23 November 2010

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North Down Cycling Club’s Ray Brownfield is no stranger to success on two wheels but over the years it has been as a road man that his reputation has been built. Most road racers tend to regard the autumn and winter months as a period of recovery, with the emphasis on maintaining moderate fitness levels by concentrating on long, steady endurance rides. For a few, however, including Brownfield and fellow North Down rider Michael Hamilton, the lure of mud, twisting forest tracks and hidden tree roots, all of which are characteristic of the typical cyclo-cross course, proves irresistible.

The Ulster cyclo-cross league reaches a climax this coming Sunday at Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor and Brownfield enters the final race in the series in a strong third place overall after a string of consistently high finishes. The opening race in Lurgan, back in early October, proved to be an early indicator of form among the main contenders. The race winner, Matthew Adair of Banbridge CC has been in terrific form throughout the series and as he prepares himself for Sunday’s final leg, he has an unbeaten record and looks certain to claim the Ulster League title. Lying in second place overall is Newry Wheelers rider Conor Campbell. He too has shown strong form having been runner up to Adair on four occasions. However, Campbell has only competed in four of the five races run so far so, despite his consistency he finds himself vulnerable to a strong performance from Brownfield who has gathered points from all five races. In fact, Brownfield’s results show an improving trend, having taken third place in his last two races. In round four he finished third but was a full two minutes behind Campbell; last weekend the finishing order was the same but this time Campbell took second place by a narrow eight second margin from the North Down man.


This Sunday’s race in Kilbroney Park will see some new ingredients in the mix with a few of the top riders from across the border having declared their intention to ride. Among them is Robin Seymour who has been virtually unbeatable for more than a decade as a mountain biker and cyclo-cross specialist. Nevertheless, while Seymour and other southern riders may grab the limelight they will be ineligible for Ulster  championship honours but their performances could have an important effect on the points available to the local protagonists. Brownfield’s strength has been his consistency and ability to get results over various types of terrain so he enters Sunday’s race with cautious optimism.

Team mate Michael Hamilton, former Northern Ireland road race  and cyclo-cross champion, tends to restrict his competitive outings these days to the club races at Kirkistown but he enjoys the different challenges of cyclo-cross and, while he is unlikely to get among the medals, Hamilton has also seen his performances improve over the series, getting up to take fifteenth place last week. The Kilbroney Park circuit is regarded as being a tough course with a mixture of grass, gravel paths and sections where the riders will have to dismount so whoever emerges triumphant will deservedly take the title.


Should Brownfield get among the medals he will be the latest in a distinguished line of cyclo-cross winners from North Down. Back in the 1980s North Down won national team championships in cyclo-cross and individual titles, at Northern Ireland and all Ireland level, went to Alastair and Gerald Irvine, both men going on to  represent Ireland at international level.



In recent years North Down Cycling Club’s annual Coastal Challenge, a 100km circuit of the Ards peninsula, has raised around £60,000 for the Ulster Hospital. Last week, event organiser Terry Nicoletti, accompani
ed by Harry Scott, presented a cheque for £10,000, the proceeds of the 2010 ride. The money will be directed to the Diabetes, Cardiology and Stroke units of the hospital. This sportive event is fully subscribed to its limit of 700 well before the ride takes place. Club website manager Keith Millar’s online registration set up saves a great deal of time but Terry Nicoletti is quick to acknowledge the efforts of a large team of club members in creating a well organised and managed event. Valuable sponsorship for the last two years has also come from BikeIt Cycles of Grand Parade, Belfast and on the day itself Bikeworks of Balloo, Bangor have provided much appreciated technical support for all participants. Final thanks go to the PSNI in Bangor for their advice and cooperation in the weeks leading up to the Challenge and for their presence on the day.


After four years as coordinator of the Coastal Challenge, Terry Nicoletti will be moving into a background role for 2011. He will be a hard act to follow; Terry was meticulous in ensuring that nothing was left to chance, the exception being the weather which at least brought a genuine summer’s day last June after four years of disappointment. Terry has created a template for others to use and the club has been fortunate in appointing Harry Scott as successor. Harry, along with Mickey Forbes, was the original organiser of the Coastal Challenge so no-one is better qualified to take up the reins.


North Down’s Christmas calendar is starting to take shape. The annual Hot Port runs have been pencilled in for Saturday 11th and 18th December. The veterans’ lunch is booked for Thursday 16th in the Esplanade, Ballyholme, at 2.30pm. The four course meal costs only £15 and organiser Harry Adams is still taking bookings. The continental market is now open in Belfast and the veterans’ Cultural Society is planning a visit, details to be decided. The annual mince pie run, held between Christmas and the New Year, will also proceed as usual, again the date still to be decided.

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