ROAD SEASON NEARS CLIMAX
The Ulster road race championship, staged last week over the tough Dundrod circuit, marked the climax of the current road race season. The severity of the course took its toll and North Down’s two competitors, Paul Ferguson and Mark Irvine, were unable to keep on terms with the winning break which was led in by Irish international track specialist Martyn Irvine (Planet X) who broke clear to win from Thomas Martin (Eurocycles) and Mark McKinley (Newry Wheelers). In the supporting race for veterans last year’s champion, Bangor man Liam Curran (Curran Racing) was edged out of the medals, taking fourth place behind the eventual winner Paul Mulligan (Eurocycles).
On the local club scene North Down Cycling Club’s season long race competition, the Bike-It Kirkistown series, reached an interesting point last week. With one race left, scheduled for September 1st, the situation at the top of the points table is very close. Leading with 29 points is former international rider Gerald Irvine who has had a very successful comeback to club racing this year. Close behind on 27 points is another former international, Ross Blayney who, in turn, is only one point ahead of Paul Ferguson who has 26 points. Last week’s Kirkistown outing once again drew a large field of fifty riders and while the club men kept a close eye on each other Liam Curran and North Down’s Stuart Henry, competing this year in England for Herbalife/Wheelbase stole away and crossed the line together with Henry gaining first place by half a wheel. Meanwhile the protagonists in the battle for club supremacy were in hot pursuit and it was Ross Blayney who grabbed maximum points in third place followed by Paul Ferguson and Richard McCullough. Competition leader Gerald Irvine lost some ground, finishing in sixth place.
ARDILL PATTERSON TROPHY
This week’s club event was an open road race of 25 miles for the Ardill Patterson trophy. Traditionally this is run on the Springwell Road/Hightrees circuit, a course with demands very different from the flat track at Kirkistown. Of the main contenders Paul Ferguson should find the drags of the Springwell and Orlock to his liking but both climbs might not be sufficiently long or steep enough to shake off Blayney and Irvine. A race report will follow in this column next week.
Last week an experimental road race was staged at the Outlet shopping centre near Banbridge. A short circuit course of one kilometre was cordoned off and some of Ulster’s top road men lined up for 45 minutes of high speed criterium style racing. The strong field included international riders such as Roger Aiken , Mark McKinley and Thomas Martin but at the end of a frantic race it was Bangor’s Stuart Henry who came through to take an impressive win ahead of Martin and Aiken.
Open and club racing is at season’s end but between now and the end of September there are a few long distance sportive events on the calendar, the first of which takes place this Sunday, the 85 mile long Lap the Lough. The ride is expected to attract 1500 riders who will set off from Kinnego Marina on a clockwise journey around Lough Neagh. The event is organised by Castle Hill Cycling Club and the run starts at 9.30am. Participants will receive a T shirt and food stops are planned for Ballyronan and Shane’s Castle. North Down has a large number of entrants, at the time of going to press the event is fully subscribed and the organisers do not intend to take entries on the day.
Many sportive events tend to be semi-competitive affairs but it is encouraging to see that the Lap of the Lough tends to attract many leisure cyclists. This year it is to be tackled by a large group of North Down riders, many of whom last week took part in Gary Crawford’s Tour de Half Day Out on Sunday. North Down Cycling Club is keen to make provision for new and improving cyclists and the success of the Saturday morning rides for such cyclists has led to a similar run being arranged on Sundays. There are plans for another steady ramble in September though no firm date or route has been announced.
A couple of weeks ago North Down Cycling Club reached a milestone when membership topped 150, thereby making it one of the ten biggest clubs in Ireland. A spin-off of this has been the large numbers of people attending social functions. The early season quiz was well attended and the next event on the social calendar, the end of season barbecue, has already been fully subscribed. The cover price of £5 per head and the prospect of very competitive bar prices at Pickie Bowling Club produced an excellent response and club chairman Ian Blayney was delighted to announce last week that all 120 available tickets had been allocated. The barbecue will take place on Saturday 4th September at 7.30pm and there will also be live music, details of which will emerge over the next week.
As usual information about club activities is available on the club website and also through Facebook. The club’s Facebook account was the brainchild of Denise Hart, supported by Clare White, Flo Millar and Cuan Bell.