14 March 2006

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After a quiet and unadventurous start to the season, North Down riders are beginning to show a bit of form both on the road and cross country.  At last weekend’s Surgenor Cup at Randalstown Paul Ferguson, one of the club’s most consistent riders of recent seasons, took ninth place in a race won by former Irish Junior international Adam Petrie-Armstrong.  Ferguson was part of a 14 strong group that managed to get away after the second lap but by the final lap this group had split with eight riders going clear to fight it out for the finish.  Ferguson missed this final break but led in the remainder of the field to take ninth place.  Ferguson was pleased with his early form and is hoping to improve over the next few weeks in readinesss for the annual P&O Ferries Tour of the North, run over the Easter holidays.

North Down’s Declan McMackin and Philip Marshall, also aiming for the Tour, have been content to use the early races to get in some race training while Michael Hamilton has decided to continue training on the road but has concentrated his racing on the cyclo- cross circuit and, more recently, the MTB competitions. Last Saturday Hamilton managed to combine on road and off road activities in the same day.  Having completed a 40 mile club run on the Saturday morning, he entered the mixed category Fun event at XMTB’s  off road Spring series in Castle Park in Bangor.
  The title of the so called Fun race was hardly appropriate considering that the field contained top riders such as former international Glen Kinning and leading veteran rider Robbie Lamont, both of whom, not surprisingly, dominated the race but Hamilton rode impressively and was just pipped for fourth place.  North Down’s Mike Mitchell, a first year Junior, could not match last week’s excellent fourth  place, due primarily to a couple of falls but he recovered well to finish ninth.  Last week it was sister Rachel who tumbled out of the race but she hasn’t taken long to adjust to the cross country conditions and she rode strongly to take fourth place overall and first female in the hotly contested Under 14 race which was won by Michael Downey of Banbridge.
 This coming weekend there are road races on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday East Tyrone CC host the CicliSport GP over 80km, starting at 12 noon in Moneymore but it is Sunday’s event that is likely to draw the biggest field.  It is the second running of a race that is likely to become a regular fixture around St. Patrick’s Day . The race takes the riders between the two cathedral cities of Downpatrick and Armagh, a distance of approximately 100km.  Last year’s inaugural race began in Armagh but this year the start will be in Downpatrick.  Riders should note that the race starts at 11am, not 1pm as stated in the handbook. Signing on is at the Leisure Centre from 9.30 .  Last year’s winner Martyn Irvine from Ards CC will not be available to defend his title as the race does not include 1st category riders. The race last year marked the beginning of a terrific year for Irvine who went on to achieve 1st category status by the middle of the season  and he advanced his prospects even further in January this year when he got a late call up to ride with the Commonwealth Games squad in the Tour of Siam, in which he acquitted himself very well.
  The XMTB club’s successful Spring series of mountain bike races for all ages and categories continues this Saturday at Castle Park in Bangor with the racing starting at 12 noon.

The problems of dehydration during long periods of cycling  may seem a fairly low risk in our climate but North Down’s riders were soon convinced otherwise when fellow club member Darren McWilliams, a qualified sports scientists, addressed them last week in a seminar on the effectiveness of diet and nutrition on performance.  While it is true that dehydration is more of a problem in very warm weather, it will still occur in our winter during a three of four hour training ride.
 During prolonged exercise, which for a racing or cyclosportive cyclist could be between three and eight hours, dehydration can occur at the rate of one or two litres per hour, equating roughly to between two and four pounds of bodyweight.  When you consider that even a slight loss of one litre of water causes heart rate to rise by eight beats per minute, cardiac output to fall and core body temperature to rise, it is clear that performance will deteriorate very quickly unless a rider takes the necessary precautions.  Drinking approximately one pint of water about two hours before exercise is the best way to start, then during exercise a rider should take regular drinks from a beverage that has a carbohydrate content of up to 8 percent. The actual amount taken depends on the rider’s body weight; for example a rider weighing 11 stone (70 kg ) should take in between 600 mls and 1250 mls ( one or two pints ) every hour if performance levels are to be maintained.  It is also important that the fluid passes quickly into the system and this can be assisted by taking small amounts of sodium in the fluid.
  A full version of Darren McWilliams’s paper can be seen on the club website.

Feeding and drinking strategies are likely to pay an important part in the cycle racing in the Commonwealtyh Games that begin this week in Melbourne, Australia. During the Tour Down Under held in February, riders had to race in temperatures as high as 40 Celsius. They were having to take in eight litres a day during the long stages but a number of riders suffered in the heat.  One rider passed out while riding at 30mph and crashed heavily but fortunately his bike ran off the road onto a grass verge and he avoided serious injury. Northern Ireland’s competitors will be hoping for cooler conditions for the time trial and road race, both of which are scheduled for the second week of the Games. The squad suffered a blow when the very talented professional rider, Philip Deignan, had to withdraw with a broken collar bone but medal prospects have been boosted by the recent performances of  two of Northern Ireland’s squad, David McCann and Stephen Gallagher, who seem to be hitting good form at the right time.
  McCann was slightly injured three weeks ago in a crash  but he seems to have suffered no long term ill effects.  In last week’s Tour of Taiwan he came third in one of the long road stages and finished the six day race in fifth place overall.  Even better was the performance of Armagh man Gallagher, McCann’s Team Giant Asia team-mate.  He steadily improved his position throughout the stages and finished the race in second place overall.  These performances will have lifted the morale of the whole team which is managed by North Down’s Alastair Irvine, himself the winner of two Games medals in 1986 and 1990.

Any North Down rider intending to be active this weekend, whether racing or training, will have a chance to replace vital fluids and solids at the Bokhara Indian restaurant this coming Sunday evening.  The Bokhara are a principal sponsor of the club this year, along with Aquatech franchise holder Sam Craig, no mean cyclist himself in his day.  Numbers are rising daily for this night out and anyone wishing to go should contact Florence Millar or Harry Adams

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