North Down Cyclists Honoured
Two of North Down Cycling Club’s up and coming stars, Jessica Laird and Stuart Henry, were honoured last week at Hillsborough Castle when they were presented with SportsAid Awards by none other that the icon of Northern Irish sport, Mary Peters. Jessica, well known for her exploits on mountain bikes, switched to road racing last year and made an immediate impact, gaining selection to compete for Ireland in Holland and Belgium. Stuart, who like Jessica is in upper-sixth form pupil at Regent House School, has a string of accolades and is currently the OCS Young Sports Person of the Year for Northern Ireland. All those involved in North Down Cycling Club hope this will be the spring board for even greater things for both young cyclists in the 2009 season.
Cycling Ireland Open Forum – The Way Forward
Cycling Ireland is currently devising a new five year strategy for 2009-2014 and is seeking your input. A meeting for all members will be held on Sunday January 25th when everyone will be invited to provide their thoughts on priority areas towards the development of the sport over the next five years.
Geoff Liffey informs us that, ÂgA key part of the new strategy is likely to be focused on participation levels. One of the areas that will be addressed will be the introduction of a new grading system based on abilities for all cyclists. It is hoped this will introduce more balanced categories, providing a better experience for all those participating.Âh
The subject of ridersÂf categories, in cycling, is very controversial. At present only the seniors riders are categorised on ability, whilst the juniors and veterans are grouped by age. Clearly there is an anomaly as there are many juniors and veterans who are superior to the seniors they are competing against.
Consequently it has been proposed that a new grading structure would be introduced. For example, current 2nd category riders, plus veterans deemed by the National Gr
ading Officer in conjunction with the Provincial Grading Officers to be Super Veterans and juniors deemed by the High Performance Staff to be ÂgeliteÂh juniors would be grouped together. The third group would consist of current 3rd cats with CI ranking points, the rest of the vets and the remaining juniors plus the bulk of the women riders.
In 2008 the ebullient Belgian, Dany Blondeel, who is currently residing in Newtownards, was instrumental in attracting one of the most successful amateur teams in Belgium to participate in the Tour of the North cycle race. The DeCock-Capino Team made an immediate impact, winning no less than two of the stages and being in the thick of the action throughout the Easter weekend.
More importantly, for local cyclists, when they were here the embryo of an idea began to crystallise in DanyÂfs mind whereby Northern Irish riders could gain invaluable experience racing with such teams in the hot-bed of world cycling, Flanders.
Dany invited Northern Irish riders to furnish him with CVÂfs which, with the assistance of his Belgian contacts, were posted on the Belgian cycling websites. With Dany and his Belgian contacts driving the initiative, it was inevitable that local riders would be picked up by the continental teams. Conor McAllister (Ballymena), Simon Williams (Richill), Peter Hawkins (Belfast) and our own Stuart Henry were invited to ÂeguestÂf for Flandrian teams.
On Saturday night Dany is launching the 2009 version of the Belgian Project in the Bowling Club in Newtownards (5pm). Already Dany has been working non-stop and has even attracted a number of sponsors to support the initiative this year. On Saturday night a vast array of local sports persons, celebrities, politicians and sponsors will be present in Ards. In addition, on Friday representatives of the Flandrian teams will be arriving to reconnoitre the 2009 Tour of the North stages and to add a little continental flavour to the launch of the Belgian Project. As Dany explains, ÂeThis is how itÂfs done in BelgiumÂf and it sounds like it should be an occasion not to be missed. The good news for all members the North Down Cycling Club members is that if any of them would like an insight into how continental teams such as DeCock-Capino or Lotto Bodysol operate, they have been given a special invitation. As Dany explained, it doesnÂft matter whether they are racing cyclists or simply want the opportunity of enjoying the continental atmosphere, the place will be the Bowling Club, Comber Road at 5pm on Saturday.
A meeting has been arranged for Thursday 29th January at 7.30pm in the Club Rooms for those members involved with the ClubÂfs Child Protection procedures (ie everyone).
The dynamic Noel Boyce, who seems to be at the centre of so much which is good and positive in the club, has asked all those who have received their Access NI certificates to bring them along, so that a comprehensive record can be compiled.
Noel also asks that those attending should download and read the Cycling Ulster's Code of Ethics and Good Practice For Young People Child Protection Policy.
Cycling Ulster are currently in the process of establishing a specific ladies section. Any of our lady members should contact Julie Stevenson for information. Who knows one of the North Down ladies may follow in the illustrious trail of Upperlands cyclist Wendy Houveaghel, who won Northern Ireland first Olympic medal since 1992. On Tuesday night last Wendy was once again celebrating – this time her selection as the Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year.