25 July 2007

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Youth Olympic, Serbia

This is your roving reporter in hot, very hot Serbia.

The first thing that struck me as I descended from the plane was the heat.  At 7.30 at night it was still 36 degrees centigrade.  During the day in Belgrade itself, where most of the cycling has taken place the temperatures have at times been over 50 degrees!

However, my other first impression has been the warmth of the welcome.  Clearly this is an important occasion and an important event for the Serbian people.  Everything from the arrival area in the airport to the opening ceremony bore testament to that.  The opening ceremony in the 10,000 seater Belgrade Arena was an awesome experience.  To see the contingents from France, Portugal, Russia etc parade around the stadium and the Olympic torch being lit brought home the significance of the event.

The first cycling event was the time trial.   Again the importance of the Youth Olympics  was clearly visible as the town centre and environs were closed off from 5pm until dark to accommodate the event.  The course was interesting to say the least.  It circumnavigated the centre of the city first, resulting in two hairpin bens and several crit. corners before crossing one of the major bridges over the Sava River , turning on the dual carriageway and climbing up a difficult steep hill to the finish.  Each rider was treated to a Tour de France style police outrider and each competitor had following service, complete with loud haler.

 First down the ramp for the Irish team was Richill rider Peter Williams.  He flew into the distance and returned with a very creditable time of 12 mins and 33 sec.  Particularly good as the temperature was in the high 30s and all the competitors had to suffer into a strong head wind on the way back.

Next up for the Irish contingent was Stuart Henry from North Down.  Stuart is an accomplished time trialist and he was very pleased to record a time of 11.47, which is in fact a personal best for the distance.  This secured him 47th place ahead of many of the fancied riders, such as Chris Worrall from Great Britain, who recorded a time of 11.59 for 67th place.

The Irish time trial champion, Charles Prendegaste also had a very creditable ride, recording a time of 11.53 for 59th place.  Like Henry he really suffered in the last few kilometers due to dehydration, losing an estimated 20 secs.

1         Andrey Bartkiewicz        Poland        11.02
2         Marco Haller                Austria        11.05
3         Luca Olivieri                Italy           11.07
47       Stuart Henry                Ireland       11.47
59       Charles Prendergast     Ireland       11.53
94       Peter Williams             Ireland       12.33


Today, Wednesday, the riders were focused on the Crit.  The heats for this were held this morning from 9am.  First up for the Irish squad was Stuart Henry.  As in the time trial he rode solidly throughout the heat and was jubilant to be only the second Irish rider ever to qualify for the finals.  More joy was to follow in the next heat when Prendergaste also qualified for the final!  The best crit rider on the team Peter Williams was in the third heat.  As always Peter looked completely in control.  However, ill fortune was to strike on the second last corner when he was caught up in a pile up.  He remounted, charged to the line and missed qualification by one place!
However, in the repechage event at 5pm Peter demonstrated his class when he rode to a fine 10th place.  In the final for the medals both Predergaste and Henry rode with great expertise, covering important moves and always being in the thick of the action.  In the end it was Chris Whorrall’s (GB) lead out man, Daniel McLay, who got it a bit wrong, led out too strongly and ended up holding on for an unexpected win!  Both Henry and Prendergaste again acquitted themselves exceptionally well finishing 26th and 28th respectively.  To put this result into context, the highest position ever achieved by any Irish cyclist in the past has been 25th and the crit would not be either riders strongest event.

Tomorrow the final cycling event is a 56k road race which again involves both the city centre and a really demanding climb on each of the 8 laps.  However, the Irish cycling party is really buoyed up by the results to date and are really looking forward to ‘locking horns’ with some of the strongest cycling nations in the world.

Ards 3 Day

Well done Sam Craig who was 1st Vet in the Ards 3 Day, this was a super result in what was a tough event. 

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