22 August 2006

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As has frequently been the case over the last two seasons, North Down's most successful cyclists have emerged from the club's youth riders. Last weekend, at the Irish Youth championships in Laois, North Down's Stuart Henry and Rachel Mitchell maintained their excellent record of success in major championships.
In Saturday's time trial stage, the first of three races for each age group, Henry picked up a bronze medal in the Under 15 category, losing the silver by a fraction of a second to Sean Carolan of Covey Wheelers, both riders clocking 8.39 for the 3.7 mile course, with Carolan getting the verdict by the narrowest of margins. The title was won by Charles Prendergast of Mayo in 8.10. While Henry will be pleased to have won a medal, he will at the same time feel some disappointment, having lost a few weeks training and racing  mid season through injury, forcing him to miss the Kerry International Youth Tour in early August. Henry was overlooked for the Irish Under 15 development squad for that event but he made his presence felt in the best possible way on Saturday by beating three of the riders who were selected ahead of him, including Ulster's representative in the squad, Peter Williams.
 In the Under 14 time trial, North Down's Rachel Mitchell was second fastest female, coming behind another Ulster rider, Bangor's Jessica Laird (XMTB). Jessica has enjoyed considerable success off – road as a mountain biker and she is now beginning to show excellent form on the road.
 The remaining two stages consisted of a criterium, or short circuit race and a road stage. Young Henry may have finished the time trial stage with the scent of overall victory in the air but  he was soon brought back down to earth when he punctured in both races, effectively ending his chances of further medals. Rachel Mitchell continued to show good form by finishing third female in the criterium and second in the road race. However, because the girls and boys race together at Under 14 level, she failed to make the top three overall in her category.
North Down's run of success continued on Tuesday night this week when the Ulster Track championships were held at the outdoor track in Orangefield Park, Belfast. North Down made it a family affair and it was the father and son combination of Paul Swenarton and Craig Swenarton who bagged a pair of golds and they were closely followed by Rachel Mitchell and dad Anthony who won gold and silver respectively.
Paul Swenarton has made his name as a strong time triallist on the veterans' scene over recent seasons  but he was encouraged by some fast times in last year's club kilometre events to have a go on the track. His optimism was justified because on Tuesday night he won the kilometre sprint time trial in a time of 1.24, a decent time on an outdoor and rather lumpy tarmac track. Fellow veteran Anthony Mitchell made it a one – two for North Down by taking the silver medal, finishing less than a second behind Swenarton. Anthony is heavily involved in race management these days, having managed the Tour of the North and the Northern Ireland Youth and Open Hill Climb championships, so, given the limited time for training, he will have been particularly pleased with his performance.
Anthony's daughter, Rachel, continued with the good form she showed at the national youth championships last weekend by winning the Under 14 Omnium title. An Omnium event consists of three separate races, a time trial, a pursuit and a scratch race run over a number of laps and the title goes to the rider with the strongest overall performance. Rachel is now quite an experienced rider with a strong background in cycling ; North Down's other gold medallist on the night, Craig Swenarton, on the other hand is a relative novice. Craig's father, Paul, encouraged him to have a go at a few club time trials last season, where he showed promise. This season, he has grown in stature and in confidence and he was a worthy winner of the Under 16 championship on Tuesday night.
 The track championships are not yet over and the remaining events for seniors, the pursuit and scratch races, will be held next Tuesday night.
Last Wednesday night's 24 mile club road race was the third and last in the club calendar for this season and, like the previous two, it was blessed by decent weather. The race was split into two groups with the first group getting a six minute start over the scratch group. The first group, as in previous races, contained a mixture of novices, veterans and two or three old hands making a tentative return to club competition. On the first lap,one of the club's newest members, the promising 16 year old Richard Montgomery, was unfortunate to miss the turn at Hightrees, effectively isolating him for the rest of the race. Fortunately, there were still a few strong riders in the group and, marshalled by old hands Eric Blayney and Russell Moreland, they looked strong enough to stay away. However the pace began to tell and after one lap, the lead group was down to six riders with one or two men starting to miss turns at the front.  By the end of the second lap the lead was down to less than two minutes but the scratch group only managed to reel them in with less than a mile to go and it all came down to a bunch sprint over the final 200 metres. Victory went to Neil McKenna, back racing after a layoff due to injury and he was followed in quick succession by Philip Marshall, Paul Ferguson, Brian Marshall, Owen Parkes, Russell Moreland and Keith Millar, all in the same time as the winner. The scratch group completed the 24 miles in 59 minutes and the first group riders were home in 65 minutes.
 The results of this week's club event, the final kilometre of the season, will be in next week's Spectator.
This weekend brings a new event to the calendar, a three day race organised by Phoenix CC in Belfast. The Bobby Crilly memorial will have four stages run from Saturday through to Bank Holiday Monday. Saturday morning's road stage is a 55 mile road race, starting at 11am from Crumlin. There is a 60 mile road stage on Sunday and on Monday a morning time trial is followed in the afternoon by a 40 mile road race, An innovative feature of the race is that riders can pay a signing on fee for the entire event or for single days, the race organisers appreciating that not everyone gets off work on the Bank Holiday. More details and an online entry form can be accessed on the Phoenix website at www.phoenixcc.net
 The sportive and leisure riders can enjoy a more relaxed weekend after having completed two of the country's hardest rides over the past two Sundays, the Dromara 125 Hilly and the Inishowen 100, a one hundred mile tour around the spectacular Inishowen peninsula in Donegal, a ride that takes in some of the steepest public roads in Ireland.
 The touring and sportive season runs through to the end of September with the Torr Head challenge on September 24th being the final event on the calendar. North Down CC's midweek leisure rides will finish for this year on Thursday 31st August.
Club members are reminded that the club's open scratch race is scheduled for September 9th and, although this clashes with the Marie Curie charity run in Downpatrick, the committee would appreciate support from club members who are willing to act as marshalls.

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