20 April 2010

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Dozens of cyclists in North Down Cycling Club have spent the last few days tuned in to every weather bulletin from the Meteorological Office, hoping, believe it or not, for an end to this spell of settled, dry weather. The reason, of course is that the current high pressure system is drawing air from the north and bringing with it the volcanic ash that has brought air travel to a standstill. Not many years ago insurance companies would have refused to offer compensation on the grounds that events such as this were an act of God. We live in more secular times and unless proof emerges that the Romans were right in attributing responsibility to one god in particular, the god of fire, Vulcan, the riders hoping to get away to Majorca this weekend may have to resort to more mundane measures to recoup their losses should the flight ban continue.


Air traffic might be the quietest in living memory but at road level it was business as usual last weekend on the racing scene. Sunday’s race was the Bann Valley Classic, run over a fairly flat and fast circuit outside Portglenone. North Down’s main focus was on the supporting race for A4 riders where Duane McCreadie was intent on gaining just one point that would lift him to A3 status. This race also offered Warren Polly his first ever open race challenge. Warren is one of the large group of Ballyholme sailors who have taken up the challenge of cycling. Last year, fellow sailor Richard McCullough took to road racing with success and Warren, who has looked sharp on training runs, decided to enter the fray. It was a tough baptism with the race averaging 24mph and Warren finished the race with mixed feelings of satisfaction and frustration. With less than a mile to go a crash brought down a ;arge group of riders and Warren, though lucky not to go down, stalled and lost ground and had to chase hard to get back up to the head of the race. By the time he caught the lead group they had started to wind up the pace for the final sprint and Warren dug deep to latch on to a small group who eased away over the final 200 metres and ended up grabbing ninth place, less than five metres behind the winner Stephen McAllister (Ballymoney).

Team mate Duane McCreadie, still after that elusive point, was less fortunate and got snarled up in the crash. Though he managed to stay upright , another rider fell on to him and caused slight mechanical damage to the bike and Duane rolled in a couple of minutes down.

In the main race North Down’s sole rider was Matty Blayney. Going into the race Matty was hoping to put the disappointment of the Tour of the North behind him. A lingering chest infection had caused an early exit on that occasion but after just one lap of the Bann Valley race it was clear he was back on form. An early break got away and built up a lead of just over two minutes and in the final sprint Niall Shannon (Phoenix) took the win. Matty finished well up in the chasing bunch and, having averaged 25mph for the 50 miles he was delighted at being able to reproduce his early season form and hold his own in a good class field.


Last week’s club event was a 5 mile time trial on the Orlock-Groomsport circuit and it was once again a hugely successful occasion with 41 riders going to the start line. Club race secretary likes to provide challenging courses and with the ride offering a climb over Orlock from the start, times were not going to be very fast. Top veteran tester Paul Swenarton was the only rider to dip under the 12 minute barrier and the top ten were as follows.

1.P. Swenarton 11.51
2.R. Millar 12.05
3.R. Blayney 12.13
4.N. McLeer 12.18
5.R. McCullough 12.38
6.I. Ingles 12.49
7.P.Ferguson 12.51
8.M. Hodgins 13.05
9.M. Lyttle 13.08
10.M. Blayney 13.10


Last Thursday night’s quiz drew a crowd of over 100 eager participants to Pickie Bowling Club and though the competition ended up a two horse race the convivial atmosphere and a superb supper supplied by Mark Brooks of Bow Bells in Donaghadee made this event an unqualified success.


The main attraction this Sunday is the McCann Cup which offers two races. The main race will cover 96km and the B race 60km. The races are organised by Omagh Wheelers and is by pre race entry only.

The sportive season continues this weekend with the Downpatrick Third World Group charity cycle. There are two distances on offer. The longer event is over 60 miles and there is a shorter 20 mile ride aimed at younger or less fit riders. Entry is £10 or £12 per family and the ride rolls out from Downpatrick cricket club at 10am. Refreshments will be available during the ride at Clough and at the finish.

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