16 August 2010

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The Prince of Katesbridge

Le Tour de Katesbridge, still as yet a U.C.I. unclassified event, maintains it’s coveted A3-A4 categorisation resolutely disallowing riders who have shown an excess of talent. This makes for an excellent day’s racing for those riders who are in P.C. terms – “points disadvantaged”.

Racing is always close and the course is fantastic. It’s a fast flowing circuit which, while having no real climbs, has no real flats either with a couple of superb corners and some very fast junctions. Coupled with a high level of marshalling it makes for a race that people return to year after year (lack of points permitting). The road surface can be changeable however to which we can thank the local farmers and their cattle. The run in to the finish line is wide and straight allowing the sprinters to have their day if the break has been unsuccessful. Duane in particular has been known to mount a strong challenge in the sprint. In the past this has been somewhat controversial as he has been a lap down on everyone else but his enthusiasm has to be admired if not his ability to count.

North Down has always fielded a strong team for this event and this year was no exception. Matthew, Duane, Richard and Mark – latest in the Irvine racing dynasty were the elite team put together by North Down to finally bring this trophy back to Bangor. Richard, in particular was highly motivated having worked hard in last year’s edition to bring back the break while Matty and Duane both suffered injury/mechanical problems respectively so were keen to make amends. Mark has been working hard all season too and was keen to start making his first impressions on the local racing scene.

This season Matty has finally overcome his issues concerning his gluteus maximus to deliver some fine rides this season with a stage win already to his name. Hopefully this ailment is finally “behind” him.

Glancing round the peloton however revealed that there would be a hard day’s graft ahead for the riders of North Down. Quite a few rising stars were present plus some recent ex Cat 1 riders would ensure that whoever took this edition would have to earn it the hard way.

The boys showed their intent right from the gun, lining up at the front of the bunch behind the course car and led the riders out of Katesbridge. This was to set the tone for the race as for next few laps our riders were always at the front. Despite speeds in excess of 30 m.p.h. our lads were constantly on the attack. As soon as one break was reeled in then another North Down rider was away again. Richard looked particularly dangerous in one such break pulling out over twenty seconds on the bunch at one point. Our lads were giving out lessons in road racing and if the other riders weren’t worried then they weren’t paying attention.

Unfortunately when the racing is this intense then there will always be mechanicals and Duane failed to shake off his “curse of Katesbridge” going out with a puncture half way through the race.

Coming up to the last lap however it was “gruppo compatto” and our fast men were adapting their plans according. It’s no secret that Matty is one of the fastest men in Ireland over the last 200 metres this season so it came to Mark and Richard to make sure he was there when the time came. Richard in particular had just been brought back from an attack but Matty had him at the front of the peloton from 5km out providing the sort of lead-out that would have made Mark Renshaw’s eyes water.

From your correspondent’s position on the finish line the bunch sprint looked like it was anyone’s. Every rider was up there, flat out, vying for position. Richard pulled over 200 metres out, having delivered Matty to the front so it was up to the Bangor man to deliver. He dug deep into his suitcase of courage but there was never any doubt. Matthew Blayney crossed the line, hands in the air, very worthy winner of the West Down G.P.

Congratulations not only to Matthew on this fine win but also to the rest of the team who completely dominated this race from the start right to the chequered flag. Thanks also to West Down Wheelers for running the race with the usual excellent venue and a fabulous spread laid on afterwards.


While North Down’s racing elite were picking up the trophy at Katesbridge a sizeable squad of club racers was lending support to a new venture at the Ulster Grand Prix motor cycle races at Dundrod. The David McCall Foundation charity staged two cycle races before the motor cycle races, one of the races being for riders who do not compete in open competition but take part in their own club events. North Down has a large contingent of such riders and fifteen of them took the plunge last Saturday. Watching the motor cyclists hitting speeds well in excess of 100mph suggests that the circuit is fairly flat but there are fifteen cyclists who can confirm that it is a hard course with several kilometres of steady climbing. Consequently, the race split into several bunches before the end of the first lap and by the finish only a small group remained to challenge for the victory, with the win going to Gary McKee of VC Glendale. Noel Munnis was North Down’s best placed rider, coming home in fourth place.


Last week’s club event was a hill climb at Ballyregan Road, Dundonald. These races tend to involve near maximum effort for the whole of the climb but, nevertheless, there were sixteen competitors who faced the challenge up Craigantlet. Fastest on the night was Nathan McLeer (Curran), followed by Matty Blayney and Richard McCullough, both men showing signs of the form that would lead to the victory at Katesbridge on Saturday. The top ten riders all managed to break the seven minute barrier. Most impressive was the massive improvement among some of the Ballyholme yacht club contenders. Colm McLarnon took 28 seconds off last year’s time but by far the biggest improvement was in the performance of Colm’s great rival Johnny Webb who climbed into this year’s top ten having sliced well over two and a half minutes from his 2009 performance. The top ten were as follows;

  1. N. McLeer 5.52

  2. M. Blayney 6.04

  3. R. McCullough 6.08

  4. S. Farren 6.15

  5. A. Hedley 6.28

  6. B. Simpson 6.28

  7. P. Ferguson 6.32

  8. R. Blayney 6.41

  9. D. Hewitt 6.56

  10. J. Webb 6.58

This week’s club event was a road race on the Kirkistown circuit. Results will appear in this column next week.


Later this month North Down Cycling Club will lose one of its best known members. Peter Massey and his wife Rita came to Ballyhalbert from Yorkshire in 2003 and Peter, who had been an active cyclist, soon joined company with North Down’s ever increasing circle of veteran riders. His declared fondness for taking on the challenges of roads in high places led to him being nicknamed “the Buzzard.” Whether it was the regular twice weekly veterans’ run, long distance sportives in the Sperrins or the hills of Majorca, Peter was a popular and active member of the group. Even a nasty fall that resulted in a broken femur could not dampen his enthusiasm and as soon as he was physically able Peter was back on two wheels. Peter and Rita are moving to north Wales to be closer to their daughter and there’s no doubt that Peter will soon be exploring the foothills of Snowdonia in search of new challenges. A farewell gathering of club colleagues is planned for Thursday 19th August at 12 noon in the veterans’ regular tea stop in Fynn’s in Ballywalter.

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