30 August 2007

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Birthday Celebrations for North Down Cycling Club

It’s hard to believe that the successful North Down Cycling Club is celebrating its 30thbirthday this month.  In the early summer of 1977 Ian Henry had the idea of establishing a cycling club in the borough to cater for the undoubted talent in the area. The accuracy of his vision and forethought has been demonstrated over and over again, as a stream of talent has benefited from being part of what became known as the ‘leading team’.  

Yet as Ian drew the steering committee together, even he could not have envisioned what an impact this Bangor club would have on the cycling world.  Most of the forefathers of the fledgling club were already members of other clubs in different parts of Northern Ireland.  Eric and David Dunne were active members of Kings Moss CC, Ian and his brother Tom belonged to the East Tyrone CC and Jack Watson was a member of the Northern Cycling Club in Belfast – yet Ian convinced them that they should break their existing ties and establish the new Bangor-based outfit.

The first meetings of the club were held in Ian’s Thornleigh Gardens home and, always with an eye to business, Ian soon coerced local entrepreneur, Jim Irvine to come unto the committee.  Other local businessmen such as master butcher, David Burns, insurance broker, Tony Friedman and funeral director John Shields were soon associated with the new club – which had neither a name, colours or members!

That was soon to change, however.  Firstly, the name ‘North Down’ was chosen to associate the club with the wider locality, rather than be tied simply to the Bangor area.  The success of this choice has been demonstrated by the number of members drawn from a wide catchment area.

The choice of pink for the club colours was equally evocative, controversial and successful.  In an era when the majority of club colours were blue or red, to pick a colour such as pink was quite mind-blowing.  I can remember when outlining to the eminent sports reporter for the Belfast Telegraph, Stanely Martin, our plans to form this new club, he was astounded that we were not using blue and yellow – colours that he associated with Bangor’s football and rugby clubs.  Yet, from the start it was not the policy for the North Down club to follow but rather to set trends.  With that in mind, it was decided to adopt the pink race leader’s jersey associated with the Tour of Italy and which had also been used in the Tour of Britain that same year.  Again this proved to have been an inspired choice as it has always been easy to identify North Down riders in massed bunches of riders.

At those early meetings, it was decided to launch the club through a series of roller record attempts in the Clandeboye Shopping Centre.  Although, as stated earlier, North Down had no actual members, it was obvious that there was a ready supply of young and not so young enthusiasts.  With this in mind, it was decided to attack the Northern Ireland Veterans 3 hour 4 man relay record on the last Thursday night in August, the Northern Ireland Schoolboys 3 hour 4 man relay on the busy Friday night and the climax would be the 12 hour two man record on the Saturday.  The event was a tremendous success in every respect with records tumbling and a huge interest being generated in the new club.  The interest and success of this club has continued from that date and in subsequent weeks it is be my intention to focus on a few of the aspects which led to North Down Cycling Club being known as ‘The Leading Team’.

With several of the annual touring runs having suffered from wet weather this season, last weekend offered an unexpected treat with two rides to choose from, both on Sunday. Long distance specialist John Hicks opted for the 90 mile ride around Lough Neagh, using it as preparation for this year's epic adventure, a trip down the west coast of the USA, due to take place in mid September. Most of the regular sportive riders, however, decided to head to Portglenone to take part in the annual 60 mile ride in support of the Marie Curie cancer charity. The ride followed the river Bann down to Coleraine and then, after a diversion to Portrush and Portstewart, returned upstream to a welcome shower and refreshments at the community centre. The large bunch found the flat roads to their liking though the riders were frustrated by the decision to restrict the speed to around 15mph for the first 20 miles. The riders eventually managed to stretch their legs and the return journey was run at about an average of 23mph.
  With the season due to end in late September, the riders are hoping for a relatively dry spell of weather that will enable North Down to turn out in strength for the final few sportive rides on the calendar, concluding with one of the hardest rides of the season, the Torr Head Challenge on 23rd September. By that time the intrepid John Hicks will be well into his North American journey and we hope to be able to report periodically on his progress.

Club Race
The club time trial last week was a straight out 5 mile time trial, starting in Donaghadee and finishing near Bangor.  This is a difficult road at the best of times but last week the head wind the riders experienced all the way was described as ‘hideous’.  Nevertheless, despite the adverse conditions, some excellent times were recorded.
1     P Swenarton    12.54
2.     S Henry         13.36
3.     A Lavery        13.39
4.     A Hedley        14.00
5.     C Swenarton   14.24
6.     W Barclay       14.36
        G Swenarton   14.36
8.     M Hodgins      15.10
9.     C Andrews      16.37


Junior Tour of Wales
Stuart Henry quite literally finished his season with a bang at the weekend coming down in a high speed pile-up in the 4thstage and breaking his shoulder.  Up to that point Henry was riding really well, finishing each stage in the top half in the general classification.  Indeed, the measure of his performance can be gauged by the fact that he was ahead of the under-16’s representing Scotland (the team which performed so well in the Kerry International earlier this month), multi-British Under-16 Champion, Chris Whorral and was even ahead of many of the juniors in the race, including those representing Ireland.  This race was a tremendous experience for the young Bangor lad and is one which will stand him in great stead in the future.  We wish him a speedy recovery.

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