22 February 2011

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It has only been a few weeks since local cyclists were shivering in freezing temperatures and piling on the layers of thermal clothing and yet here we are, a few days from the start of a new racing season. There was a time when no racing took place before March but the expanding calendar of races has meant bringing the opening events forward into late February.

The first race is, as always , the Banbridge CC sponsored event at Annaclone on Saturday. The Travers Engineering GP will feature two races. The senior race, which will be handicapped, is for A1, A2 and A3 riders and will roll out at 12 noon and cover five laps of a testing 8 mile circuit. The supporting race is for A4 riders and is scheduled to start a few minutes later, the riders having to cover the same five laps.


Last year North Down’s membership topped 150 making it one of the biggest clubs in Ireland and the growth in membership is reflected in the number of new faces who have opted to enter the competitive fray. In the Annaclone main race will be old hands Matty Blayney and Ross Blayney but the A4 race will have four riders new to the open racing scene. Having coped well with the 25mph races at club events at Kirkistown, Paul Kirk, Brian Simpson and Shane Farren have decided to test themselves on the wider scene. Joining them will be Michael McMullan, a successful and promising cyclist as a junior, who is returning to the sport after a lengthy lay-off. All of them have looked sharp in training and some observers are predicting that upgrades will be achieved before the end of the season. Points are awarded for the first six over the line and a rider is automatically upgraded to A3 status on acquiring 10 points.

Signing on for the races at Annaclone will take place from 10.30am at the Hawthorn Inn, Annaclone. Directions can be found on the Banbridge CC website.


Completing the weekend’s racing, the Phoenix GP on Sunday will feature a full card of four races. Unusually, the organisers will take entries on the day, a change in procedure from the normal pre-entry system of last year. The senior race is a handicapped event for A1, A2 and A3 riders and will consist of six laps of the regular circuit, giving a total of 50 miles. The B race, over 35 miles is for A4 riders only. There will also be a women’s race and it will be the season’s first round in the SportActive sponsored Ulster Women’s Road Race League. The event will be over approximately 25 miles, three laps of the designated circuit.


Completing the programme on Sunday will be an innovative race for veterans who are over fifty years of age. Most clubs, and North Down certainly falls into this category, have an ever increasing number of more mature athletes who train hard, compete regularly in time trials and handicapped club races but stay away from open races where the speeds and distances make demands on fitness that only a few are able to match. Cycling Ulster has sanctioned the Phoenix event which will be over a relatively short 17 miles and if it proves successful it could lead to the creation of a series. Since few over 50 riders take out full race licenses it has been decided that the race will be run as a Veterans’ Association club race which means that riders may compete with a club racing license.

Race headquarters on Sunday will be in the Community Centre, Crumlin. Signing on will be between 9am and 10.20am. The riders can cycle out from race HQ to the start line or drive to the start. Full details of the circuit are available on the Cycling Ulster website.



Last year North Down Cycling Club introduced a Saturday morning run for beginning or improving riders looking for a steady ride of about 30 miles. The run proved very successful and it was gratifying to see riders gain fitness and confidence as the season progressed. Club chairman Ian Blayney has arranged a similar programme for this season and the first of these rides will take place on Saturday March 5th. New or improving riders who would like to participate should meet at the clubrooms in Park Drive at 9am. A rota of experienced club riders has been drawn up to accompany the riders and ensure a steady pace. As always, the runs include a coffee stop, normally in Greyabbey.


Like many sports, in recent years cycling has benefitted from advances in sports science. The phenomenal success of Britain’s track cyclists at recent Olympic and World championships has been largely due to meticulous preparation and the application of scientific knowledge from a wide range of disciplines. At North Down Cycling Club Darren McWilliams, a fully qualified sports scientist, has put together a programme aimed at developing the potential of riders in the Under 23 category.

Darren has already carried out physiological tests on the young riders and this will be backed up by a series of seminars and coaching sessions covering topics such as nutrition. Practical work will focus on improving specific cycling skills such as sprinting, time trialling and climbing. The programme will be aimed at both road and off-road cyclists.


The club has announced the first social event of the year, a quiz night scheduled for Friday April 1st. Tickets are £5 each and the night will include an excellent supper courtesy of rapidly improving cyclist Mark Brooks of Bow Bells. Teams are limited to six members. Contact Ian Blayney to book tickets. Last year’s quizmaster Harry Adams has been sacked and will be replaced by Ian Blayney. Contestants are advised to carry out exhaustive research on the history, rise and fall of Liverpool FC.

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