Irish Medals for North Down Club
North Down Cycling Club picked up its first All-Ireland medals of the year when Rachel Mitchell won gold and silver medals in Under 14 Track Championships in Dublin. In the first event, the 250 Metre Time Trial, Rachel was off first and set the fastest time of the day. Ailbhe Ivory (Bray Whs) won the silver and Enda Ryan (Sorrento) had to settle for bronze. In the sprint Rachel won her heat and again met Enda Ryan and Ailbhe Ivory in the final. This was the closest fought event of the day, with half a wheel separating the medallists. Ryan took the win, with Rachel and Ailbhe silver and bronze.
The final event of the day was the Scratch race, and by now there were some tired legs among the youngsters. Rachel Withers (Fintona CC) seized her opportunity with two laps remaining, going for a long solo effort. It almost paid off, however Enda Ryan and Nial MacAree (Emyvale) came past her in the final 100metres with Enda taking gold, Nail silver and Rachel hanging on for a well deserved bronze. These performances were a tremendous achievement for Rachel and reflects her ability on the track.
Recently it seems that the youth riders have been in the ascendancy in the North Down club and it is, therefore, gratifying to see our seniors also taking their rightful place in the thick of the action.
For example, at the Carrick Crit. both Paul Ferguson and Sam Craig were to the fore. Sam is just back from a charity ride to Paris and he clearly is benefiting from the miles he accrued. Sam and Paul were again in the action in Ards last Wednesday night with Sam again finishing in the fast moving bunch in what was a pulsating race.
Like Paul and Sam, Stuart Henry also participated in the crits. at Carrick and Ards. Stuart is getting back into action after his GCSE’s and he was very happy with runner-up spot in both Under 16 races. However, he was even more pleased with his performances in the senior events where he finished in the bunch on each occasion. This was a huge effort on restricted gears but was clearly beneficial as it gave him the speed necessary to compete in fast moving bunches and was no doubt a great assistance to him in Belgium four days later where he finished in 12th place.
However, it was Neil McKenna who really shone last week. Neil has been out of action through injury for most of the season and so it could be expected that he would have lined up with a degree of fear and trepidation on Saturday in Emma McMullan Trophy Race, promoted by Dromara. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Neil was immediately at the head of affairs and looked strong in a break which included Kirk Sloan, Ross Blayney and Brendan Kirk of the Ards club, James McMaster (Northern Dave Kane), Tony Boyle (Slane Cycles), Richard Watters (Harps), Tommy Wilson (Ballymena), Ronnie Smyth (Dromara CC) and Daire McCaughley (Dublin Wheelers). They managed to open up and maintain a gap of about 45 seconds, which they maintained for several laps. However, the main peleton drove hard and eventually reeled in the break. Not to be outdone, Neil continued to be aggressive and it was little surprise that he ended up taking third place in his first race back – an absolutely brilliant performance!