15 December 2009

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North Down Cycling Club’s pre Christmas events

North Down Cycling Club’s pre Christmas events have been attracting big turnouts. The two registration nights saw around 60 riders take out membership for 2010, an encouraging start given that the main push for membership will take place in January. Most of the riders were existing members but there were an encouraging number of new faces, a clear indication of the growing interest in cycling in general and a measure of North Down’s growth in particular. Prospective new members are reminded that membership forms can be downloaded from the club website at www.northdowncc.com.

Since last week two regular seasonal events have passed off with success. The first of the Hot Port runs on Saturday was attended by over 30 riders, who undertook the 65 mile ride in dry if chilly weather. As well as the regular club members it was good to see a few old friends such as Liam Curran and Adam Armstrong joining the bunch. For Bangor man Curran, the current Northern Ireland and Ulster veterans’ road race champion, the break at the Saltwater Brig offered a welcome chance for a bit of recuperation, having already clocked up 50 miles before joining the group well before the run to Downpatrick. Young Armstrong, former junior international and one of Ireland’s best Under 23 riders found himself having to work harder than expected. This was nothing to do with a lack of fitness, quite the opposite in fact. Two punctures had slowed the group’s progress and it became necessary to push the pace up in order to make the ferry on time. However, a couple of the riders were feeling the pace on the long drag to Strangford so Adam came to the rescue, helped by Sam Craig and Michael Hamilton, by pushing the struggling cyclists for the best part of a mile. The tactic worked and the whole bunch managed to stay together and arrive safely at the Brig for the soup and sandwiches.

This coming Saturday, Dec.19th the final Hot Port run will take place, weather permitting. Anyone intending to complete the run should remember that the group will leave the clubrooms at 9am sharp. It is likely that some riders, perhaps with Christmas shopping beckoning, will set out on the normal ride down the peninsula.

A record turnout of 30 old hands made it to the veteran’s annual Christmas outing at the Esplanade earlier this week. The food and wine were excellent as was the crack. In fact, the atmosphere was so relaxed several revellers found it impossible to leave until closing, by which time a few of them had been persuaded, all too easily, to join in the pub quiz in the bar. I would like to be able to report on an outstanding demonstration of intellect and quick wittedness but suffice it to record that the team came third out of three.


The highly successful, midweek power training sessions will be suspended after this week and begin again on Tuesday 5th January. The Wednesday and Thursday sessions will also restart that week. As part of the club’s programme of rider development, North Down’s sports scientist, Darren McWilliams, will be carrying out body fat tests and making recommendations on diet and nutrition. The exact dates for these sessions will be announced later. In addition, Darren is preparing a talk on how to improve performance and he is willing to consider requests from riders seeking to expand their knowledge on specific aspects of training.


A hint at what is possible if the right facilities are available has been revealed recently by two local riders performing overseas. Newtownards man Martin Irvine, Curran Racing’s most successful rider on the road this year, has been several times to the Manchester velodrome with the Irish team and he has rapidly progressed to the point were earlier this month in Colombia he set an Irish record of 1min5secs for the kilometre time trial, only a few seconds slower than times recorded by Olympic champions Jason Queally and Chris Hoy.

Meanwhile, North Down’s Stuart Henry, now studying in Chester, has been riding in the weekly track league in the Manchester velodrome. Coming from Northern Ireland, where there is no indoor track, Henry entered the league with very limited experience of racing the steeply banked 250 metre circuit. As a result of his lack of known form he was allocated a place in the First Division series of races but he has quickly risen to the top end of the rankings by recording regular victories in the endurance based events, clearly benefiting from his strengths as an accomplished road man; he is a key member of the Irish Under 23 development squad. He has clearly impressed the officials at Manchester because he will be promoted in the New Year to the Premier League where he will be racing against the cream of British Cycling’s experienced and up and coming talent, some of whom have ridden at World Cup and Olympic level. When you remember that Britain’s track cyclists dominate the sport it gives you some idea of the level of competition.

There has been talk over the last few years of a velodrome being built in Northern Ireland but plans seem to have stalled, partly because of financial uncertainty and partly due to bureaucracy. If local cyclists are to be given the chance to emulate the achievements of Britain’s track team, and the examples of Irvine and Henry suggest that they can, the sooner a velodrome becomes a reality the better. It offers a traffic free, weatherproof, all year facility in which clubs and schools could combine to identify and nurture a new generation of champions.

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