Youth Cyclists’ Successes
In her first road race of the season young North Down cyclist, Rachael Mitchell, recorded an excellent second place in the Cicli Grand Prix at Cookstown. Competing in the under fourteen category Rachael was up against Irish Youth Champion, Jack Wilson so it was little surprise that the Newtownabbey rider would, on this occasion, take the laurels. Nevertheless, this was a very satisfactory start to the season and one which must give the Newtownards girl great confidence.
Jack Wilson(East Antrim CC)
2nd-Rachel Mitchell(North Down)
3rd-Rachael Withers(Fintona CC)
Whilst the under 14’s were racing in Cookstown our under 16’s had travelled to County Meath top take part in the first of the European Youth selection races.
For Craig Swenerton this was a baptism of fire. Craig only entered the sport last year and has had several notable successes on the track and in time trials. However, the cut and thrust of competing in a large bunch of riders was in many respects a new experience for him.
By contrast his club mate, Stuart Henry, who has won races all over Ireland and is the current Scottish Road Race Champion, is very experienced in such a situation. Indeed it was Henry, Jonny Beers (Antrim) and Mayo’s Charlie Prendagast who were in the thick of the action all day. However, try as they might, none of them were able to break the resolve of the sprinters who kept nullifying each attack. Not surprisingly it came down to a bunch sprint and both Beers and Henry were satisfied to take second and third places respectively behind Peter Williams (Orchard Wheelers).
On Sunday there was another hard selection race for the under 16’s in the form of the Stramullen Grand Prix. Unlike Saturday this race included the daunting prospect of ascending the Naul climb not once but twice. Such a course does not suit sit-in sprinters and as they turned unto the climb for the first time Henry began turning the screw. Sitting at the front he simply kept increasing the tempo and one by one the weaker riders disappeared off the back. After the first steep rise the Naul levels off to a more gentle gradient (similar to Bradshaw’s Brae), but only seven riders had been able to stay on Henry’s wheel, and many top riders had gone, including the previous day’s winner Peter Williams. The final part of the Naul climb is rather like Whinney Hill and, seeing the devastation that his initial increase in speed had caused, Henry once again raised the tempo. This time other notable riders, such as the runner-up on Saturday, Jonny Beers, lost contact and as Stuart began the descent he had only the company of Charles Prendergast (Mayo Wheelers), Mark Fitzsimons (Ena Loakman Remax) and Axel O’Connor (Laois CC). This proved to be a winning combination, however, and the four riders quickly set up a fast rhythm averaging speeds of 29mph and opening up a gap of over two minutes on the rest who had formed into a chasing group. Indeed, so fast were the schoolsboys that they caught the junior race which had been started 4 minutes before the under 16 race. With a mile to go Henry made a bid for victory and opened up a sizable gap. However, he was caught within sight of the finish and Prendergast, the reigning Irish Under 15 Champion, sneaked past for a well deserved win.
1 Charles Prendergast, Mayo Whlrs.
2 Stuart Henry, Toyota North Down
3 Mark Fitzsimons, Ena Loakman Remax
4 Axel O’Connor, Laois CC
5 Peter Williams, Orchard Whlrs.
6 Darren Connolly, Laois CC
Last week’s club race was a 5 mile Time Trial held over a new course, starting and finishing at the bottom of Orlock. Although the night was dry, it was chilly with a slight head wind on the return leg.
1. D McMackin 12.14
2. P Ferguson 12.43 (riding a fixed wheel)
3. J Hunter 13.17
4. B Marshall 13.22
5. W Barclay 13.25
6. N Boyce 13.40
G Swenarton 13.40
8. C Andrews 14.03
9. M Hodgins 14.06
10. A Hedley 14.17
11. D McCreadie 14.33
12.T Johnston 15.14
13. L McCreadie 15.23
14. R Mitchell 16.13
15. F Millar 17.48
Many thanks to Eric who helped with the time-keeping and Myles who held the starters.
The inhabitants of the Balearic Island should now be bracing themselves for the annual invasion of North Down cyclists, who will be departing these shores this weekend for sunnier climes. We wish them ‘Bon Voyage’ and hope that they have a safe and enjoyable time.
This weekend’s events
Racing this weekend will centre on the prestigious John Beggs Memorial Race in Dromore. As well as the senior event, the youth riders will again be going ‘head to head’ on this tough circuit.