12 September 2006

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Early September, traditionally, marks the end of the cycling season, at least as far as road racing  is concerned. North Down Cycling Club's final events of the calendar were last week's 5 mile club time trial and Saturday's open race run off at a new circuit around Ballygowan, Raffrey and Balloo.

Race organisers are frequently at a loss to explain why a race at the beginning of March can attract 100 riders willing to fight it out in cold, wet, miserable weather, while the frequently fine weather in September rarely draws more than 20 or 30 riders.  Race organiser Anthony Mitchell knew, therefore, that he was taking a gamble when he opted for September to put on North Down CC's principal open race of the season. As it turned out, although the youth races attracted a modest field, the open race drew a respectable 33 riders, helped no doubt by the good weather and some generous prize money.
The rolling 12.5 mile circuit, tackled four times by the senior riders, proved a fairly tough test but it took until the third lap before a decisive break of seven riders got away and in the final sprint it was Jonathon Dempsey (East Antrim -Audi) who nosed ahead of  veteran Alastair Steele to take victory in a time of 2 hrs.6mins. These two were closely followed by Daire O'Sullivan (Remax), Mark Greer (Maryland), Adam Armstrong (Northern/Dave Kane) and Tommy Wilson (Ballymena/Scott). To liven up the race, Mitchell decided to introduce prizes for hilltop sprints and for the most attacking rider. Alastair Steele gave notice of his form by taking the sprints on laps 2 and 4, with Peter Hawkins preventing Steele from claiming the hat-trick by claiming the prize on lap 3. The prize for most attacking rider went to Mark Greer.
 The youth races were run over several laps of a shorter 2.5 mile circuit and it was the Under 16 race that turned out to be the most competitive. It was won in commanding fashion by Peter Wilson (Maryland) and in the sprint for second place Jonny Beers (XMTB) edged out Stuart Henry of the promoting club, North Down. Fourth place was taken by Richard Montgomery (North Down), a novice this year and a young rider with potential who was competing in his first open race. The U14 race was won by Rachel Mitchell ahead of Nathan McLeer, both of North Down and it was Laura Casey (Clann Eireann/Linen Green) who triumphed over Ben McKelvey (Dromara) in the U12 race.
Young Peter Wilson is worthy of mention for, having ridden the U16 race, the organisers allowed him to ride the senior race and he completed a successful day by finishing in the second bunch.
Last Wednesday's 5 mile time trial provided an opportunity for some of the club's Espoirs to record a time that might prove decisive in deciding the overall rankings for the season. The results were as follows;
1. O Parkes 12.48
2. M Coyle 13.20
3. G Paul 13.23
4. M Hodgins 13.26
5. C Swenarton 13.37
6. C Andrews 13.40
7. M Geddis 13.44
8. T Johnston 13.59
Next week we will publish the results of the Espoirs' competition and report on the fortunes of North Down's three competitors who travelled to Manchester this week to take part in the World Masters' Track championships. Anthony Mitchell, Paul Swenarton and Glen Jordan were looking forward to it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, some of them having discovered that they would be riding against former Tour de France professionals such as Malcolm Elliot, Sean Yates and Adrian Timmis. Still, it is one of the attractions of the event that, although it is a world championship event, there is no qualifying standard and it allows club cyclists to compete with some of the former top riders of the professional game.
 There remains one more major sportive event to come and it's one of the toughest, the Torr Head Challenge,which departs from Ballygalley on Sunday 24th September at 10.30am. There are two distances, a fairly flat 50 miles and the more demanding 70 miles. Travel details will be circulated to members next week.

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