Cycling’s Coastal Challenge
The most popular cycling event in the country takes to the roads this weekend, taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland, the beautiful coast road around the Ards Peninsula. With the entry being capped at 700, there are many disappointed cyclists who failed to take the warning that places in this event would fill up fast. However, for those who have been successful, they can look forward to one of those challenges that is eminently ‘do-able’ even for the more inexperienced cyclists.
The challenge will leave the Bangor Sportsplex on Saturday morning at 10 am and will travel around the peninsula in a clockwise direction. The popularity of this event has grown amazingly year by year and it is thanks to the expertise and professionalism of Terry Nicoletti and his dedicated band of workers that the event can now be referred to as the biggest event of its kind in the country.
So popular is the Coastal Challenge that it now draws entries from not only every part of Ireland but the mainland as well. Quite a boon for the local tourist trade and local hotels and guest houses!
However, whilst we are delighted that the economy of North Down benefits from such a huge event, we recognise that the real beneficiaries are the myriad of charities which will find their coffers being swollen by the efforts of those taking part in the challenge. Each participant is free to raise sponsorship for their chosen charity and moneys from entry fees will be directed to the main charity this year, which is the Ulster Hospital Diabetes, Heart and Stroke departments. On top of finance raised in this way, sponsorship (to off-set expenses) has been raised through the Ulster Bank, Ards Council, Bikeit Cycles, Grand Parade, Belfast and Bike Works, Balloo, Bangor. The charities are really indebted to these commercial enterprises for their support and confidence in the event.
Unfortunately for other road users, Saturday might be a good day to avoid sections of the Ards Peninsula at certain times. For example, the majority of the 700 participants will be on the main Bangor to Donaghadee road between 10 am and 10.30am. The group should be in Ballywalter around 11.00 and Portaferry at approximately noon. Lunch will be provided in Portaferry before the return leg via Kirkubbin and Newtownards is tackled. The route will be well marshalled and the PSNI will once again be out in force to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as it has in previous years.
The pink and black of North Down was very much in evidence at the weekend. In the Dromara race on Saturday Alan Lavery rode his usual aggressive race and featured in break after break. One break, at the half-way point in the 65mile race, turned out to be the stimulus for the race winning move, when Alan in the company of his training partner Liam Curran, Roger Aiken and Adam Armstrong, simply rode away from the rest. Although neither Alan or Liam looked out of place with their illustrious companions (Curran taking time out to wave to the spectators!) when a rider of the calibre of Ras runner-up Aiken puts the hammer down, few can live with him. That was the case on Saturday and with just over 10 miles to go, he simply blew the opposition away and romped home to a convincing solo victory. First North Down rider was Stuart Henry who came home in 9th place.
Henry also rode the Mid-Ulster Grand Prix on Sunday. Here he was joined by Neil McKenna and Paul Ferguson. Once again the Pink and Black was not over-awed by riders such as three times Tour of the North winner Ryan Connor and in fact it was Paul Ferguson who made the decisive move in the race which Connor had to follow. However, as with the Dromara race when an elite rider with the ability of Connor decides to go few can do anything about it and Sunday ended up as had been the case on Saturday with Connor this time soloing home 45 seconds in front of the group containing Ferguson with McKenna and Henry safely in the bunch.
Club 10 mile
Last Wednesday night proved to be a good night for time trialling with a light headwind to the turn and a small skiff of rain, which reduced the friction. Most noteable ride of the night must have been the 23.31 for John Hunter, a personal best and an indication of what is to come. There were also personal bests for Mark Hodgins (25.57), Paul Kirk (28.26) and Nathan McLeer (26.27). Matt McInerney and Norman Wilson also had fine rides with times of 23.43 and 25.17 respectively. However, the king on the night was once again the redoubtable Paul Swenarton in a time of 22.42. This was a tremendous performance on a slow course and highlights why Paul is regarded as one of the best veteran time trialists in the country.
The following night Paul and John travelled to Woodgreen for the Ulster 10 mile Championships. Once again Paul had a great performance returning a time of 22.45. However, the star had to be big John who achieved yet another personal best with a time of 22.54!