Matty Wins North Down Championship
The ability of North Down Cycling Club’s Matty Blayney has never been in question and it was clear last Wednesday night that he was a man on a mission. The last road race of the North Down Cycling Club season has traditionally been the Ardill and Patterson Trophy event, but this year club race secretary, Paul Ferguson, decided to add an extra bit of spice by incorporating the club road race championship. This proved to be an excellent idea, attracting an excellent field on what was not an auspicious evening.
Being a championship the handicapper was not overly generous to the limit bunch. Nevertheless it set about its task of holding off the ‘big boys’ with great gusto. Prominent in this group were our under sixteen riders, Gareth Boyle and Craig Swenerton, both of whom displaying the ability which would enable them to make an impact in the junior ranks next year.
However, the speed of the scratch group which was being driven by Ross Blayney, Matty Blayney and James McMaster was relentless and it was obvious that it would only be a matter of time before they would bridge the gap to the first group. With ten miles to go, the field was all together and it was clearly anyone’s race.
At this juncture James McMaster appeared to be the strongest in the group. Ross Blayney has had a great season, breaking many of his personal best performances along the way, but he appeared to be uneasy as Mc Master powered along. However, impressions can be deceptive and it was Ross who launched the decisive break over Orlock on the last lap. Only Matty Blayney responded and within a matter of a mile the pair had opened a gap of 30sec. At this point McMaster countered with Gareth Boyle in his slip stream – but it was too late – the gap was not going to be closed, especially as Matty was demonstrating a high level of fitness following his Trans Rockies race in Canada.
As the duo approached the finish, everyone’s money was on the fast finishing Ross Blayney. Ross’ sprint is legendary, but there is more than one way to win a sprint. Perhaps Ross was complacent or perhaps he simply under-estimated Matty’s level of fitness, but certainly his response to Matty’s early lunge to the line was laboured. He did recover, however, and everyone thought he was going to make it through, but Matty dug deep and hung on for a well deserved victory and the championship crown. Next home was Noel Boyce just ahead of young Gareth Boyle.
1 Matty Blayney
2 Ross Blayney
3 Noel Boyce
4 Gareth Boyle
5 James McMaster
6 Paul Swenerton
7 Martyn Lyttle
8 Craig Swenerton
Northern Ireland Championships
This weekend the North Down Cycling Club is promoting the Northern Ireland Road Race Championships. This is a very prestigious event and a fitting finale to what has been an excellent season for the local club. It is expected that there will be a large turn-out of our own riders (especially as their entry fees are free!) and it is hoped that some will be amongst the medals at the end of what will no doubt be a demanding event.
However, race organiser, Anthony Mitchell also requires the services of those who will not be competing, to help marshal and make sure that the event runs smoothly. Last Wednesday night’s club race was almost cancelled due to lack of marshals and this would have been most disappointing for all those who had turned up to race. However, the most important factor is rider safety and it is obvious that everyone should help when at all possible. Those who will be able to assist on Saturday should contact Anthony as soon as possible to offer their services.
Junior Tour of Wales
Stuart Henry quite literally finished his season with a bang at the weekend
coming down in a high speed pile-up in the 4thstage and breaking his shoulder. Up to that point Henry was riding really well, finishing each stage in the top half in the general classification. Indeed, the measure of his performance can be gauged by the fact that he was ahead of the under-16’s representing Scotland (the team which performed so well in the Kerry International earlier this month), multi-British Under-16 Champion, Chris Whorral and was even ahead of many of the juniors in the race, including those representing Ireland. This race was a tremendous experience for the young Bangor lad and is one which will stand him in great stead in the future. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Last week we reflected on how the North Down Cycling Club came into existence thirty years ago this month. What was incredible all those years ago was how quickly the membership developed – specially amongst school-aged kids. In this week’s column current club Honorary Secretary, Anthony Mitchell, remembers some of youth talent that helped establish North Down Cycling Club as one of the most progressive and successful clubs in the country.
Whilst the Club seniors of the early years, led by Alastair Irvine and including Tom Henry, Roy Irvine, Matt Stevenson, High Mitchell, Jonathon Amoniur and others were making the club name known around Ireland, the youth section was also thriving and proving to be one of the largest and most successful squads of the late 70s and early 80s.
North Down Cycling Club was always a trend-setting club and led the way with the promotion of Stage racing, Roller Racing and Cyclo Cross. Indeed it was through the latter two formats that many youngsters came in to the club, and indeed the North Down Schools Cyclo Cross championship, a forerunner of the highly successful MTB league, was a highlight of the winter months at this time.
The club adopted the motto of `The Leading Team` and in the winter of 78-79 Anthony Mitchell and Brendan Kirk moved across from Ards CC to join a long list of young riders including –
Alan & Paul Watson, Steve Enderby, John, Alwyn and Robert Orr, David Stanfield, Geordie Pickford, Norman McLeer, Maurice Ambrose, Alex Taylor, Gavin Barnes, Gary Boyle, Neill Moore, Ian Carlin, Mark O`Hara, Phillip Shields, Gerald Irvine, Andrew Shields, Alastair Brogan Gary Boyle and others, making us the Leading `Schoolboy` Team
Straight away in March `79 at the annual Hobbies & Holidays show in the Kings Hall, where Roller Racing formed the centrepiece on the Toyota stand, a club quartet pedalled their way in to the record books with a 4-man 3-hour roller record (Alan & Paul Watson, Alwyn Orr & Anthony Mitchell) at the end of ‘79 we also lifted the Junior 2-man 3-hour record (Steve Enderby & Mitchell) as well as the All Ireland Schoolboy Roller title (Mitchell)
Again as a team, in May we lifted the All Ireland Schoolboy 10 mile Team medals at Cookstown (Mitchell 4th, Gerald Irvine 5th, Paul Watson 8th) heralding the beginning of a successful patch in which we amassed a huge haul of Northern Ireland and All Ireland medals.
As youngsters we had to take some `stick` for our Pink Jerseys, and around this time Skin Shorts were just coming into vogue, and, being trend-setters we were quick to latch on to this latest cycling fashion accessory. Many were quick to ridicule, however one of the most common views our rivals had of our Pink Jerseys and Lycra-clad backsides was that of us disappearing off in to the distance for yet another race win!
Away from the bike, we also took part in the Belfast Lord Mayor’s show, on one occasion dressed in garish costumes with huge paper-mache heads. Who says Toyota North Down cyclists are big headed?
The 1980s also opened on a high note for our Schoolboy team, with a 1-2 in the Under 16 Northern Ireland Schoolboy Road Race Championship (Mitchell 1st, Alex Taylor 2nd & Paul Watson) also lifting the team medals in the event. The same team again lifted the Team golds in the All Ireland `10` with Mitchell recording the first of 2 wins in the Title race.
We also had a number of female youth riders around this time with Katernia Gillespie, Deborah Mitchell, Laura McLeer and Julie McLeer among those competing in club and occasional open events.
Tribute should be paid to the many club helpers who drove the club battle-bus the length and breadth of the country in pursuit of cycling glory. Indeed brave were the men who piloted the Commer buses, a forerunner of the more luxurious Toyota mode of transport.
Friday night club nights saw the Clubrooms packed to capacity, and the Monday night club races also saw upwards of 60 competitors line up at Dixon Road, and again tribute should be paid to the adults who were always on hand to ensure that these activities took place, generally un-noticed and unappreciated by the younger members.
Cycling runs in `cycles` (excuse the pun) and as the Mitchells, Orrs, Pickfords, Watsons etc either moved up through the ranks or faded from the sport the North Down club has always been able to find a succession of top youth riders to bring success.
Following the above crop were the Gore brothers, Colin McGivern, Colin Bell, Dougie Lennie, Phillip Marshall, Michael Hamilton, Ross Blayney, David Watson, Fraser Duncan and more recently Michael and Rachael Mitchell and Stuart Henry, all of whom have worn their pink jerseys with pride and brought success and recognition to The Leading Team.