders will tackle the one mile route at thirty second intervals, the first rider due off at 7pm. Following a road stage from Ballymena on Saturday, the action returns to North Down for two stages on Sunday. The morning stage is a 7 mile circuit time trial starting from Dixon Road on the Bangor ring road and proceeding along the High Donaghadee Road, Stockbridge Road, back along the coast road to the Groomsport Road roundabout and to the finish at Dixon Road. First rider will depart at 10am. After a brief rest the riders return for a 60 mile circuit of the Ards peninsula. This stage will start at 2pm from St. Columbanus's school on the ring road and travel towards Donaghadee and down to Portaferry. The return leg will pass through Kircubbin and Greyabbey and then from Newtownards the race turns towards Donaghadee via Six Road Ends. The final few miles will take the riders along the High Road to Bangor, then Stockbridge Road and the coast road to the finish on the ring road.
Last week's club time trial was cancelled as a mark of respect following the tragic death of young Ards rider Simon Hamill on Tuesday. This week's event is a 6 mile circuit time trial from Dixon Road. Results will be published next week along with a report on the Tour of the North.
The club's touring and cyclosportive riders will have an opportunity to test their long distance form on Easter Tuesday. The annual Easter long distance ramble will leave the clubrooms at 9am and head in the general direction of the Mournes and south Down. This will be an ideal preparation ride for those heading for the club's Majorca training camp on April 21st and the Tour of the Glens on April 30th.
SIMMONS SHOWS EARLY FORM