Is the The Bangor Coastal Challenge for You?
It’s that time of year when we start thinking of sporting challenges which might lie ahead. For some it might be a leg of the relay in the Belfast Marathon, for others it might be climbing ‘seven peaks in seven days’ and for still others it will be a challenge such as a charity cycle. The Bangor Coastal Challenge is the ideal event for those who wish to become a little fitter, try something outside their comfort zone and assist local charities.
This year the event, which is being held on Sunday 21st June, will be able to assist even more charities, thanks to welcome sponsorship by Bike It Cycles, Grand Parade, Belfast. The proprietors of the top Belfast cycle store, which is not only the agent for Trek but a wide range of casual and racing gear, Andrew McCormick and David Livingstone said this week at the cheque presentation: … ‘We’re
delighted to support North Down Cycling Club in their promotion of the Bangor Coastal Challenge. It’s an ideal event for the novice cyclist to target either as a means of extending themselves, getting fit or supporting local charities.’
If you are one of those who want to take up the challenge then event organiser Terry Nicoletti warns that places are limited and as usual they are filling up rapidly. There is a cap on the number of entries and Terry, warned that he would be forced to take the first 700 on a ‘first come first served basis. If you wish to have more information on the event then you should visit the North Down Cycling Club website or speak to any club member.
When visiting the website it might be worth checking out the touring programme which has been organised by the North Down Cycling Club’s Touring Secretary, Stephen Quinn. There is a wide variety of events and this is the perfect way of sampling cycling at a recreational level and an ideal way of procuring information on how to best prepare for an event such as the Coastal Challenge. Amongst events on the calendar are an Easter Ramble on 14th April, which will leave the clubrooms at 9am. Although many will do at least 100 miles, it is possible to take a shorter route or simply turn home earlier than the rest.
Also on the programme is the annual tour in Mallorca. No fewer than twenty six club members will be heading for warmer climes on the 18th April. Philip Downie is to be congratulated on organising this fantastic cycling experience and we trust that the rain on the island at the moment will be a distant memory by the time the pink and black lycra lads arrive.
Tour of the North
On the racing front this is one of the biggest weekends in local cycling with the Tour of the North cycle race. This is traditionally the premier event in the local cycling scene, attracting the top riders from not only all over the British Isles but continental Europe as well. For example, top professionals such as Dean Downing will be gracing our roads as will Norwegian Jochim Petersen. The Dutch team is back and will be led by Albert Scherur. The most successful team in Belgium last year was the Decock Capino outfit, and in spite of the fact that there is a major race in Flanders over Easter they are returning with the clear intent of carrying the yellow jersey back to Morselle.
However, local stars will also be on show. Ryan Connor from Ballymena, a former British Under 23 Champion and winner of the Tour of the North on a record equalling three occasions will be attempting to make it four this year. Similarly, Ards man Martyn Irvine, who won the Tour of the Ards last weekend and is a pivotal member of the Irish pursuit squad, will be out to take his first major tour win.
Others such as veteran Sam Craig and Paul Ferguson will relish the opportunity of pitting their wits against the ‘big guns.’ Both are in great form at the minute, taking first vet and first S2 prizes last weekend and both are more than capable of springing a surprise.
For young Stuart Henry it’s going to be a big experience. He is currently lying number one in the All-Ireland junior rankings and will lead the Irish Junior squad off on the prologue time trial at Stormont on Friday night.
The tough prologue at Stormont (6.30pm) is followed by an even more brutal stage on Saturday in County Antrim. The 71 mile stage, which starts in Ballymena (10am), takes in no less than four major climbs. On Sunday there will be two stages on North Down roads. On Sunday morning (10am) the time trial, which is often decisive in determining the overall winner, will start near the golf club in Donaghadee and finish on the Bangor Ring Road near Dixon Road. In the afternoon (2pm) the fourth stage will leave from St Columbanus School. The race will proceed via Donaghadee, the Six Road Ends to Millisle, Ballywalter and Portavogie before returning to Bangor via Kirkubbin and Newtownards. Terry Nicoletti is co-ordinating the marshalling of this stage and he would really appreciate the help of anyone who is free to give a hand for a short time. The final stage of this year’s tour will take the riders to the Mourne Mountains, with a 73 mile stage starting in Carryduff (10am).
This really promises to be an extremely tough and demanding tour, where only the best will survive. No doubt it will inspire many of those in pink and black who are watching to aspire to even higher goals.
Tour of Ards
Last weekend’s Tour of the Ards was once again an extremely fast race with strong tail winds on the way south making for speeds close to 40 mph. As the riders turned, however, the side winds and then the extreme head wind also took its toll. As a result the big field was shattered in many small groups with only the best staying near the front. In the end the severity of the conditions produced a worthy winner in Martyn Irvine who attacked at Kirkubbin and time trialled to victory.
However, with the exception of Neil McKenna who once again suffered a puncture, it was also a very satisfying day for the North Down riders. Junior rider, Stuart Henry came home in 11th place to secure the first junior prize. He was only a short distance ahead of Sam Craig who was first vet with Paul Ferguson taking first S2.
The following day at Aghagallon Henry was again at the head of affairs. His relentless attacking resulted in him forging a lead of almost a minute, along with Jonny Cole (Madigan), John Madden (Bann Wheelers), Mark Greer (Maryland), Gordon Scott (East Antrim Audi), Tony Boyle (Castlereagh CC), Shaun Gray (Juiced Orchard). The fact that this gap was built up so quickly was due in no small measure to shrewd tactical riding by Noel Boyce and Norman Wilson. At one stage an exasperated competitor was heard to exclaim:… ‘Are you all brain dead? Can you not see they’re (North Down CC) controlling this race?’
With two of the fifteen laps remaining, the two juniors (Cole and Henry) attacked and left their more experienced fellow break members in their wake. The two 18 year olds, who were on the same team last week representing Ulster in the Tour of Malta, worked well together. However, Henry admitted afterwards; ‘I was beginning to tire.’ Perhaps the efforts of the previous day or his relentless attacking early in the race began to take effect and when Cole attacked with just over a mile to the finish Henry had no answer and had to be satisfied with second place.
Meanwhile it was good to see Duane McCready flying the colours in Balbriggan. Once again, without restrictions on numbers, there was a massive field
a massive field. The Balbriggan course is fast and has four short steep climbs.
Duane, whose fitness is coming on by leaps and bounds, finished in the top 15. He concedes that; ‘Looking back it was won on the climb, but I will know for next year’. The way Duane is beginning to go it’ll not be long before he’ll be finishing in the top ten.
Young St Columbanus schoolboy Nathan McLeer made the long trek to Co Cork for the second of the schoolboy selection events. The race in Fermoy was fast and furious from the off and the field was soon whittled down to a group of 11. In the sprint came in a very creditable 6th. His next event is perhaps the hardest of the whole series, but the hilly terrain will really suit Nathan.
The club racing season got off to a bang last week with over 20 competitors trying their hand at the kilometre. There were some excellent times in an event won by top time trialist Paul Swenerton.
1 P Swenarton 1.14
2. M McInerney 1.17
3. R McCullough 1.23
After last night’s 5 Mile TT at Orlock I guess there will be even more out for next week’s 10 Mile TT which starts at Donaghadee Boat Club. Club Race Secretary, Eric Blayney would love to see everyone there, whether you’ve ever raced before or not. Come along and set a benchmark for yourself.