DOUBLE FIRST FOR NORTH DOWN CYCLISTS
North Down Cycling Club’s early season success continued last weekend with two victories. The first win was chalked up last Saturday by Michael McMullan in the A4 race at the John Moore Memorial races staged over rolling countryside around Carryduff. McMullan had shown consistently good form in earlier races, grabbing fifth place behind club mate Shane Farren at Annaclone at the beginning of March. At Newry, it was another top ten sprint finish, this time hot on the wheels of team mate Brian Simpson who just missed the win by half a wheel. The win everyone was predicting for Michael came in circumstances which suited McMullan, an uphill finish where speed and power were the telling factors. This time it was Farren who played a supporting role, getting up to finish just outside the top ten.
After McMullan’s win on Saturday the mood in the club bus was buoyant as seven riders headed for Tobermore for the Carn Wheelers Classic. The Wheelers, based in Maghera, are a fairly new club, reflecting the growing popularity of cycling across the province and the race programme contained two events that drew the seven North Down men to the foothills of the Sperrins. The A4 race brought Brian Simpson and Paul Kirk back to competitive action while the remainder of the squad, John Hunter, Harry Adams, Ian Blayney, Philip Downie and Mark Coyle were all geared up for the latest round in an innovative series that brings together female riders and men who are over 50 years of age.
TOP TEN AGAIN
Brian Simpson was a rider in form going into this race but team mate Paul Kirk had been lacking a bit of form and was a bit apprehensive about the challenge. He need not have worried. The large bunch had the North Down men close to the front all day in a race that was not without incident. As is customary the A3 riders were sent off first, the normal expectation being that, as riders in a higher category, they would be slightly faster than the following A4 riders. Almost always that is how races pan out but on Sunday the A3 riders were caught by the A4 group so to avoid confusion the race was stopped, the A3 riders sent off again, this time with a few extra minutes advantage and instructions from the commissaire to stay in front. The race proceeded without further complications and at the end of the A4 race the outcome was decided by a bunch sprint. The final 300 metres was uphill and into a headwind and amid the jockeying for position Simpson got up to take seventh spot with a delighted Paul Kirk getting ninth place.
WHO’S THE DADDY?
The final race on Sunday’s card, the Masters and Women’s race drew two old hands to the line for the first time in years. Club chairman Ian Blayney was joined by Mark Coyle in a team seeking to put down a marker with rivals from Phoenix and North Pole CC. Cormac McCann (Phoenix) had nicked a win at Newry and North Pole had taken the team prize after North Down’s Philip Downie and Austin McNally had crashed out. Going into this race the tactics were fairly simple. Hunter, as usual, would put the hammer down at various intervals to stretch the opposition and the others would protect Blayney to the finish where his famous sprint would, hopefully, do the rest.
Phoenix had strengthened their team by bringing along two very experienced men with racing pedigrees, Brendan McCartan and sprinter Dermott Hughes. Fortunately for North Down, ‘Da’ McCann of Phoenix punctured in the first lap, putting him out of the race. An early solo attack by Adams was reeled in and then a series of attacks by Hunter, Coyle and Downie ensured a fast pace and forced others to chase them down. Meantime, Blayney was sitting comfortably toward the front end of the bunch. As the bunch neared the finish Hunter set the pace at the front while a train of North Down men, Adams, Coyle, Downie and Blayney moved to the outside of the group. Turning into the final stretch Adams started the lead out and as the line drew nearer he was passed first by Coyle and finally Blayney who timed the winning sprint to perfection. Phoenix sprinter Hughes took second place and Coyle just behind in third. Adams and Downie finished tenth and eleventh respectively while Hunter, who had once again done serious damage to the opposition, rolled over the line at the back of the bunch, satisfied that a great team effort had got the win for the ‘Sprint King’. As planned, North Down won the team prize.
IRVINE GOES SOUTH
As reported in this column last week Mark Irvine has opted to travel over the border in search of some hard races. Last weekend he tackled the 100 mile Des Hanlon Trophy race, one of the biggest races in Ireland’s spring calendar. By the end he had lost several minutes but Irvine is determined to subject himself to this sort of hardship knowing that if he is to ride stage races such as the Tour of the North, the Tour of Ulster and the Ras then these are the sort of races that will best prepare him for the big events.
On Saturday 26th March the Ciclisport GP gets under way at 12 noon. There are two races on the card, a 55 mile race for A1,2,3 riders and a 37 mile race for A4 competitors. Entry and route map are available through the East Tyrone CC website. On Sunday, Island Wheelers promote the PJ Logan Cup at Coalisland, Three races are scheduled, the A1,2,3 race over 55 miles, an A4 race over 35 miles and a Masters and Women’s race over 15 miles. Race HQ is at the Gortgonis sports centre and racing starts at 1.30pm. All competitors are reminded to put their clocks forward by one hour on Saturday evening. Further afield the big race at Dundalk is the Traders Cup which will take place on Sunday; racing for A1,2,3 riders will be over 85km and the start is scheduled for 1pm.
CLUB QUIZ NIGHT
The club quiz night on April 1st at Pickie Bowling Club is heavily booked. Anyone deciding to seek tickets should contact Ian Blayney.