10 May 2007

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Youth Cyclists Excel

The past weekend was a busy one for the young cyclists of North Down.  The club’s leading female competitor, Rachael Mitchell, who races in the under 14 category, was racing in the difficult Manx Youth Tour.  This demanding event is part of the British Series and attracts the cream of British cyclists.  In the Prologue Time Trial, Rachael was a very creditable 15th and in the  very tough road stage which followed she was 20th. 

This was no mean feat as she suffered from mechanical problems throughout. In the Saturday evening criterium Rachael continued to excel  finishing in the top 10!  Perhaps the most exciting part for Rachael, however, was the final stage when she was asked to carry a helmet cam for Sky TV (to be shown later in the month).  The girls’ event followed a torrential downpour, and on the first corner Rachael came down -spectacularly !!!   Nevertheless, it was a very successful weekend for the young Newtownards girl and a sharp learning curve.

Corkman Three Day
Meanwhile Stuart Henry had travelled to Cork to take part in the demanding Corkman Three Day youth race.  The first stage in this event was a hilly time-trial which resulted in a dead heat between last year’s Irish Time Trial Champion, Charlie Predergast (Mayo) and the Bangor schoolboy.  This proved to be a great stage for the Ulster team, lead by Henry, as Carrickfergus rider Johnny Cole took third place and Antrim’s Johnny Beers was 7th.  

In the second and hardest stage Cole decided to go for an early solo epic, but unfortunately for him a puncture put paid to his efforts.  Henry, on the other hand, waited until the climb on the 4th of the eight laps before making his effort.  When he did go only Prendergast and Mark Fitsimons (Kildare) were able to live with him.  Like Henry and Predergast, Fitsimons is an accomplished time trialist (having won the Leinster Championship and also having taken 4th place in stage 1).  The three, who have developed an affinity through the earlier selection races, quickly bonded into an efficiently working break.  By the time they were starting onto the last lap they had opened a gap of two minutes on the field.  Once again Henry attacked on the climb and managed to create day-light between him and his pursuers, but as the road levelled off Prendergast and Fitsimons managed to bridge the gap. Yet the body language seemed to suggest that the damage had been done and as they lined up for the final up-hill sprint to the line there was only going to be one winner, with Henry being completely dominant and taking a well deserved victory ahead of Prendergast and with Fitsimons filling third spot.

The final stage was to be a criterium. in Newmarket.  The circuit chosen was unusual, to say the least, including a figure eight design, crossing a footpath and traversing a supermarket carp ark!  To add to the difficulty there were intermittent showers of rain.  Not surprisingly there were protests from everyone but the racing continued amongst much confusion for the under 10’s, under12’s and under 14’s.  After numerous spills the organiser was forced to admit that the prospect of under 16’s hurtling through a car park, in the rain at up to 30 mph wasn’t perhaps the wisest idea and the event was eventually moved to an out of town circuit.

Once again the Ulster team excelled.  Young Johnnie Cole (who has the potential to be a star of the future) once again made a daring attack within miles of the start.  This time it wasn’t a puncture that delayed him, however, but dogs on the course which caused him to fall heavily.  Undeterred, he remounted and held off the bunch to achieve a well deserved first open win.  In the bunch sprint lady luck did not shine on Henry.  He got ‘boxed in’ and could only manage 7th in the massed finish, whereas Prendergast took third and with it the overall victory.  Although disappointed at losing the yellow jersey Henry must take solace in the fact that he and Prendergast were clearly the strongest riders in the race and he had lead Ulster to an emphatic victory in the team race.

Touring the Glens
A group of 8 North Down Cycling Club members took part in the Tour of the Glens last weekend.  This notoriously difficult recreational cycle takes in some of the most beautiful and most torturous roads in the Province.  Unfortunately for Harry Adams a puncture after less than twenty miles ensured that he was able to enjoy the beauty on his own!  Special mention should be made of a couple of the old hands, Alistair Irvine and Brian Marshall.  Not content with completing the 126 mile route they cycled to and from the event, a distance of approximately 150 miles!!

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