CYCLISTS CALL FOR PENINSULA PATIENCE
The organiser of Sunday’s Bangor Coastal Challenge Charity Cycle is asking road users to exercise caution and patience when hundreds of cyclists will take to the Ards Peninsula this weekend.
The Challenge is one of the biggest charity cycles in the country and no fewer than 700 cyclists will leave Bangor on Sunday morning, 20th June, to circumnavigate the peninsula in a clockwise direction. North Down Cycling Club’s co-ordinator, Terry Nicoletti, said it is hardly surprising that more and more people are taking up sporting activities such as cycling due to the Government’s recent push regarding the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
This event has raised over £50,000 for the Ulster Hospital in recent years. The Coastal Challenge has been a vehicle for the Club to put something back into the community through cycling. Such has been the growing popularity of this event that the organisers have had to limit the number of entrants to 700, with many being turned away disappointed. Entrants have not been confined to the North Down locality with scores coming from all over the island of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
To ease the congestion on the roads, the event was moved last year from it’s usual Saturday slot to a Sunday. It is hoped that motorists will be patient as the participating cyclists make their way around the Peninsula on Sunday. The group though large, passes quickly. The cyclists will leave Bangor’s Sportsplex at 10am and proceed via the Old Belfast Road, Rathmore Road, Bryansburn Road, Grays Hill, Seacliff Road, Ballyholme Esplanade, Millisle, Ballywalter, Ballyhalbert, Portavogie, Cloughey, Ardminnan and Portaferry. Returning via Shore Road, Abbacy Road, Deerpark Road, Rowreagh Road, Portaferry Road, Newtownards, Bangor Road, Rathgael Road, returning to Bangor Sportsplex from 1.30pm onwards. The first cyclists should reach Portaferry around 11.30am however, most of those taking part will fit into the category of being simply “cyclists for one day” and they will take much longer to complete the journey. Riders and motorists should note that new road works have forced the closure of the Harbour Road at Ballyhalbert and the cyclists will have to take a right turn at the mini roundabout and detour through Ballyhalbert main street, then turn left at Glastry College and proceed on the main A2 to Cloughy where they will rejoin the original route.
While most of North Down CC’s active cyclists will be participating or helping to manage the Coastal Challenge, a small team of racing men will be in action at the popular Newry 3 day race which will start on Friday evening on the dual carriageway between Newry and Warrenpoint. At last year’s race North Down’s talented junior, Stuart Henry, won the opening road stage but was unable to hold on to the leader’s jersey though he did manage to win the King of the Mountains classification. One of last year’s team, Noel Boyce, returns to the race accompanied by former international Ross Blayney and young Mark Irvine who is in his first year of racing and has been putting in some encouraging performances.
In last weekend’s main race, the Emma McMullan Cup, staged at Anahilt by Dromara Cycling Club, Mark accompanied Paul Ferguson and while Irvine finished comfortably in the bunch it looked at one point that Ferguson was getting back to his best form when, with one lap to go he broke clear of the bunch in an attempt to join Frazer Duncan who in turn was trying to bridge the gap to the leading three riders. It was always going to be a major challenge when you consider that the three men in the break consisted of David McCann, a former Irish champion and current continental professional, Ryan Connor and Thomas Martin. These three managed to stay away and Connor was eventually dropped to leave McCann having to outsprint Martin to claim victory. Duncan continued to ride strongly to take fourth, clearly showing the fitness gained during the recent FBD Ras where he was a member of the successful Eurocycles Dublin team that won the county competition. Unfortunately for Ferguson a determined effort by the chasing group that included Bangor man Liam Curran, closed the gap and in the final sprint Ferguson held on to take tenth place.
In the supporting race for A4 riders it was good to see Keith Millar back in open competition. Having taken the plunge at the recent North Down GP and come through in the bunch, Keith decided to venture forth again and once more he more than held his own to finish well up the bunch in the final sprint.
Last week’s club event was a ten mile time trial and, as has been the trend this year, the race attracted a large field of twenty-six riders on a dry but blustery night. Fastest on the night was Bikeworks tester Robin Millar, who has been knocking out some impressive times this season. In fact Robbie was the only one to break 23 minutes, coming home in 22.56. Leading North Down rider on the night was Ross Blayney whose 23.06 will give him encouragement for Newry where there is a time trial stage on Saturday. The first ten riders were as follows;
1.R. Millar 22.56
2.R. Blayney 23.06
3.P. Swenarton 23.15
4.J. Hunter 24.00
5.P. Dorman 24.20
6.S. Bingham 25.33
7.M. Lyttle 25.38
8.M. Hodgins 25.54
9.W. Polly 25.58
10.D. Hewitt 25.59
The next club race will be in two weeks time, Wednesday 23rd June, at Kirkistown race track. Last month’s race attracted over 60 riders and race organiser Eric Blayney is keeping his fingers crossed for a dry night.
Sport enthusiasts all over the country are looking forward to Saturday 19th June, when the first Decathlon store in Ireland opens its doors at the Hollywood Exchange. Well established on the continent and in Britain, Decathlon sells sports equipment, clothing and nutrition products, catering for an enormous range of sports, cycling being just one of them. Recently, North Down chairman, Ian Blayney met with a senior member of staff and outlined the club’s plans to attract young riders to road racing. The use of Kirkistown helps to allay parents’ worries about road safety but a potential stumbling block is the tendency for the vast majority of young people to buy mountain bikes and the probable reluctance of parents to buy road bikes. Decathlon responded generously by presenting the club with three brand new B Twin road bikes in sizes suitable for younger riders. The bikes will be made available at the next Kirkistown race on June 23rd.
In return, North Down Cycling Club will be offering customers on the opening day an opportunity to try some roller racing with prizes going to all who can beat the target times. Club members will be on hand for most of the day to advise and encourage participants and generally promote cycling as a sport and as a great way to keep fit and lose weight.
CITY CENTRE RACES
Cycling enthusiasts will have been following the Halfords UK Tour series of town centre cycle races, shown on ITV4 over the past few weeks. The action moves to Belfast this Friday evening, June 18th, then on to Dublin on Saturday. A circuit around Belfast City Hall will be the scene for some of the fastest bike racing ever seen in Ireland. An Irish team and teams representing the provinces will take on four teams from Britain that include Motorpoint Marshalls Pasta who have Olympic medallists Ed Clancy and Steven Burke on their roster of riders. An Irish select team is expected to include David O’Loughlin and Newtownards man Martin Irvine, both of whom are members of the national track pursuit team. North Down Cycling Club’s Stuart Henry, currently studying in England and riding for the Herbalife/Wheelbase team, has been a member of the Irish team in the earlier round
s of the series in England but will not be travelling back home for the two races in Ireland. He is, however, expected to rejoin the team when the series returns to the mainland at Chester next week. It should be an exciting night of racing and after some supporting events the main race starts at 7.30pm.