30th August 2005

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With the road racing season, seemingly, having come to a rather premature end, riders of all age groups have found themselves drawn to the Orangefield track, where the reasonably dry weather has allowed a series of meetings to take place. There are regular Tuesday evening sessions, combining coaching with competition, and it is hoped that these will be augmented by Saturday morning fixtures through September in an attempt to provide late season racing. Cycling Ulster track coach, Brian Nugent, has had a good response from local riders and last Saturday the combined Northern Ireland/Ulster Senior and Youth championships took place on the 396 metre outdoor facility at Orangefield.

The organisers decided to focus on two disciplines, the Time Trial and Pursuit. The classic time trial distance on the track is 1 kilometre and in a modern velodrome this consists of four laps on an indoor wooden track. The smooth wooden surface, combined with an absence of weather, leads to very fast times and World and Olympic champions such as Britain’s Jason Queally and Chris Hoy have covered the distance in around 61 seconds.

By contrast, the Orangefield track is tarmac surfaced, very uneven and riders have to contend with frequently windy conditions. Not surprisingly, therefore, times appear relatively slow but there is no doubt that with more practice on the track, combined with occasional visits to the velodrome in Manchester, times of local riders will improve steadily.

The Senior kilometre title was won by the Ulster coach himself, Brian Nugent in a time of 1.18. In silver medal place was Ards rider Mal McKechnie who recorded 1.19. McKechnie has become very enthusiastic about the track this year and he has more or less given up road racing to concentrate on it. Toyota North Down’s Anthony Mitchell came eighth in 1.25, coming second in the veterans’ category behind Gordon Scott of King’s Moss.

The Youth championship was divided into three age categories and Toyota North Down’s group of riders maintained their superb form by bagging another bundle of top placings. Pride of place went to Stuart Henry in the U14 group. Having already taken an All Ireland time trial title and the runner – up position in the Irish road race championship, Henry won both his events in commanding style. His winning time of 43.43 secs for the 500 metre time trial put him just ahead of old adversary Jonny Beers of XMTB but in the second event, a three lap pursuit, his strength showed and his time of 1min. 47secs. put him four seconds ahead of Beers. In both events TND’s Gareth Boyle rode well to claim third place, making it a very successful morning for the club in this age group.

In the U16 group Toyota North Down’s Mike Mitchell began to show some good form but on this occasion the form rider was Mark McCullough of Ballymena Road Club. His 42.56 secs. was enough to take the 500 metre time trial with Mitchell taking bronze on 46.01. In the pursuit, however, Mitchell’s speed endurance began to show and he narrowly missed the gold, coming just one second behind McCullough’s winning time of 2mins. 23secs.

In the U12 category there was a ding – dong battle between Toyota North Down’s Rachel Mitchell and Jessica Laird of XMTB. Rachel has being showing medal winning form throughout the season on the road while Jessica has been racking up regular successes on the mountain bike circuit at home and in Britain. In the time trial, over 500 metres, Laird’s winning time was 47.56 secs with Mitchell taking second spot a quarter of a second behind. In the two lap pursuit, Jessica finished only one second ahead of Rachel in a fight for the silver, this time the winner being Ulster road champion Jack Wilson of East Antrim.

It was noticeable that Stuart Henry and Mike Mitchell’s performances improved over the longer distances and there was an indicator of their form in the week leading up to the track championships when both lads entered for the 10 mile time trial at Woodgreen, a regular venue for the weekly Dave Kane Time Trial League. Both riders recorded personal bests and Henry’s 24.25 set a new Northern Ireland U14 record for the distance. Mitchell’s time of 23.40 was fast but on the night the U16 record fell to Irish champion Thomas Martin of Clann Eirann who steamed in with 21.23.

The World Masters’ road championships were staged in St. Johan, Austria, last week and Toyota North Down were represented by Declan McMackin, who went in the time trial and Florence Millar who raced in the time trial and road race. Also in the competition was Ards man Lennie Kirk, Irish Veterans’ road champion in 2004. The entire week was blighted by torrential rain, McMackin’s least favourite conditions and he was slightly disappointed with his performance, coming 41st in 28.30 but only three minutes behind the winning time. Lennie Kirk was 50 seconds ahead of McMackin and came 27th overall.

In the women’s events Florence Millar threw herself in at the deep end, attempting this level of racing in only her first season of competition but she was delighted with her performance, coming 10th in her age group in the time trial and 12th in the road race.

Over the next couple of weeks the old hands get another chance to go for glory and emulate the achievements of their younger clubmates. On Sunday the Ulster Veterans’ Road Race championship takes place at the Nutt’s Corner course and, subject to decent weather, fitness and a written waiver from their life assurance companies, a sizeable group of TND oldies will make the trip.

On the veterans’ time trial scene Paul Swenarton will be making his annual visit to Britain, this time to Yorkshire, for the British circuit time trial championship. Paul has been dogged by bad luck in the past two years, suffering crashes on courses that were often narrow and tortuous, requiring technical skill as well as speed. If he can remain upright he has being showing the sort of form recently that could get him a decent placing.

Track specialist Glen Jordan should have no difficulty keeping it between the hedges as he heads to the Manchester velodrome to take part in the World Masters’ Track Championship between 12th and 17th September. Glen goes in the sprint, time trial and pursuit and he will be hoping to improve on his 15th place at the last championships. Interestingly, Glen will be competing against Gary Kristensen who was a very successful member of TND’s road team when he was working over here a few years ago. Glen is expecting to find the going harder this year, having missed most of the season recovering from a shoulder injury sustained at the start of the year.

Last Monday evening’s club race was a 5 mile time trial. The conditions were not ideal with a stiff breeze against the riders on the outward leg but there were personal bests for the three youth riders who took part, a clear sign that their regular racing this year has pushed their fitness levels to new heights. The results were as follows;
1. M. Mitchell 11.37
2. N. Munnis 12.01
3.D. McVeigh 12.52
4.H. Leinster 13.52
5. G. Boyle 13.57
6. R. Mitchell 14.40
7. F. Millar 16.30

Next Monday night’s club event is another 5 mile time trial, the penultimate race on the season’s club programme which will be brought to a conclusion with a kilometre time trial that will be a head to head decider between the specialist tester, Paul Swenarton and the road sprinter, Paul Ferguson, both of whom have recorded 1.14 on the Donaghadee Road course.

The curtain will already have fallen this week on the very successful weekly recreational rides organised by Toyota North Down. The Wednesday night outings, which will become an annual feature, are run over 22 miles and have been well attended, frequently attracting over 20 riders. The club is keen to encourage these riders to carry on over the winter and to that end a 35 or 40 mile run, with the all
important coffee stop in Greyabbey, will be available every Saturday morning, leaving the clubrooms at 9am. Some of the riders have even sampled the more hilly 40 mile Sunday run which leaves at 10am and have found it challenging but achievable at the right speed. Both these runs are open to anyone who would like to join a group ride at the weekends. A longer Sunday run for fitter, faster riders leaves the clubrooms at 9am. Anyone interested in joning this run should make contact with Brian Marshall.

The end of season social night with food and the awarding of club trophies has been booked for Friday 21st October at the Lock and Key, Groomsport. Tom Henry has already received a number of bookings and club members are advised to contact Tom as soon as possible to guarantee a place.

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