7 September 2010

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North Down Cycling Club’s Matty Blayney had an inauspicious start to the road race season when illness forced him to abandon the Tour of the North at Easter. A gradual return to fitness by mid-season ended with a foot injury sustained during a fall in a club race, leading some observers to write off the rest of the season for the young Bangor rider but Blayney proved them wrong by putting together a string of impressive performances to end the season as the man to beat.

Blayney’s winning run began at the West Down Grand Prix in mid-August, an impressive win over the tough, hilly Katesbridge circuit for a rider best known for his sprinting power. There then followed two successive wins in North Down’s season long road race series. All but one of these races were at Kirkistown , the one exception being the annual Ardill Patterson Trophy race, run this year on the Springwell – Stockbridge Road circuit.


Going into the Ardill Patterson the series leader was former Irish international rider Gerald Irvine, making a return to club racing after a long lay off. He had accumulated 29 points and was closely followed by Ross Blayney on 27, Paul Ferguson on 26 and Matty Blayney on 22 points. The handicapping formula of club race secretary Eric Blayney worked to perfection with the two bunches coming together on the last lap. The final push up the Springwell Road saw young Ian Inglis of Ards CC launch an attack but it was Matty Blayney who produced the winning burst with Inglis pipping Paul Ferguson for second place. Richard McCullough got up to take fourth place ahead of James McMaster (Curran Racing).

These results produced a significant change in fortune for the men at the top. Gerald Irvine was not available to race so Ferguson’s strong ride put him into pole position with 36 points, Matty Blayney’s win pushed him into second place on 34 points with Ross Blayney slipping down to third on 33 points. Gerald Irvine’s absence on the night meant that he dropped down to fourth place on 29 points, giving him, with one race left in the series an almost impossible task.


The final race in the series was staged at Kirkistown last Wednesday evening and race organiser Eric Blayney could barely believe his luck when he was presented with a perfect night’s weather. The club riders and guests responded by producing the biggest turn out of the season, with 65 riders going to the line. The club was delighted to see several women riders, including their own Rachel Mitchell, battling it out with the rest of the peloton. Also on the line was Cycling Ulster Chairman Tommy Lamb, hoping to test himself on the flat track of Kirkistown after a summer in the French Alps. Tommy’s wife, Cycling Ulster’s Secretary Marian Lamb decided to sit this one out but was on hand to offer Tommy some sympathy and a fag after he had done a few laps at 25mph.

Unlike previous races at Kirkistown the large group of limit riders got themselves organised and for most of the race managed to stay ahead of the scratch group for whom Irish international rider Adams Armstrong was very active. The whole race came together for the remaining few laps with the pace constantly high. The final sprint for the line produced the second successive win for Matty Blayney. Second North Down rider was Ross Blayney, followed by Warren Polly who managed to nip in ahead of Gerald Irvine and Paul Ferguson.

The result proved to be decisive in the league with Matty Blayney’s two wins giving him the title with 46 points. Ross Blayney moved into second spot on 43 points and Paul Ferguson took the third podium place with 42 points.


Throughout the Kirkistown series, generously sponsored by BikeIt Cycles of Grand Parade, Belfast, club officials have been delighted with the positive response from club riders, not only by supporting events in such large numbers but also by displaying such a high standard of racing. The final race at Kirkistown was won at an average speed close on 27mph with the club riders managing close to 25mph. Participants and interested observers can now see video footage of recent club races via the Facebook/Youtube link on the club website.


The autumn mountain bike season got under way two weeks ago with a 32 mile long marathon race in the Cooley mountains near Carlingford. Over 200 riders tackled this fearsome course and the starters included a motley crew of Bangor riders made up of North Down and Curran Racing men. A few, such as Matty Blayney, Ross Blayney and James McMaster are old hands at the cross country stuff but for Mark Irvine, Richard McCullough and Liam Curran it was clearly a journey into ‘terra incognita’. By all accounts it was brutal and James McMaster produced an outstanding ride to come fifth in the main event.


The mountainous terrain at Carlingford was a challenge for the strongest of riders but although Matty Blayney just managed to get into the top fifty he clearly felt the benefit of the experience and he used his strength and sprinter’s speed to dominate the field at last weekend’s mountain bike race, the latest round of the Ulster Cross Country MTB league, run off at the Craigavon lakes. Blayney’s good form had given him an upgrade to the Elite category and the 20 mile race was on a fairly flat if wet and slippery trail that included sections of woodland. After a lap to familiarise himself with the course Blayney demonstrated his new found form and confidence by attacking and he soon built up a lead of around four minutes and he stayed in front to take a convincing victory over second placed Myles McCorry (Bikepure)


In the Masters category at Craigavon North Down’s Paul Ferguson showed that he too can turn road form into success on softer ground. He battled with Newry’s Kevin Lynch for much of the race and was delighted to move ahead of him to take third place in the 16 mile race. In the Sport category North Down’s Duane McCreadie and Chris Cameron joined battle and although Cameron was unable to finish McCreadie showed good form to take 12th place and complete a satisfying day for North Down.


This coming Saturday, September 11th the annual Marie Curie cycle challenge takes place. The ride starts from Downpatrick race course and involves a 30 mile circuit that takes in Ardglass, Killough and Strangford. There is a tea stop at Killough and registration, which can be done on the day, is £10. Traditionally North Down riders have supported this very worthwhile charity and, weather permitting, this year should be no exception. Fitter riders will leave the clubrooms at 9am on Saturday, ride to Downpatrick, sign on and complete the 30 mile route then cycle back to Bangor, giving a total distance of around 90 miles. Several members who feel that the 90 mile ride might be too far intend to drive to Downpatrick and then do the 30 mile run before heading back to Bangor. There is no massed start for this event, riders being free to sign on and take to the road at any time up to 11am. The event is well marshalled and there is good signage.


The final club event of the season was a five mile time trial at Orlock. Results will follow next week.


A large turnout of club members and guests attended the end of season barbecue at Pickie Bowling Club last Saturday. Excellent food, music, good company and plenty of craic made it a great success. Everyone was delighted to see Russell Moreland there, following his recent operation and club chairman Ian Blayney was delighted to be able to declare the club’s ongoing support for Russell during his recovery.

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