North Down Cyclists Dominant
The level of the enthusiasm and commitment amongst the racing men in North Down Cycling Club is at a level not seen for a long time. At the weekend not only was the minibus filled to capacity, but no fewer than three support cars were commandeered into action. Nor is this simply early season madness with little capacity to back it up. With the season only two weeks old, the pink and blacks have already notched up: one first, one second and two thirds – with several other top ten finishes as well!
As has already been noted, first off the mark last weekend was Shane Farren. He travelled to Banbridge with a strong team in support and took a very comfortable win in the A4 race. Although relatively new to racing, Shane’s always looked in control and easily took the final sprint ahead of John Kernaghan (West Down Wheelers) and Neil McEvoy (Team Vision Racing). Also in the mix was North Down’s comeback man Michael McMullan, who raced in the Pink and Black as a promising junior rider some years back. On the day he had to settle for 6th but no doubt his day will come. Similarly, Brian Simpson and Paul Kirk gained valuable experience which they knew they would be able to use in future events.
For Brian he didn’t have to wait long as the former power lifter used all his unquestionable strength and sprinting prowess to surge to the head of the field in the Haldane race at Newry last Sunday, where he was just beaten into second place by the narrowest of margins. Again there was a great line up of Pink and Black in the sixty strong A4 race and the flat, fast, wind-swept Newry to Warrenpoint roads suited Brian’s talent perfectly. Again Michael McMullan, Paul Kirk, Shane Farren, Chris Cameron and a rejuvenated Declan McMackin were all in the large peloton that descended on the line, but it was Brian’s day.
BLAYNEY BAGS THIRD
However, it is not only the A4’s who are showing form. In the main race, the John Haldane Memorial, Matty Blayney, in spite of a back spasm just before the ‘off’, demonstrated why he is one of the best finishers in the country. In this race there was a small handicap of four minutes between the A3s and the A1s and A2s who went off together. After one lap of the five lap race the gap was down to about 45 seconds but for some reason or other the chasing group eased and the A3 bunch pulled away again. Consequently, the gap was never closed and although two riders, one of whom was talented young Ian Inglis (Curran Racing), escaped before the finish to take the first two places it was Matty who sprinted clear for a well- deserved third place. Team mate Duane McCreadie also had a good day finishing safely in the bunch. Ross Blayney, riding in the chasing group, looked strong and aggressive at times but had to be content with a bunch finish.
Perhaps the ‘piece de resistance’ over the weekend was the performance of club president and soigneur, Harry Adams. Harry decided to ride in the ‘over-50’s’ event, conceding several years to some younger, up-and -coming athletes, such as John Hunter. Joining these two were Philip Downie, riding his first open race at an age when others are taking to the bowling green and old warhorse Austin McNally. The race was one in a new series where riders over 50, designated ‘Masters’, are thrown together with women who are competing in the Ulster Women’s League. Each of the three laps involved a five mile outward leg into a stiff, biting wind and on each of the laps North Down’s John Hunter, aiming to regain fitness for the approaching time trial leagues, did the lion’s share of the work on the front. Indeed it was Hunter who single-handedly operated as Harry’s lead out train but Adams hit the front too early and was reeled in over the final 50 metres but hung on to take second place. Unfortunately, Downie and McNally got involved in a minor crash, along with Cycling Ulster chairman Tommy Lamb and although they were able to rejoin the race the strong headwind made it impossible for them to get back to the bunch.
North Down Grand Prix
The planning committee for the North Down Grand Prix recently launched what is likely to be the most exciting race in years. The race, which is on Sunday 15th May will again host the Northern Ireland Championships. Given the success of our A4’s recently, perhaps equally attractive will be the potential of a separate prize list for unplaced North Down riders in their event. What more of an incentive will local riders need? Watch this space for all the news in up-coming weeks.
Yet North Down Cycling Club is far more than a racing club. Almost every day of the week there are recreational cycles organized, which cater for those of varying abilities. On Saturday morning, for instance, it was great to see so many beginners being chaperoned by more experience club members. It’s not difficult to understand why North Down is rapidly becoming one of the biggest clubs in the country. If you would like more information about any of the recreational cycles, information can be found on the club’s website: /www.northdowncc.com
Members are reminded that the next quiz will be on Friday, April 1st at Pickie Bowling Club. The tickets, which are £5 each, are selling fast and should you not have purchased yours, you should contact Ian Blayney immediately. The price includes supper which will be prepared by Mark Brooks of Bow Bells.