7th March 2006

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Mention the word March and you could be excused for assuming that we have, at last, reached springtime. However, North Down’s cyclists have learned that the calendar is an unreliable guide to the actual conditions they are likely to face on the roads. Last weekend was the second of the new racing season but many riders’ normal enthusiasm for the start of competition has been cooled somewhat by wintry weather and the forecasts prior to last weekend gave little cause for optimism. Nevertheless, the promotions at Annaclone on Saturday and the Phoenix GP at Nutt’s Corner on Sunday went ahead and both events drew large fields. Six of North Down’s regular racing men entered the fray and all of them reported satisfaction with their early season form, the main objective being to use these races to get in some race training and avoid the early season crashes that are fairly common, with riders, anxious to demonstrate their form, jostling through narrow roads in large bunches. The only rider to get caught in a crash was Norman Wilson who came down during the Phoenix GP but managed to avoid serious injury.
Next weekend riders once again have a choice of events.  On saturday Old Bleach CC stage the Surgenor Cup over 100Km at Randalstown, the race getting under way at 11am. Sunday’s competition is the McCann Cup sponsored by Omagh Wheelers at Seskinore, the race starting at 1pm.

One of last year’s most successful young riders, Mike Mitchell, has moved into the Under 18 Junior category this year and he got his season off to a flying start last Saturday in the first round of XMTB’s excellent mountain bike series, run off in Castle Park, Bangor. Mike entered the Fun event which was open to a wide range of competitors and, despite having very little experience of mountain biking, he came a very creditable fourth in a race dominated by leading veteran rider Robbie Lamont of XMTB who soloed to a comfortable win ahead of clubmate Graham Boyd.
 Rachel Mitchell, also coming off a successful road campaign last year, was unfortunate to suffer a couple of crashes which put paid to her challenge, so it was left to the senior member of the family, father Anthony, to uphold the family’s reputation. Riding a new mountain bike and clearly not used to the lumpy terrain, Anthony trundled round and was well satisfied with his11th place.
The next round of this well organised series is this Saturday with Castle Park, Bangor, once again the venue.  Racing starts at 12 noon.

For most top competitors these days it is not enough to carry on training using methods passed on from earlier generations.  In the past the key to success was thought to be big mileage, topped off with racing to provide speed. These are still important elements in a modern cyclist’s training programme but in recent years more and more riders have come to realise the importance of planned, structured  preparation, designed to achieve peak performance when required.  Technical innovation has transformed the bicycle in the last 20 years, with aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre in widespread use, even on bikes at the lower end of the price range.  These advances have been accompanied by new ideas on training methods  and nutrition and sports science specialists, such as dietitians, exercise physiologists and psychologists are used to advise top athletes in most sports.
 At North Down cycling club all riders can have access to expertise through club member Darren McWilliams, a lecturer in sports science at BIFHE  and currently studying for a Ph.D, with emphasis on the role of nutrition  and its influence on performance. Darren was scheduled to give a talk this week in the clubrooms on how to optimise performance during the early part of the season, emphasising the importance of training for specific goals and advising on nutrition. A more detailed report will follow in this column next week.

North Down’s committee has devised the programme of club events for the season.  In a departure from tradition, the club events will be held on Wednesdays, thus giving riders a chance to recover from weekend racing. Also, the emphasis will be on relatively short events, the longest time trial being 10 miles. It is hoped that this will provide a midweek sharpener for competitive riders without being so long that it damages the recovery needed between weekend races. The club also hopes that the shorter events will encourage more riders from the touring and recreational groups to have a go at some friendly competition.
 As with last year, three road races will take place, with the club hoping to attract riders from other clubs. These races are likely to be between 20 and 25 miles long and have been scheduled so as not to clash with races staged by neighbouring club, Ards CC.

One of the club’s most successful innovations last year was the introduction of a one kilometre time trial on the road, so the club has planned a series of three such events for this year. Encouraged by their performances last year in the "killermetre", Paul Swenarton and Paul Ferguson have stated their intention of doing some track riding this year. Both men , along with Anthony Mitchell and experienced track man Glen Jordan, are setting their sights on the World Masters’ Track Championship to be held in the Manchester velodrome in September. The championship is organised on the basis of age groups and open to anyone over 30 and there are no selection or qualification criteria. The growing popularity of track racing at Orangefield , to be continued once again this year on Tuesday evenings, should provide plenty of opportunity for new track riders to get a feel for the discipline, which is very different from road racing and uses a bike with a fixed gear and no brakes. To most riders the steep banking on the track looks intimidating so, in an attempt to prove that it is not as bad as it looks, North Down is planning a track night in early August where club riders can go along on a bike of their choice and try a few tentative laps.
Finally, the committee and members of North Down cycling club would like to express their condolences on the death of Bobby Adair who for many years was an important and influential figure in Ards Cycling Club.

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