CHAMPIONSHIP CYCLING COMES TO BANGOR
Cycling fans will have a feast of entertainment this coming Sunday when North Down Cycling Club promotes the Northern Ireland Road Race Championships. In addition to the senior race there are supporting champonship races for women and Under 14 and Under 16 riders. With such a busy schedule it has been necessary to hold two sessions. The morning races will be contested by the A4 category, a non championship event, and the youth riders, both races getting under way at 10.30am. Race headquarters are at Donaghadee rugby club.
The main races roll out at 1pm, the women’s event being run over 25 miles and the senior championship will be decided over 74 miles, consisting of nine laps of the Springwell Road – Donaghadee – Warren Road circuit. .
The main race has a full field of riders, including several men who have been showing good form lately. A very strong East Antrim/Audi team, prominent in most races this year, will have Glen Kinning and Gary Cranston in action, both men having wins to their credit this season, Kinning in particular showing form at the right time when winning last week’s tough Red Hand classic. Cranston has been consistently strong all season and is joint leader in the Ulster Classic series. Top junior Jack Wilson also features and a strong veterans’ group includes Jim McConnell, Gordon Scott and Gary Wilson. .
The host club will have former Northern Ireland champion Ross Blayney in action alongside regulars such as Paul Ferguson, Duane McCreadie, Richard McCullough, Matty Blayney, Mark Irvine and an in form Noel Boyce who came sixth in last week’s Tour of the Mournes. Former North Down rider Stuart Henry, now studying in England, returns home to ride for his Herbalife/Wheelbase team. Stuart has been riding top class races in Britain such as the Lincoln Grand Prix and our last glimpse of him at the recent Tour of the North suggests that he has moved to a new level in terms of experience and ability. .
Stuart will encounter several old adversaries on the start line, including Ballymena’s Philip Bremner, Stuart and Philip having been among the top juniors in Ireland last year. Bremner has every right to feel confident having won last week’s Tour of the Mournes. .
Bangor based Curran Racing will be looking to make an impact with last year’s Ulster and Northern Ireland veterans’ champion Liam Curran aiming to retain his title. Fellow veterans Sam Craig and an in form John Madden have the ability to have a major say on the final outcome, while Curran’s Nathan McLeer will be hoping to challenge for the junior crown. .
Other riders to watch are Jonny Cole (Madigan), Davy McKnight (Dromara ), Paul Vaughan (Sportactive) and a strong team from Newry Wheelers who will be looking for some hard miles as they prepare for this year’s FBD Ras, due to start in two weeks time. .
The supporting A4 race, run over 42 miles will welcome the return of a trio of North Down’s old hands who have decided to put a number on their backs and test themselves in an open race for the first time in several years. Keith Millar, Robert Watt and former Irish veterans’ time trial medallist Russell Moreland will line up alongside newcomers Warren Polly and Ian McCurley in a race where several competitors such as Steven McAllister (Ballymoney), Sean McLaughlin (Omagh) and Finbarr Cummins (Phoenix) have already won points and will be looking to get the handful necessary to move up to A3 status. .
Cycling Ulster has been working hard this year to promote road racing for women and there have been some good turnouts so far. At the time of going to press the field is modest but there is certainly quality and North Down’s Rachel Mitchell, better known as a track rider but with one road win to her credit this year will have her work cut out to mix it with Heather Wilson, Ciara Mulholland and Rachel Withers. .
Staging a championship is a complicated operation with big demands on resources and so North Down chairman Ian Blayney was delighted when the club was offered the considerable support of Regency Cars in Newtownards. The progressive Newtownards firm demonstrated its commitment to supporting local sport by providing a team car for the Tour of the North and for this week’s championship their financial input and the provision of a Peugeot lead car have been invaluable and greatly appreciated. .
All racing cyclists can remember their first tentative attempt at cycling and some older folk may remember the old Cycling Proficiency Test that was fairly common in schools. It is offered in a relatively small number of schools these days with the result that many young cyclists fail to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to face modern traffic conditions. In an attempt to address this situation North Down’s Noel Boyce has acquired a qualification that enables him to offer training as part of the National Standard. Noel has already been active in local primary schools and he has agreed to co-ordinate the annual Bike Skills night which this year will take place on Thursday May 13th. Last year, organiser Tom Henry moved this popular event to the top deck of the two-storey car park beside Marks and Spencer’s at Bloomfield shopping centre and the same venue will be used this year. Around fifty local primary schoolchildren have signed up to participate and it promises to be an enjoyable and productive night for all with certificates and token prizes on offer to competitors. .
Club race secretary Eric Blayney has been delighted at the big turnouts for club time trials and the trend was continued last week when over 30 riders turned out for a two up ten mile time trial. After a week’s training in sunny Majorca several riders were hoping to see their efforts bear fruit on the Donaghadee – Groomsport circuit. On the night it was top veteran Paul Swenarton, accompanied by a reinvigorated Russell Moreland who took the honours with a winning time of 23min 57secs and this despite Russell’s seat pin slipping on to the top tube, forcing him to ride for long periods out of the saddle. Elsewhere, Chuck Russell was aiming to banish the memory of being beaten by Mickey Forbes in a previous ten but the long awaited grudge match failed to materialise after Mickey’s partner, Garth “el torro” Beattie, suffered a mechanical breakdown and the Dangerous Brothers limped home in last place. However, with Chuck and Noel Munnis, both old hands at triathlon, putting in a decent ride to break 27 minutes on a difficult night, Garth and Mickey would have had their work cut out to beat them on the night. .
The top ten finishers on the night were as follows;
1. P. Swenarton/R Moreland 23.57
2. R. McCullough/A. Rivoire 24.28
3. G. Davidson/M. Hodgins 25.40
4. D. Hewitt/D. Ruddock 25.48
5. P. Anderson/P. Nugent 26.23
6. W. Brown/P. Kirk 26.34
7. J. Hunter/I. McCurley 26.35
8. N. Munnis/C. Russell 26.54
9. D. Montgomery/L. Wilkinson 27
.33 10. R. Doherty/S. Morgan 27.48
Full results are available on the club website at www.northdowncc.com
GO JOHNNY GO
St. Louis born Chuck Berry’s famous exhortation seems appropriate in the context of John Hicks’s current expedition. North Down’s best known expedition rider has gone back to North America to complete a ride that will be his fourth stateside venture. The ride, which began last weekend, will trace the Mississippi from mouth to source, starting in New Orleans and riding up river to St. Louis, where the Mississippi and Missouri meet and from there proceed to Minneapolis, a total journey of over 1700 miles. Having ridden solo across Australia last y
ear and loosened up two weeks ago with a week in Majorca, John should find this one a piece of cake. Details of the route and other adventures on offer can be seen at www.americabybicycle.com