3 March 2009

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Cycling Season Starts with a bang!

The racing last weekend centred around events at Banbridge and Nutt’s Corner, with a large contingent of North Down riders demonstrating that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the up-coming season.

Due to the large number of entries, the Banbridge club organised two events on the Annaclone. In the first race on the road the veterans were given a five minute lead over the Senior 1 and Senior 2 riders. With the likes of Roger Aiken, of the promoting club, David McCann (Giant Aisia), Tony Brady (Rock Racing) and Ryan Connor (Usher) in the field, many would have been beaten before they’d even started. Not so North Down’s inimitable Sam Craig. He immediately launched an attach and as his team mates, Noel Boyce and Paul Ferguson patrolled the bunch, Sam set about establishing what appeared to be an unbeatable lead. Unfortunately, former professional Connor, American based Brady, Barry Monaghan and Liam Curran managed to bridge the gap and Sam had to settle for 5th place. Nevertheless, this was quite an achievement in his first race of the season.

In the second event the juniors were set off with the Senior 3 riders. North Down were well represented with Duane McCready, William Barclay, Matty Blayney, Norman Wilson and Stuart Henry all in the field. The racing was fast and furious from the start and North Down got its first podium of the season with Stuart Henry taking 2nd in a photo-finish.

Sunday’s Phoenix Grand Prix was equally well supported and again the riders were split into two races. After their performances the previous day, Sam Craig and Stuart Henry were put in the same race as the ‘top guns’. Once again Sam was in no way over-awed by the situation and was his inimitable aggressive self. Similarly Paul Ferguson demonstrated that he has not lost any of his class. From a North Down perspective it was great to see Neil McKenna pushing the pink and black to the fore. Neil is a class act and I predict he is destined for big things this year.

In the B race Noel Boyce and Duane McCready demonstrated that they have the capacity to race hard two days in a row. Noel in particular featured in many moves and was, in fact only caught within sight of the finish, where Duane took 8th place and Noel came home 12th. This was, once again, quite an impressive weekend’s work.

Perhaps one person should be singled out for praise at the weekend. It was obvious that other teams were envious of the North Down set-up with team masseur, resplendent in club colours, giving each of the North Down riders a ‘rub’ before the start. Not only was this physically invaluable, especially for those who had raced hard the day before, but it was a big psychological boost for the North Down riders. Well done, Harry.

Get Well Soon, Ross

One of our top riders who wasn’t able to compete at the weekend was Ross Blayney. Unfortunately Ross was brought off his bike and hospitalised last week when a motorist opened his car door, causing Ross to crash heavily. Thankfully Ross is out and about again and we look forward to when he can bring his considerable experience and sprinting prowess to the fore in the pink and black colours.

Cycling Ireland High Performance Director

Cycling Ireland has set its course for success at the London 2012 Olympics with the announcement that Philip Leigh is to take up the position as its new High Performance Director. The appointment of the accomplished professional team manager and former Great Britain team member also represents Cycling Ireland's commitment to preparing elite athletes for success at World and European level.

Philip, who is a native of Lancashire in the U.K., has previously worked with some of most talented riders in the U.K. including World Champion Chris Newton who was also a medallist at the Beijing (2008) and Athens (2004) Olympic Games. He will be responsible for developing and managing Cycling Ireland's High Performance Plan, for managing high performance staff and for overseeing all activities in preparation for respective World Cup, World Championship and Olympic track, road and MTB events.

'We are delighted to appoint Philip as Cycling Ireland's High Performance Director. He is considerably experienced in identifying new cycling talent and in putting organisational and support structures in place to ensure that elite athletes achieve success,' said Cycling Ireland Executive Officer, Geoff Liffey.

'Philip will develop a system which allows Cycling Ireland's elite athletes to come in and out of the High Performance squad. Our goal is to increase the size of the cycling team competing at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and to focus specifically on achieving success on the track,' he added.

Mr Leigh said that he was looking forward to taking up the post in early April and to working with Cycling Ireland. 'I am very familiar with Irish cycling and I am greatly excited by the challenge that exists. There is huge talent among the new generation of Irish cyclists and I have a clear vision of what needs to be done to develop their potential and to support their ambition,' he said.

'We are certainly capable of bringing bigger teams to the London 2012 Olympics. Our indoor track riders are also capable of delivering at least personal best times and of qualifying to compete for medals and the talent is there to have riders finish inside the top ten in the road and MTB disciplines,' he added.

Philip said that one of his first goals in taking up his new Dublin based position will be to put new structures into place to develop high performance coaches and to support elite athletes up to and beyond the 2012 Olympic Games. He also intends to assess and refine Cycling Ireland's Talent Identification and Talent Transfer programmes.

His appointment has also been welcomed by the Irish Sports Council. 'Cycling is a key high performance sport and has the potential to bring success to Ireland, especially with the track programme. The Irish Sports Council welcomes the appointment of Philip Leigh to Cycling Ireland. The Performance Director is the key role in building a sustainable performance system within a sport and ensuring the athletes fulfil their potential at international level,' said John Treacy, CEO, Irish Sports Council."

Mayo Youth Tour
Our youth riders should note that entry forms ar
e now available for the Mayo Youth Tour, a new underage event, taking place from August 1 to 3, 2009. The town of Kiltimagh in east Mayo is hosting the race, which comprises four stages of racing over three days. 

Manchester Velodrome

Two young North Down riders, Rachel Mitchell and Nathan McLeer, were in action last weekend in Manchester. They were part of a Cycling Ulster squad who were being given the opportunity to develop their skills on the famous boards.

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