30 May 2006

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North Down CC's Neil McKenna is edging towards his first podium position of the season. Having shown good form in club races over the previous few weeks, McKenna is beginning to make his presence felt on the open race scene. At last Saturday's Mayfair GP, held on the Ballyclare circuit, he got in the decisive break with a strong group that included Willie Hamilton, Brendan Graham, Jonathon Dempsey and the eventual winner, former Irish Junior international Adam Petrie-Armstrong.  Armstrong has hit a purple patch and the win was his fourth of the season so far. In the final few miles he managed to break away from the leading group which itself had begun to fragment towards the finish and McKenna came in sixth, only 48 seconds behind Armstrong.

The Emyvale GP on Sunday drew the attention of North Down's Paul Ferguson, seeking to make his presence felt once more on the local race scene, following a bad crash in the Tour of the North over Easter. He may have had good  reason to be a little apprehensive going into this race but it certainly didn't show and he was in the thick of the action from the very start and was one of a small group that eventually broke clear. Aggressive riding from Ferguson was countered by riders from Dave Kane/Northern and Murphy and Gunn and in the run in to the finish he was squeezed out and the victory went to Frazer Duncan ( Dave Kane/ Northern)
North Down's youth riders also left Emyvale on Sunday having made their mark. Gareth Boyle is a newcomer to the Under 16 category this year and his performances are improving with every outing. Joining him was another first year Under 16 rider, Stuart Henry, last year's Irish Under 14 time trial champion.  Henry's attacking helped to open gaps in the field and he found himself out in front with three others, including Sean Carolan ( Connaught), recently selected to go to Belgium as part of a national youth squad, Peter Wilson, bronze medallist in this year's Ulster championships and Leo McAllister ( Ballymena ). The four riders worked together and stayed away to the finish where Wilson won the sprint with McAllister taking second. Henry took third place and can be well satisfied with his performance as the youngest rider in the break. The ride will give Henry confidence as he heads this Saturday to Portadown for the Ulster Youth time trial championships. As a newcomer to the age group he knows the strength of the opposition and, having decided to ride a fixed gear, he will be doing well to get a top six placing.
North Down's Rachel Mitchell was still recovering from slight injuries following a brush with a lorry last week but she rode well to take fifth place in the Under 14 race, won by Ben Dowling (Bray ).
 On the time trial circuit veteran tester Paul Swenarton has also begun to get some speed into his legs, clocking a season's best 22.23 for ten miles at last week's round of the Dave Kane Time Trial League, held on the Woodgreen course. The standard of time trialling from local clubmen at these events continues to impress, with 13 riders getting under 22 minutes.
A welcome return to more seasonal weather last Wednesday evening brought a healthy showing of riders to North Down's 2 up 10 mile time trial. The ride was run on a "back to basics" format which meant that the riders were not permitted to use any aerodynamic equipment on their bikes. Also, in the 2 up tradition, riders rode in pairs and the time recorded was that of the second of the two riders to cross the line. Although not part of the season long Espoirs' competition, there was a strong turnout of riders for whom this was a new event. The results were as follows ; ( E ) denotes Espoir.
1. P Swenarton & N Wilson 24.30
2. J Hunter & T Belford 25.54
3. B Marshall & N Boyce (E) 25.59
4.  O Parkes(E) & C Andrews (E) 26.55
5. E Blayney (E) & M Lyttle (E) 26.59
6. P Downie (E) & G Paul (E) 27.08
7. T Johnston (E) & M Geddis (E) 28.24
8. A McCullough (E) & R Donaldson (E) 28.43
9. M Hodgins (E) & G Boyle 28.46
Stuart Henry completed a solo ride in 26.38. Congratulations are due to Amanda McCullough on her first competitive club event. Having taken up cycling only last summer Amanda has progressed very rapidly and to have comfortably beaten the 20 mph barrier on her first time trial was a considerable achievement. Her confidence having been boosted by this and having completed a 100 mile ride over Easter, Amanda travelled with a group of cyclosportive regulars to the annual Tour of Mayo last Sunday and completed the 125 mile event without difficulty.
Last weekend also saw the successful completion of long distance specialist John Hicks's latest challenge, a three week expedition ride from Land's End to John O'Groats and from there to Edinburgh. The entire trip covered just over 1500 miles in three weeks and involved a total amout of climbing of 186,000 feet. Travelling with a rider he befriended last year in his ride across America, 65 year old John Hornsey, John tackled some of the hardest climbs the Scottish Highlands and Islands had to offer, laden with 30 lbs. of clothing and equipment in his panniers. Not unexpectedly, some of the weather was wet and windy, especially over the final few days;  nevertheless John is to be congratulated for yet another successful marathon bike ride.
This weekend the Northern Ireland road race championship is being staged on Saturday by Ballymena RC. Racing on Sunday is hosted by Banbridge CC who are the organisers of the Noel Teggart Memorial race. Over the same weekend is the first of this season's three day races, the Donegal 3 day, centred on Letterkenny and running from Friday through to Sunday. Touring and sportive riders may wish to tackle the Sperrin Sportive on Sunday, an 85 mile route that leaves the Mid Ulster Sports Arena, Cookstown , between 8.30 and 10am. Registration is £15 and includes T shirt and refreshments during and after the event.
The club event this week is the second in the series of one kilometre time trials. The first rider will start at Orlock at 7pm. Wet weather at the first if the kilometre events deterred a number of fancied riders, including last year's fastest men, Paul Swenarton and Paul Ferguson. The fastest of the Espoirs last time was Owen Parkes and he will be out to repeat that performance, his main opposition likely to come from Noel Boyce and Myles Geddis, who are hoping to take advantage of Philip Downie's absence to improve their overall standings in the Espoirs' championship.
North Down members are being asked to clear their diaries for the evening of Thursday June 15th. This will be the night for the Bike Skills event for primary school children, being staged at Valentines playing field as part of Bangor Bike Week. The club will be glad of assistance on the night for what was a very successful occasion last year when over 60 children participated. After the event, which is due to start at 5.30 and end around 7.30pm, Brian Marshall will be organising a barbecue for club members and friends.

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