14 September 2010

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September heralds the start of autumn and for most cyclists that means swapping the shorts and lightweight jerseys for the thermal jackets and bib tights. It also marks the end of the competitive road season and offers the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of recent months. A fuller review of riders’ efforts is normally reserved for year’s end but on a range of other indicators North Down Cycling Club under new chairman Ian Blayney can confidently claim success.

At the Christmas mince pie run at the end of 2008 the club declared an intention to aim for a membership of 100 for 2009. There was scepticism from some observers but that target was not only achieved, it was surpassed and growth has continued so that as the 2010 season draws to an end, club membership has topped 150, making North Down one of the largest clubs in Ireland.

Having a large membership is clearly a sign of growing interest in cycling but capitalising on that growth poses a challenge in that the club has to ensure that new members are catered for. Several years ago a Saturday morning training group, on a good day, would have contained about 20 riders. There have been days this year when the number of riders has topped 60 and there are now three groups taking to the road. The main innovation has been the introduction of an improvers’ group made up of cyclists who have riding experience but modest fitness levels. In the past such riders would have been apprehensive about going out on club runs for fear of being dropped, an experience that can become disheartening. When a proposal was put forward by Denise Hart that more effort should be made to accommodate less fit riders, chairman Blayney acted promptly to advertise and promote an improvers’ run. The response was immediate and the group at times had as many as 20 riders participating regularly on a 30 mile steady ride with a coffee stop in Hoops at Greyabbey.

One of the most pleasing aspects of this development has been the way in which several riders have progressed to a group that covers about 45 miles at a slightly faster pace.


Mindful that there are still cyclists who have only just taken up cycling and whose bike skills and fitness levels are still fairly rudimentary North Down CC, and in particular club treasurer Myles Geddis, organised an evening run between May and the end of August. The ride was leisurely and covered just under 25 miles but was ideal for beginners of all ages. The success of this run has been such that it regularly attracted over 20 participants.


The club’s annual calendar of midweek competitive events has also benefited from the growth in membership. A varied programme of time trials and hill climbs has attracted record levels of participation this year but by far the biggest success has been the regular massed start race held at Kirkistown. Club race secretary Eric Blayney scheduled five races this year at the circuit and, blessed with dry weather for all the races, turn outs have averaged well over 50 riders, with the final race two weeks ago attracting a record 65 competitors.

The final event on the calendar was a five mile time trial staged last Wednesday on the Orlock – Groomsport circuit. The weather was fine but blustery and the fastest time on the night was posted by regular guest rider Robin Millar ( Team Bikeworks), one of only three riders to get under 12 minutes on what is regarded as a challenging course. The top ten riders were as follows;

  1. R. Millar 11.27

  2. P. Swenarton 11.44

  3. A. Rivoire 11.49

  4. P. Dorman 12.19

  5. M. Blayney 12.30

  6. N. Munnis 12.43

  7. P. Nugent 12.49

  8. M. Hodgins 12.57

  9. D. Hewitt 12.58

  10. B. Simpson 13.02


The Marie Curie charity ride from Downpatrick last Saturday was tackled by another large group of club riders, most of whom rode down, completed the 30 mile run and rode back to Bangor, in the process clocking up 95 miles.

Two more sportives remain before the end of the month and the first of them, the Torr Head challenge takes place this coming Sunday 19th September. This run throws up some serious climbing as it follows the so-called scenic route from Cushendun towards Torr Head. The 70 mile ride starts from Ballygalley at 10.30am and entry costs £15. There will also be a shorter, less hilly ride of 50 miles. Both runs have a tea stop in Cushendun.

The following week’s event is the David McCall Foundation fund raising ride from Hillsborough on Sunday 26th September. Riders can choose between a 50 mile and a 70 mile route with both runs heading for the Mournes. A tea stop will be available at Dundrum for all participants who are asked to pre-enter at a fee of £20. Entries will also be taken on the day. More details are available on the Cycl;ing Ulster website.

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