McCann Cup A3 ‘Quick’ Report

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The race on Sunday ….well that was an experience. Very cold and very windy….wind chill must have been well into the minuses. However, it was dry and more importantly, the roads were dry. Lots of pots holes on the course (compared to last year). Everyone was a bit worried about them, but they were well marked out on the road and turned out not to be too bad.

Apart from my ‘winter’ tights, I wore two of everything ….. two pairs of gloves, two base layers, two pairs of arm warmers, merino wool neck buff and headband ……. It was COLD.
The cold, windy weather took the edge off the race. The way the course was angled, the wind was either a headwind or coming from the side. There may have been a short 1-2km section where it felt like a tailwind.

The first lap was quite active. A few attempts by various people to go off the front early…all where jumped on quickly (including from myself and Nathan), but they petered out after a few hundred meters.

On the second lap, a small group of juniors got off the front. I was in the bunch now ….about 20 back. I waited for a reaction from the front of the bunch, but nothing happened. The juniors started to get a gap ….. I was slightly boxed in for a good few seconds and realized I missed my chance ……but I also felt that peloton would be able to bring them back ok …. so I wasn’t too worried.

I got back up to the front, but sat second wheel. Nathan made the break, so I didn’t want to start the chase. The gap was getting bigger and we were starting to get time checks from the police motorcycle. 30 seconds was the call and the chase started to get organized – maybe 6-7 rotated the work. I wanted to stay at the front so did my turns (though the first couple of turns were not full gas). The gap was now down to 25 seconds and I felt as if we were going to catch them ok and maybe a chance to attack them straightaway. But after about 5-6 km the chase started to break down as people missed turns, or they got on the front and steadied up – why, why, why

The gap timings started to go out to a minute and then 1min 30sec. By now the chase was over … the same old reason… too few wanting to work and then the few trying to work, getting felt up with the peloton just sitting on the wheels – Plus I think the cold and wind had probably drained most people’s enthusiasm to be there in the first place to zero.

With three laps to go, I still thought we had a chance to get them back. With a gap of 1min 30sec it was going to be difficult, but if we did start to get the gap down, it may start to put the lead bunch under a bit of pressure. But it never worked out. At the beginning of the fourth lap, another junior and I pushed the pace up into the headwind, trying to get things going. It worked a bit, but nothing again lasted.

At the start of the final lap, which goes up a drag into the headwind – I was placed back in mid group getting a rest. The front of the bunch just slowed down to a crawl – no fight in this group at all.

Later, on the final lap and couple of riders were let off the front – I waited about 20 back again to see what would happen – nothing. The two riders got about a 50m gap and then another rider rode off the front – I moved out and started to chase him. I was about 20m back from him – pushing into the wind. I just rode on the front, keeping my own tempo. I was slowing bringing the gap down….but not quickly enough – and I wasn’t going into the red for this.

I did the usual ‘flick the elbow’, but nothing from behind. I didn’t want to drop my pace, so just tapped it out. Finally after a few more km. The peloton seemed to wake up. A couple of individual riders attacked, but only lasted about 100m or so and they just faded or just gave up. The pace did pick up for the last couple of km to the final. The main group didn’t seem to be a big as it was (I lost Johnny) and I don’t know if the cold or the wind got to a few riders. I had on final dig off the front going up the hill before the finish. I managed to hold off the group, but going over the rise they started to catch me and the long sprint started for the line. I just rolled over the line, mid group.

I was a bit disappointed and annoyed had myself.

Disappointed for missing the initial break (considering who was in it) and annoyed that I didn’t go with the second break on the final lap (the two guys managed to stay away to the finish ok). Again, I worked far too much….but felt I had no real choice. There was just no effort in the peloton today. I’ll put it down to the weather …. but overall the day was a bit frustrating.

However, it was a great workout. Good to get the first A3 race under my belt for this year – it was hard work in tough conditions – I didn’t get dropped, which is always a bonus 🙂 …. bit of a sore back for a couple of laps (getting used to the race bike position) … but in the end back felt ok.

Well done to Nathan Keown for a superb 2nd. …. And to Johnny Webb for sticking it out until the third lap.

Andrew Chivers was racing A1, but not sure how he got on…… and big thumbs up to Paul Kirk for getting 4th in the Masters ..sorry I couldn’t be there to destroy the race 😉

Sometimes, you feel this is a young man’s sports……especially when the finishing top 8 riders are 30+ years younger than you …LOL

Report by Paul McArthur

John Haldane Memorial – Masters Race Report

John Haldane Memorial – Masters Race Report – Paul McArthur

I may not write too many of these this year…..we’ll see how it goes. Apologies first for any grammar/spelling errors – bit if a rush job.

I lined up for my first Master’s race yesterday. I turned 50 last Sunday and it felt like a bit of a ‘rite of passage’ for a bike racer to enter a Master’s race …or it is just finally admitting you are getting old.

Next week I’ll be back racing A3 … and to feel young again. 🙂

There was a good line-up and some good, strong riders at the John Haldane Memorial Masters Race – some I knew and some that were pointed out to me. We were also riding with the woman, so it was going to be an interesting race and lots of riders to look out for.

Coming into this race I knew I was going to be one of the stronger riders, but I wasn’t too sure how I was going to race it and what tactics to use. In my mind, I had three options – 1. Attacked from the gun – not one I was too keen on. 2. Wait until the second lap and then put in a few hard digs to see what happens – probably the best choice…. And finally 3. Wait until the final hill and go from there – I was never going to sit in until the end.

From the start, my hand was played as there were a number of attacks straight from the gun. Two riders got a gap on the brunch fairly quickly while everyone jostled for a position in the bunch. I waited a few seconds to see what the reaction was going to be to the two riders off the front. There wasn’t any, so I quickly chased them down and brought everyone back together. There were more ‘attacks’ on the way down to the Warrenpoint roundabout. They were more ‘surges’ than attacks ….maybe lasting a minute or so before the move died and then quickly wheeled back into the bunch. One of the girls had a dig off the front and I went with her. As I passed her to move in front I said to her ‘let’s give it a go’. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long either and the bunch was quickly on our wheels. There was a strong enough headwind and I think this was taking any enthusiasm out of any full-on solo attacks.

It did settle down after a while. A few of us pushed the pace off the front and the bunch followed behind. One of the Newry riders was working hard on the front, trying to split the group. I worked with him and when we turned to head back down the carriage with the wind now behind us, we really upped the pace. However, with the tailwind, it was easy for the bunch to stick close to us. It was strung out a bit, but nothing that was under any real pressure of breaking.

This was the pattern for the next lap as well. The same six or so riders pushing off the front at various times, but all brought back. I knew this race was going to be decided on the final hill. The Newry rider was still working hard at various times on the front. He was working a bit too hard as all his efforts were coming to nothing. I helped, but with the headwind and then the tailwind, it was difficult to split the brunch.

Paul Kirk came to the front during the second lap and had a few digs off the front. I let him go a couple of times to see the reaction and to see it someone was going to chase. Paul got no more than about a 20m gap before someone behind started to chase him. I just jumped on his wheel and quickly the bunch was back together.

On the last lap, the pace steadied a bit. I guess most realized that the hill was where the race was going to be decided. A few new faces appeared on the front, but not attacking – just riding on the front. I was riding down in about 5th-6th place just to get my heart rate back down into zone 2/3. On the final turn back down the carriage-way the pace did ‘naturally’ kick up again, but it was manageable. One of the other woman riders (in a green kit) appeared on the front and pulled it along for a few minutes before realizing (it seemed), ‘what the hell am I doing here’. Fair play to her.

She moved back and left me on the front again…. But I didn’t push it this time… I kept my own tempo and stay relaxed and in control. The Newry rider (sorry I don’t know his name) came to the front again and pushes it along one last time and then a few other riders came to the front and took turns. By now we were heading to the Newry roundabout and the final turn before the 1km section until the left turn off on the carriageway, which lead to the start of the climb up Greenan Road.

By now the bunch was together and starting to get jittery. Heading up to the turn-off, riders started to move up, trying to get the best positions. I moved up on the outside but didn’t want to be on the front when we turned again to hit the start of the 2km climb to the finish.

We turned and hit the hill. The first part was quite gradual and the pace was still relatively high. I was about 10 or so back and happy where I was. As the climb steepened, some riders started to go backward. I didn’t want to be on the front as I didn’t want to lead anyone up. We passed the 500m to finish mark. On the main steep section (16-18%), you could see it was starting to hurt many of the riders… I kept my own tempo but soon found myself on the front. The angle quickly levelled off as we hit the top section. I jumped back up to the big ring and pushed on to the finish, which was a slight drag up and around a slight bend on the narrow road.

John Rafferty (Ards CC) came up to me. I looked at him, smiled and said ‘come on John’. This finish was going to be a sprint. However, John wasn’t my only problem. The guy who came third (Fergal Magee), quickly came up between us and nearly squeeze me out between himself and the barrier at the roadside. I accelerated and did my best Peter Sagan impression and nipped pass him as we went shoulder to shoulder for a split second. I continued the sprint to the line and only beat John by about a wheel length.

So I got the win, but it was tough. Some A3 races felt easier. …..but looking back on it now, any hilltop finish is going to feel tough. It was a good race and there are certainly some strong masters and a few strong ladies. I think any future Master’s race is not going to be easy… to win any of them will require some proper racing – but that will be a great advert for them.

However, riding up and down a carriage-way was not my cup of tea (though the hill at the end, certainly adds to this race now). It will be interesting to see how a Master’s race plays out on a rolling road circuit….. And that will be in the future.

Top five results
1. Paul McArthur NDCC
2. John Rafferty Ards
3. Fergal Magee Apollo
4. Peter McConville Newry
5. James Gavct Phoenix

Words by Paul McArthur
Image Courtesy of The Belgian Project

Spires Grand Prix 10 March 2018 – Keith Phillips

Spires Grand Prix 10 March 2018 – Keith Phillips.

The first road race of the 2018 season finally kicked off after a week’s delay due to snow, although the conditions were just as bad with high winds, rain and very cold temperatures throughout the whole race, together with mucky roads.

There were four men from North Down racing today. Dave Hamilton, Andrew Chivers and Keith Phillips all experienced A1 riders. Timmy Burns was experiencing his first start in the A1 group.

The race itself was 6 laps of the circuit roughly 50 miles. The circuit itself had a few drags and a couple of leg stingers in it but nothing too testing. The racing kicked off at 11:30 with the A3’s and juniors getting a short 2 minute handicap to the A1’s and A2’s. The race was fast and aggressive from the start with teams attacking and pushing hard to fracture the group and shed the weak.

We caught the A3 group on the 3rd lap and the attacks and intensity increased again. The North Down men weren’t fazed by it and even attacked themselves with Keith and Timmy often going to the front, closing gaps and putting the pressure on the group.

Lap 5 is when the main big fractures happened with a small group of 6 or 7 breaking away and then a further 18 chasing, leaving another 30 or so in the main field. All four North Down riders were in the second group of 18, with Keith and Timmy working hard to try and close the gap. Unfortunately, the gap wasn’t to be closed and that small group took the win and top few places.

All North Down men finished very strongly in extremely testing conditions and looking forward moving up and improving as the season continues.


Words by Keith Phillips
Images courtesy of The Belgian Project

“Torr” of the North

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NDCC is delighted to have been selected to compete in this year’s Tour of the North International Cycle Race! One of Ireland’s premier races, this year promises to be something special with the final stage taking in the ferocious Torr Head, in a route with nearly 6000ft of climbing over 70 miles. The elite five man NDCC team stepping up to the plate are – Keith Phillips, Javan Nulty, Andrew Chivers, Stuart Henry and Timmy Burns.

Tour of the North team

The four stage race will take place over three days, from Saturday 31 March to Easter Monday 2 April. Hopefully many members will take time over the holiday period to support the team, so look out for further details about the race here on our website and Facebook.

Participation in these prestigious events is made possible by the volunteering effort of many club members and the support from our loyal sponsors – Reid Black Solicitors, Chain Reaction Cycles, Bow Bells Restaurant Donaghadee, Bokhara Restaurant Bangor and Powerhouse Sport.

Cyclists raise £6,600 for charity

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Local charities received a welcome boost with a combined donation of £6,600 from the North Down Cycling Club. The funds were raised through the annual NDCC Coastal Challenge, a 100km cycling event around the scenic Ards Peninsula. A presentation of cheques to six charities took place at Ballyholme, before the usual Saturday club runs. The recipients were: Samaritans, Bangor and North Down – Deirdre Walsh, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul – Damien Jackson, The Salvation Army – Scott Cunliffe, Riding for the Disabled Association, Newtownards  – Sarah Ferney and Josie Henly, Inspire – Lisa McElherron, and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. A spokesperson for the charities stated that, “the donations from NDCC make a huge difference to the services we provide to people in greatest need”.  The NDCC fundraiser annually attracts up to 1,000 recreational and club cyclists, from far and wide, with over £40,000 raised for charity in the last five years. This year’s Coastal Challenge will be held on 17 June, so there’s plenty of time to pump up the tyres, oil the chain and start the training! Further details and registration information for the event will be provided on the NDCC website and on social media.

Members of NDCC presenting the cheque to representatives of the Coastal Challenge charities.

Irish National Cyclo-Cross Championships 2018

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NDCC were represented by three intrepid riders at the 2018 Irish National Cyclo-cross Championships at Glencullen Adventure Park, County Dublin, on Sunday 14 January 2018. Ray Brownfield rode in the M40 race, with Kevin McDowell and Brendan Kirk riding in the over 50s. The cyclo-cross track at Glencullen had been converted from an old golf course (a sign of the times) with numerous off-camber sections, sand pits and some very challenging gradients. Competitors agreed it was a great set-up, producing one of the toughest races of the year! Weather conditions for the Sunday started out dry with light winds, but this changed towards midday when a strong north westerly started to blow cold air across the site. Ground conditions were described as ‘heavy’ with energy sapping mud in all parts of the course. Over seven laps, the brutal conditions took their toll on both riders and bikes, with many riders swapping to a second bike in the pits after every other lap. Huge congratulations to all three NDCC members who rode exceptionally well on the day, and a special mention to Kevin who entered every race this season.

Ray Brownfield – 17th/57
Kevin McDowell – 26th/32
Brendan Kirk – 28th/32


Images Courtesy of Toby Watson