15 March 2011

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North Down Cycling Club’s Mark Irvine, in only his second season in competitive cycling, has made clear his objectives for the season and they show an ambition unusual in a rider still in the early stages of development. The local racing scene is competitive but early season races are relatively short and restricted in numbers. As a result, Irvine has travelled south of the border in search of the kind of races that will get him accustomed to the big bunches, longer distances and higher speeds associated with stage races such as the Tour of the North, the Tour of Ulster and, ultimately, the An Post Ras, an eight day international stage race which averages 100 miles a day all over Ireland.

The recent Cycleways Cup race at Navan offered a stiff challenge and the race was won by an in-form Conor Murpy (Eurocycles) with last year’s top ranked rider Adam Armstrong (Eurocycles) coming fourth. Adam regularly joins North Down’s Saturday run and has been impressed with Irvine’s improvement over the winter. At Navan Irvine coped well with the racing and finished in the bunch. His strengths are in the hills and the recently announced Tour of the North stages will include enough climbing to test the very best. North Down will not have a team in this year’s Tour but there is a strong possibility that Irvine will be asked to guest on one of the local teams.


Only one raced featured on the local calendar last weekend and although North Down riders gave it a miss the Bangor based Curran Racing team travelled in strength. At one point they had four riders in contention in the breakaway group with team leader Liam Curran happy to sit in the bunch and calculate the prize money but in the end only James McMaster was able to sustain a challenge and he came in sixth behind the winner Glen Kinning (East Antrim/Audi)



On Saturday the John Moore Memorial trophy is up for grabs in the Castlereagh CC promotion at Carryduff. There will be two races on offer. The main race of 50 miles is for A1,2 and 3 riders and the supporting race of 35 miles is for A4 competitors. Both races are pre-entry. The organisers have stipulated that the B race will only run if there are more than 30 competitors. To date no starting list has been made available. Two definite starters in this race are Shane Farren who already has one win to his credit and Michael McMullan, another strong rider who has registered a fifth place and one other top ten finish.

Sunday’s race is in Tobermore and is a Carn Wheelers promotion, the Carn Wheelers Classic. The two main races are for A3 and A4 riders only. The A3 race is over 42 miles and the A4 race will cover 35 miles. Racing starts at 2pm in Tobermore and signing on opens at 12 noon in Tobermore FC premises. So far, Paul Kirk and runner up in last week’s Newry race, Brian Simpson have declared themselves for the A4 race.

The third race on the programme is the latest in a new series for riders who are over 50 years of age. The race will be over 28 miles and will include, as in previous rounds, a group of women seeking to gain experience of riding in bigger groups. Cycling Ulster chairman Tommy Lamb is keen to promote this formula and he has devised a points system that will credit all riders who participate and finish as well as those who take podium places. North Down intend to field a strong team with John Hunter, Harry Adams and Philip Downie already committed to the race. There is the likelihood of Ian Blayney, Austin McNally and Mark Coyle adding to the firepower for what promises to be a highly competitive affair. The club bus will be going to the Carn Wheelers race and riders should confirm their intentions as soon as possible to Harry Adams.

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