Super Sam’s Emphatic Win
Super Sam Craig, North Down’s Aquatech King, stormed to an emphatic win in the PJ Logan Cup at the weekend. Having taken 2nd place the previous week and having been in the form of his life, it was no surprise that Sam was the winner, but the manner of the win took many by surprise.
In the early stages of the 105 km race a strong group of riders broke away and began to up the pace. Among those were Maryland's Mark Greer, Lewis Ferguson (Team Curran) Richard Watters (Harps CC), Dane Dunlop (Lakeland), Darren Weir (Dromara CC), Cathal Smyth (Phoenix CC), Gordon Scott (East Antrim Audi), Shaun Grey (Juiced Orchard), Niall Shannon (Maryland Wheelers), Michael Murray (Clann Eireann) and the redoubtable Sam Craig (North Down). Steadily this group increased their lead, with Sam making huge efforts at the front.
Indeed it was noted that Craig was dominating the group both mentally and physically, as he was always trying to make things happen. He made several sortees off the front to ‘test the water’ in the early stages, but it seemed that word of his strength and fitness had permeated through the ranks and whilst many were prepared to work to bring him back few were prepared to risk working with him out front.
Eventually with 20 km left, almost in exasperation, Sam launched what was to be his most devastating attack. He said:… ‘I knew if I could open a gap of 45 seconds nobody would catch me’. This he duly did and as he entered the final lap he had an advantage of 55 seconds which he held to the line and secure the biggest win of his career to date.
1. Sam Craig (North Down) @ 3-32.57
2. Gordon Scott (East Antrim Audi)
3. Gary Cranston (East Antrim Audi)
4. Shaun Grey (Juiced Orchard)
5. John Madden (Bann Wheelers)
6. Richard Watters (Harps CC)
PJ Logan B Race
Such was the demand for entry places that an additional 70km race was organised, by the Island club, over the same course. This event was a massed start and most of the large group stayed mainly together (despite several attempted breaks) until the sprint.
Once again the pink and black was much in evidence throughout the race with Noel Boyce showing that his win at Hilltown was no fluke. As the group neared the line
Paul Wilkinson (West Down Wheelers) and North Pole’s Rory Devlin slipped off the front to take first and second respectively. However, there was much controversy when what appeared to be a blatantly biased decision gave third place to Mel McCann (Team Madigan) who was judged to have beaten North Down’s Noel Boyce. Nevertheless 4th still gets Noel some more points to add to his tally in the All-Ireland Vet’s rankings.
Ireland Call-up for Henry
Following his impressive riding for Ulster in the 5 day Tour of Malta last week, where he finished 4th in stage 2 and 11th overall, Stuart Henry has been selected to ride for Ireland in the Tour of the North at Easter. Although Henry has represented Ireland on several occasions as a schoolboy this is the first time he will have ridden in the green of Ireland as a junior. Everyone in North Down wishes him well in this very demanding event.
One of the strengths of North Down Cycling Club is that it is a multi-faceted entity, providing a whole range of services beyond major competitions. The recreational cycles, for example, are a big part of the club’s itinerary, with cycles at the weekend and though the week. The full range of events can be accessed on the North Down CC website. In addition, it is planned to again factor in many of the bigger recreational events into the touring calendar. Events such as the Wicklow 100 have become major features in the touring calendar and this year should be no exception.
Of course the biggest charity cycle in the country, The Coastal Challenge is organised by North Down CC. This event will be in June and any ‘novice’ cyclist who would like advice on how to prepare for this event should contact the club through the website.
Another aspect of the North Down club which makes it to some degree unique is the healthy social life which it engenders. Coffee stops are a feature of most of the cycles and there are many other events such as barbeques when the racing and non-racing club members have an opportunity to meet informally. Last weekend saw one of the most popular of the social events, the Bokhara Night. These evenings take place about once every two months and the Bokhara, in King Street, which has been associated with the club for a number of years, put on a special table d’hôte menu. Last Sunday’s event was again a big success, especially as it enabled everyone to celebrate Sam’s big win in the afternoon. It’s been suggested, in fact, that we should visit the Bokhara every time we have had someone in the winners’ enclosure. Given the amount of success the club has had this year I’m not sure that would be a good idea as we might all start putting on too much weight.
Bike-it Club Invitational Series
The club racing season is now up and running with the Pacemaker Challenge. In this competition it is the ability to judge pace that counts. Points are awarded according to how close actual time is to predicted time. Being super-fast or super-fit doesn’t matter. So any clubman can win the prize of a heart monitor at the end of the series. There are 13 rounds of the pacemaker challenge covering all time-trial distances and 2 hill climbs. The best 8 of 13 events will count toward in the competition. No cycle computers or heart monitors may be used. As series organiser, Eric Blayney explained; ‘…these events are as much social as competitive.’ So it’s a great way of getting fit in a structured fashion every Wednesday night.
Nathan McLeer took 9th place in his first race of the season near Drogheda, last Sunday. This weekend he is off to Fermoy in County Cork. He’s certainly seeing a lot of the Irish countryside and we wish him well.