Review of 2016
September brings to an end the road racing calendar for both open and club events. With racing starting mid-February, it is a feat in itself that anyone would have the stamina to keep racing for such a long season and no doubt the weary legs will be glad of a few weeks respite before the hard work towards 2017 begins.
For NDCC, 2016 was a successful year for road racing, time trialling and the Coastal Challenge charity event continuing to be hugely popular. NDCC had good representation across every road racing category from A1 to A4, as well as our youth members showing their potential, road racing is continuing to grow in popularity. Several members managed to get upgraded, some spectacularly so, moving from A3 to A1 and A4 to A2. James Ambrose, Keith Phillips and Timmy Burns to name but a few, and to achieve this in one season shows the depth of talent in the club. The two Daves, Watson and Hamilton, dominated the senior racing division with multiple wins and podium finishes and participated in all the big stage races in the country.
North Down CC sent teams to numerous stage races, in particular the Tour of the North and Tour
of Ulster as a prelude to the eight-day stage race, the Ras Tailteann, one of Europe’s toughest amateur races, where the team of Watson, Ambrose, Ferguson and Hamilton came 4th in the County Class category. In the Tour of Omagh 3 Day race, a race exclusively for the A4 category, saw David Spalding dominate the race only to lose out on the Yellow jersey on the last day but win the Polka Dot King of the Hills competition instead.
The senior riders were not the only ones to bring silverware home to the club, our talented youth riders shone through on road and track. Rachel White, Maia Simmons, Katie Armstrong, Nathan Keown, Jake Rushby and Patrick Watson won numerous titles between them across very differing disciplines, track, road, cyclocross and time trials. As long as the club keeps investing
in our youth, it will continue to develop riders of great calibre.
North Down CC runs numerous events all year, from the club time trial and racing leagues, North Down GP, cyclocross and the ever popular Coastal Challenge. These events take considerable planning and organising, most of it going unnoticed, to make our events some of the best in the country, but it cannot happen on the day without the volunteers who come out time and time again to assist. A very big thank you to all who gave up their time to keep these events running safely and professionally.
2016 has been tinged with sadness too, with the passing of Gary Swenarton. Gary passed away after a brief stay in hospital and he is missed in every aspect of the club, as a rider, volunteer, mentor and most importantly as a friend to many.
The Ulster Road Racing Championships
Foyle CC hosted the Ulster Road race Championships on a demanding course in Limavady. The road racing went right across the board, from Senior to Masters and of course NDCC were represented in good numbers. Dave Hamilton was up against the best in the Province, and despite his usual hard riding tactic, he was for once outclassed, beaten by former professional and Commonwealth Games rider Marcus Christie, still finishing a very credible 5th.
It was perhaps the Over 40s race that held NDCCs interest, with the club’s very own answer to the Terror of Tashkent, Djamolodine Abdoujaparov, – Shaun Carey. Shaun, well known for his sprinting ability and turn of speed, can find gaps in bunches to launch himself towards the line, and this is what happened on the finishing straight, as Colm Watson (VC Glendale), thinking that he had taken the title, underestimated the final gallop by Carey who pipped him on the line to take the Ulster title.
Tom Henry has raced competitively for many years at the highest level, represented the club in the Over 60s race. This age category did not get it easy, putting these riders through 56 miles of pain but it was this master tactician who was able to manoeuvre his way to 3rd overall and a bronze medal.
In the last road race of the year, Alan Lavery who has returned to competitive cycling after a horrific accident and long recuperation period, finally got his just dessert winning the A4 Autumn Gold Race.
A very difficult discipline, both physically and mentally, time trialling is a very pure form of racing, as it is the rider against the clock. In recent years, John Rafferty has risen to be a very formidable force in this discipline. Having had a great 2015, it would be difficult for him to improve but he has done exactly that. In 2016, John set several personal bests, showing his exceptional form, his 10 mile TT time now at a very impressive 20mins 21secs and a 25 mile TT PB of 55mins 44secs. These times were good enough to give him overall victory in his class in the TVR and Ernie Magwood series. Topping this off, are his gold medals in the M40 class at the Ulster 25M TT, Ulster 100M TT, raced in appalling conditions and silver in the Ulster 10M TT. Will he be able to better this in 2017?
Just because the road racing has stopped does not mean that competition has finished for the year. The ‘Dirt Church’ will open it’s doors on Friday 23rd September and will not close them again until January, in what has seen an increase in races for these ever popular events.
What is cyclocross? It is the cycling equivalent to cross country running. The courses run on grass, mud, tarmac and gravel. The races last for around an hour, with the laps being about one mile long. The riders are always at threshold or dipping into the red, as the effort taken is incredible. There is no respite, no easing up but there is fun for the spectators as the riders slip and slide their way across muddy fields, down off-camber banks, up steps with bikes hoisted onto shoulders and just about any other obstacle the organisers can think off.
Cyclocross is a great way to condition over the winter, the atmosphere is lively and it is very spectator friendly. And on the plus side, it gives you an excuse to go out and buy another bike to add to the collection.
North Down CC will be hosting its round of the Ulster Cyclocross League in December.