Red Hot McKenna
In last Saturday’s Red Hand Trophy event, North Down Cycling Club’s Neil McKenna showed that he is amongst the elite of Northern Ireland’s cycling. For Neil, who was upgraded to Senior 1 status at the end of last year, it has been a frustrating season due mainly to a catalogue of mechanical mishaps and injuries. However, in one of the true classic races, he demonstrated clearly the reality that he can compete with the best.
The Red Hand is run over the demanding roads of North Antrim and both Neil and new-comer to the sport, Richard McCullough, were always in the thick of the action. Ryan Connor (Usher IRC, Dublin), Glen Kinning (Castlereagh CC), Thomas Martin (Clann Eireann) and Leo McAllister (Ballymena Scott Tiles) did manage to form a breakaway group in the run-in to the finish in Broughshane. This caused the obvious reaction in the peleton and it wasn’t long before East Antrim duo, Gary Cranston and Kieran McKenna and our own Neil McKenna, were in pursuit. In the closing miles each of the breakaway group were overhauled, with the exception of Connor and Kinning who just held off the fast closing McKenna, who took a well deserved third place.
Perhaps even more pleasing for the North Down supporters was the sight of pink and black to the fore as the bunch came into sight. This time it was young Richard McCullough, in his first ‘big’ race, taking first place in the Senior 3 category. This is quite an achievement from a young man who has the potential to go right to the top.
Eight North Down CC members travelled to Ballyhaunis County Mayo to take part in the Tour Of Mayo on Sunday last. The weather was unfortunately not as pleasant as had been experienced in Bangor with some light drizzle and a fresh breeze; however these cyclists were made of sterner stuff and were not going to be put off by such inclement weather.
The Mayo Tour has been an annual event for mnay year for North Down members. The event threads through 200Km (125 miles) of some of the most beautiful and scenic coast and countryside in our island. The route included Swinford and Lough Talt with the route going through Enniscrone (County Sligo) before taking a very scenic cycle along the coast to Ballina. The organisers, Annagh Wheelers, had arranged a "challenge" for the unsuspecting visitors from County Down in the form of a climb to over 600 feet rising from sea level at an average ascent of 6% to traverse a mountain pass through the Ox Mountains known as the Windy Gap before dropping into Castlebar. This was not the best time for Ian Blayney to snap a brake cable and there were not many volunteers to catch him at the foot of this very fast descent.
Not to be dissuaded by the lack of breaking power, Ian did battle on with caution and finished the tour in true NDCC fashion. A welcome last break at Ballyvarey was needed to take on some food for energy to assist in the last leg of the tour to Ballyhaunis via Kiltimagh and Knock. The organisation and hospitality shown by the hosting club Annagh Wheelers was again second to none with copious amounts of refreshments strategically placed around the route – another successful tour completed by North Down Cyclists.
A visit to the North Down CC website will enable those who would like to take part in any of the up-coming tours this summer to plan accordingly. Certainly this is an aspect of club life which should never be under-valued.
Another element of North Down club life which should be never be under-rated is the social aspect. The ebullient Julie Stevenson, just back from spectating at the classic in Belgium, is planning another foray unto the world scene this autumn. She plans to organise a trip to the Mecca of British Cycling, the Manchester Velodrome
to see the UCI world cup event at the end of October (Fri 30th Oct – Sun 1 Nov).
This will be a brilliant opportunity to see Sir Chris Hoy and the British Olympic stars in action. Although tickets are not yet on sale, plans need to be made now as past experience has shown that the best tickets sell out very quickly. However, to give a rough idea of costs Julie reckons that track tickets will cost about £15 per day (3 days). She has even priced hotel accommodation in the Diamond Lodge at £48 per room based on 2 people sharing (includes continental breakfast). Flight will cost around £50 return, with Flybe from Belfast City. Clearly this is a fantastic opportunity to see the world’s best and have a cheap city break at the same time. Those who would like more information should contact Julie immediately as seats will definitely be limited.
Last Wednesday night’s club race was the shortest and at the same time the toughest on the club calendar. Given that knowledge and considering the weather looked more like November than May, with torrential rain and wind, it was surprising that anyone turned up for this gruelling event. However, thanks to ardent prayer by race organiser, Eric Blayney, the rain stopped and the sun shone on what turned out to be a good night for racing.
Paul Swearton 1:18
Ian Ingles 1:27
Roger Doherty 1:30
William Barclay 1:30
Martin Bishop 1:32
Paul Kirk 1:35
Austin McNally 1:36
Gordon Paul 1:39
Colin Massey 1:45
Stephen Morgan 1:52
Next week’s race is the second of the Kirkisto
n events sponsored by Bikeit Cycles. The previous one on the first Wednesday in May was a huge success and it is expected that even more will be out to try themselves on this occasion. So whether you are a boy racer who lines the field out on Monday or Thursday morning or whether you simply want the experience the thrill of a bunch in the safe environment of a closed circuit, you’ll be made very welcome.