13 June 2006

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Bangor Bike Week, organised by North Down Cycling Club and generously supported by North Down Borough Council, got off to a cracking start on Saturday with the Northern Ireland Youth road race championships. A large entry enjoyed some of the best weather of the summer so far and the standard of the racing matched the occasion. Riders from all over the province signed on at Donaghadee Rugby Club to battle it out for titles at U12, U14 and U16 level.  The largest entry, of boys and girls, was in the U12 category and the title went to Ciara Mulholland ( Clann Eirann/Linen Green ) who finished just ahead of Mark Downey (Banbridge) with Ciara's clubmate Laura Casey taking third place.

In the U14 race East Antrim's Jack Wilson confirmed his status as pre race favourite with a win over William Boyd  and Jessica Laird, both of XMTB. North Down's Rachel Mitchell narrowly failed to take a medal, finally finishing fourth.
In the senior event, a 30 mile race for U 16 riders, four riders got away on the second lap. Young Ards CC rider Conor Hanna found himself away with three of the favourites, Sean Downey (Banbridge), Peter Wilson (Maryland) and Leo McAllister (Ballymena). This group worked hard to stay away and they managed to hold off a spirited chase by Jonny Beers, Neil McGimpsey, both of XMTB and Clifford Blayney of Ards CC. McAllister looked as though he was going to take the title but Downey produced a powerful sprint to clain victory with Wilson getting the bronze ahead of Hanna.
Event co-ordinator Anthony Mitchell was delighted with the turnout and the support given by club members who offered their services as static and motor cycle marshalls.
The good weather continued on Sunday when there was a respite for competitive riders, many of them choosing to join the 50 mile touring run which managed to find its way to Castle Espie for a pleasant outdoor coffee break.
Competition resumed on Tuesday night for the Northern Ireland Hill Climb championship. Normally, hill climbs are tacked on to the end of a season and North Down's committee were a little apprehensive about the pulling power of such an event in the middle of the season. As it turned out they need not have worried. A total of 36 riders from all categories gathered on Creighton's Green Road, Holywood to compete in one of the best attended hill climbs in years.  The course had been described by race co-ordinator Anthony Mitchell as a roadman's course, with the gradient lacking any really severe inclines and only the sharp hairpin bends to upset the riders' rhythm.
His analysis proved to be accurate for the top two places went to riders who are currently enjoying excellent form on the road. The new Northern Ireland champion is Peter Hawkins (Usher/IRC) who completed the course in 2min 10 secs. Runner up in a time of 2.14 was Adam Petrie Armstrong (Northern Dave Kane). The bronze medal was shared between elite mountain biker Tim Edgar (XMTB) and Glen Kinning (Castlereagh). The veteran's title went to host club North Down's Declan McMackin who posted a 2.35, just one second ahead of clubmate Brian Marshall. The women's competition was won by Trudy Brown (Northern/ Dave Kane) who recorded 3.00, second place going to Kathryn Bell in 315.
In the youth categories the most impressive times were recorded in the U16 category with winner Peter Wilson (Maryland) doing a 2.25 and silver medallist Jonny Beers coming in on 2.32. Junior champion was Graham Boyd (XMTB), 2.35 and runner up Andrew Hedley in 2.56. Jack Wilson of East Antrim took the U14 title in 3.02 and William Boyd (XMTB) collected the silver in 3.12. The night's youngest competitor was nine year old Ryan Orr (Old Bleach) whose time of 5.13 got him the gold medal in the U12 category.
Cycling is about more than competition. National surveys have indicated its high level of popularity among young people as a leisure pursuit and a means of keeping fit but, given the increasing volume of traffic on our roads , parents are anxious to ensure that their children have the handling skills and confidence to ride their bikes unsupervised. North Down Cycling Club, in conjunction with North Down Borough Council is holding a bike skills fun event for primary school children at Valentine's playing fields on Thursday 15th, at 6pm. Event organiser Tom Henry is hoping to surpass last year's very successful occasion when over 60 youngsters were put through their paces attempting, among other things, bicycle limbo and roller racing.
Bangor Bike Week draws to a conclusion on Saturday with the running of Northern Ireland's biggest mass participation charity bike ride, the 60 mile Coastal Challenge. The event is a fund raiser and over the years the riders have contributed thousands of pounds to the Ulster Hospital. Event co-ordinator Mickey Forbes anticipates an entry of around 700 although the final total may well depend on the weather. At the moment, over 500 people have pre-entered but fine weather on Saturday morning could see that total swell by two or three hundred. The ride starts at 11am from the Ballykillaire Sports Complex on the Old Belfast Road. Registration is £20 and all entrants will get a T shirt and lunch provided at Portaferry. Anyone deciding to enter on the day should do so at Ballykillaire by 10am.
North Down's youth riders travelled to Carrickfergus on Monday evening to take part in the Waterfront Criterium , a series of short circuit races in the town centre. Stuart Henry was unable to take part in last weekend's Northern Ireland youth championships but he let his presence be felt by winning the U16 race ahead of rivals Peter Wilson (Maryland) and Jonny Beers (XMTB). Clubmate Rachel Mitchell found the short course racing to her liking too by claiming third place in the U14 event.
Last Wednesday evening 's club race was a three lap, 24 mile road race held  on the Springwell Road circuit. Another fine evening attracted 33 riders for the second race in the current series.  A small group of youth riders were given a four minute start ahead of a 17 man limit group, who in turn had six minutes over a strong scratch group. By the end of the first lap only Gareth Boyle and Dan Boardman of the youth riders were still out in front but they had lost nearly three minutes on the main limit group who had covered the first 8 mile lap in under 21 minutes. The scratch group had managed to reduce their gap but they went through the end of the first lap with a deficit of more than four minutes. By the end of the second lap the race was a straightforward pursuit between the two main groups. In the previous race the limit group's lead was whittled down quite quickly by the scratch riders but on this occasion their task was proving more difficult. The limit group this time around was bigger than before and there were more riders working. They were still almost three minutes clear at the start of the final lap and although the scratch group were riding faster than in the previous race, they just failed to make up the deficit, leaving the strongest riders in the limit group to fight it out for the places. It was Jonny Beers (XMTB) who emerged over the last 50 metres to take the win over Conor Hanna (Ards). The top six were completed by Ross Blayney, Eric Blayney, Andy Templeton and Philip Downie. Just over a minute later the scratch group were led in by Stuart Henry.
Both groups were satisfied with their form on the night, each recording faster times than before. The limit group completed the 24 miles in 62min 20secs while the scratch group managed it in 57.30. The third and final race in the series is scheduled for August 16. Next week's club event is round
three in the kilometre time trial competition, starting at Orlock at 7pm

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