CYCLISTS PREPARE FOR NEW SEASON
They may not be in a state of panic but, following a prolonged spell of bitterly cold weather and icy roads, North Down’s cyclists have woken up to the fact that the new season of road races begins in little more than a month from now. The Christmas and New Year holiday period normally provides an opportunity to get in some solid endurance work in readiness for the annual programme of reliability trials which get under way at the end of January. This time round, however, the unsafe state of many roads has driven many riders to retreat to the clubrooms or garage at home to put in a few hours on the indoor trainers. Fortuitously, the recent, timely opening of the excellent DW Fitness centre at Bloomfield has provided a further option and a large number of club members have already taken up membership, allowing them access to state-of-the-art spinning machines as well as an enormous range of the latest exercise equipment.
As is customary, the race season is preceded by a series of reliability trials. These are fairly long training rides, up to 70 miles in length, and they attract up to 100 riders, normally divided into two groups. As well as providing a good quality training run these events, which attract riders from numerous clubs, give prospective racers a chance to see the early form of the riders they will be competing against in the coming months. This Sunday’s reliability ride is hosted by Ballymena Road Club and signing on is at the clubrooms from 9am. Riders will be able to choose between a 50 or 75 mile ride. .
SIGNING ON NIGHTS
There will be two opportunities over the next couple of weeks for new members to join and for existing members to renew their membership. The first of these nights will be Monday 25th January and the clubrooms in Park Drive will be open from 7.30 until 9pm. The next night will be Friday, February 12, again from 7.30 until 9pm. Membership forms can be downloaded from the club website at www.northdowncc.com.
Club membership fees vary according to the type of cycling a rider intends to do. The club fee for a cyclist is £20 for the year. On top of that riders should take out a membership licence from the sport’s governing body, Cycling Ireland. This is compulsory for anyone who intends to do any competitive cycling such as time trials or road racing. There are two main competition licences. First, there is a Club Competition licence which allows a rider to compete in, for example, North Down Cycling Club’s weekly series of time trials and races. The Club Competition licence costs £58. .
The second type of licence is that for Open Competition, entitling a rider to compete against other club riders in races all over the country. This licence costs £115. Details of licence fees for under 18 and under 16 riders are available from the club website. .
The majority of riders opt for a basic Non-Competition cycling membership of Cycling Ireland. As an inducement to new members in 2010 Cycling Ireland are offering this level of membership for a mere £9 for the year. As with the other licences, membership provides the rider with third party insurance cover and limited personal accident cover. .
After a successful series of classes last year Declan McMackin will be staging two bike maintenance classes in the clubrooms, the first of them being on Friday, January 29, beginning at 7.30pm. A small cover charge of £2 will apply. Declan is a fully qualified cycle mechanic with many years of experience in the retail trade and on the international race scene. As yet no details are available about the format or content of the classes. This information will be circulated via the club website over the next few days. .
Last autumn’s hostelling weekend in the Sperrins proved to be a great success, so much so that North Down’s Secretary, Julie Stevenson, has arranged a follow up, this time heading for the north Antrim coast. The weekend stay will run from Friday 26th February until Sunday 28th and the destination is the Mill Rest youth hostel in Bushmills. Word of this weekend has already circulated through the bush telegraph and several members have already made bookings. Some places are still available; for details of cost and travel arrangements contact Julie on 07980884683. .
North Down’s road racing squad are hoping to replicate last year’s successes, despite having lost, temporarily at least, the services of Stuart Henry who is now at university in England. The team support programme will be in place again, providing free transport to races and the services of soigneur Harry Adams. The club now boasts two first category riders, with Paul Ferguson upgraded last season to join Neil McKenna. Top veteran Noel Boyce will be aiming to maintain last year’s winning form. The club’s most promising newcomer of 2009, Richard McCullough, is looking forward to getting back to the fray and experienced riders Ross Blayney, Philip Marshall, Matty Blayney and Duane McCreadie will be hoping for regular racing after a season when all four riders fell victim to injury or work commitments. The club is delighted to see a new Irvine planning to join the line up this year. Mark Irvine has decided to try his hand at bike racing after a few years at motor cross. Mark’s father Gerald was one of Ireland’s top road men in the late eighties and early nineties with experience at international level and he has a wealth of experience which will prove invaluable to Mark in his debut season. Also, Robert Watt has hinted that he might like to get back into open racing after showing some decent form in last year’s club races at Kirkistown. .
A few problems arose last year when some riders were unable to gain entry to races because of restrictions on numbers. For the incoming season North Down are hoping to avoid such problems by taking in some races across the border where no such restrictions apply. A meeting will be arranged soon for riders to look at the race schedule and plan a programme for the season ahead. .