2 March 2010

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A few days ago the Meteorological Office announced that Northern Ireland had just experienced the coldest winter since 1963. Last weekend saw the first road races of the new season, Annaclone on Saturday and Nutt’s Corner on Sunday and the dry but bitterly cold weather was a reminder that the short-sleeved jerseys might remain at the bottom of the drawer for another few weeks. North Down’s racing squad had a steady but encouraging start to the season with the Phoenix GP on Sunday bringing out the best performances of the weekend. .

A massive 150 riders took to the line with the main race split into three groups and the B race containing a single bunch of about 40 riders. Add to that a separate women’s race and you have a timekeeper’s nightmare but the event ran its course and at the end the North Down contingent were fairly pleased with their overall showing. .

In the main race Paul Ferguson, riding in the scratch group with the other 1st category riders, was unfortunate enough to puncture after two miles but Noel Boyce, Ross Blayney and Matty Blayney stayed in the thick of the action and in the final sprint, won by Bobby Kane of Ballymoney CC, Boyce got 10th place with Matty Blayney half a wheel behind. .

In the B race North Down’s Mark Irvine, in only his second competitive road race, was in the thick of the action throughout, staying at the head of the race and doing his share of the work at the front. This one came down to a bunch sprint and Mark finished safely in the middle of the group. .

In the women’s race there was an unexpected entry from North Down’s Rachel Mitchell. A track specialist, with a couple of junior national records to her name in 2009, Rachel was clearly out to build up some speed endurance and after a couple of laps in which she did some hard riding at the front of the group she sat up and called it a day. .


The racing this coming weekend will be in the Warrenpoint – Newry area with the Newry Wheelers’ promotion, the John Haldane Memorial. There will be two races, the main race being a handicapped event of 6 laps of the fast dual carriageway circuit, with three groups and a B race of 4 laps for A4 category riders. North Down’s team bus will be leaving Bangor at 8am to ensure an early registration. The signing on opens at 9am with the action under way at 10.30. Noel Boyce has fond memories of this event from last year when he recorded an impressive win in the B race. With the new category system in place this season Noel will have to mix it with the others in the main race but his form from last weekend suggests that he is likely to give a good account of himself. .


Sumo wrestlers aside, most sportsmen and women are aware of the importance of healthy eating and the need to control body weight. Road cyclists in particular appreciate the advantages to be gained by shedding surplus body fat. Once the road goes upwards those extra few kilos of dead weight mean that the rider with a greater body mass has to generate more power to keep alongside a lighter rider. This was demonstrated dramatically during last year’s Tour de France. British rider Bradley Wiggins had already proved to be the world’s best in the velodrome with Olympic gold medals for pursuiting and he was an important member of a professional road racing team, taking part in major races as a member of the Garmin/Slipstream squad. His major contributions however tended to be restricted to time trials and general ‘domestique’ duties. .

All this changed in 2009 when Wiggins shed almost a stone, around 6 kilos, in an attempt to make himself more competitive in the crucial mountain stages of the Tour. The Tour de France requires a rider to be a strong all-rounder but the key stages are always in the mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees. In the 2009 Tour Wiggins astonished onlookers with his newly found climbing ability, to the point where some commentators were nominating him as a possible winner. In the end he came 4th, the highest finish for a British rider since Scotland’s Robert Millar in 1984.


The rigours of the Tour de France are unlikely to trouble the many recreational and leisure riders of North Down but those intending to make the annual trip to Majorca, which has its fair share of challenging climbs, might like to attend a talk organised for later this week North Down Cycling Club’s Darren McWilliams is a sports scientist with specialist knowledge about diet and weight management and this Friday, March 5th Darren will be holding a seminar on the subject in the clubrooms at 7pm. His presentation will last about 45 minutes and will be followed by a question and answer session. .


North Down’s Stuart Henry, a junior international rider last season, is continuing to put in some impressive performances at the Manchester velodrome. An undergraduate at Chester University, Henry has been competing in the midweek regional track league. Before Christmas he competed in the First Division races but he soon impressed the race organisers and was promoted to the Premier Division where he has found himself riding against former Olympic riders such as Craig McClean as well as the cream of young British talent. Henry ‘s strength is in the endurance events and following a win a few weeks ago, he added to his standing just last week by coming third in a 10 mile scratch race, the longest of the track events, run over 64 laps of the velodrome. Henry is likely to be back home for the Tour of the North at Easter, riding as a member of the Herbalife-Wheelbase team. .


Club Secretary Julie Stevenson has received the first batch of licences from Cycling Ireland. The names of the recipients have already been posted by email and the licences can be collected in the clubrooms after Darren’s seminar on Friday evening.

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