31 January 2006

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With a new cycle racing season less than four weeks away, North Down Cycling Club members have been taking advantage of the unseasonably dry weather recently to get in some training miles. February is normally the month for reliability trials, long runs of between 50 and 70 miles, open to all riders, which are used by club cyclists to assess their pre-season form. Last weekend’s event was staged by Ballymena / Scotts Road Club and this coming Sunday the action moves to the Ards peninsula. The Dave Kane club organises this one every year with the £3 signing on fee going to charity. Riders sign on in the large car park beside the cinema at the rear of the Ards Shopping Centre. There are normally two runs; a 50 mile run at a steady pace which is scheduled for a 9.45am start and a longer run for more competitive riders which will leave at 10am. North Down’s regular weekend runs have been attracting between 30 and 40 riders and the Saturday run, departing from the clubrooms at 9am, splits neatly into two groups, allowing riders to choose between a 60 or a 40 mile run. It has been encouraging to see so many recreational riders getting out each week and discovering that they have no reason to be apprehensive about joining club runs .One of North Down’s main objectives is to attract people of different abilities who are keen to cycle and who are looking for an opportunity to join others and gain   fitness and confidence by riding in groups.

North Down caters for leisure riders, long distance tourers, time triallists and road racers of all ages and both sexes. The more experienced members have a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of cycling and at the high performance end the club has a qualified sports scientist , Darren McWilliams, who can arrange for physiological testing and monitoring at tha Belfast Institute.

The 2006 season will strengthen the club’s local connections thanks to a sponsorship deal with two Bangor businesses. The Bokhara Indian Restaurant has joined Bangor businessman Sam Craig in supporting the club this year and, if last year’s successes can be repeated in 2006 North Down is confident that it will be a fruitful and mutually beneficial partnership.
A new for 2006 club jersey has been designed by former clubman Glen Armstrong and a large order is in the pipeline with a promise of delivery by the start of the season.

North Down membership forms are now available. They can be downloaded from the club website at www.northdowncc.com and they are also available from Brian Marshall at GP Marshall’s cycle shop in Abbey Street, Bangor. Also, the club will have a signing on night next Wednesday evening, February 8th at 7.30 in the clubrooms in Park Drive. All existing and potential members are welcome to come along and find out about the different levels of membership that are available. Forms can be filled in on the night or taken away to be completed later.

North Down committee man Keith Millar has been busy recently redesigning the club website and already it contains event calendars for the 2006 season , covering touring, road racing, time trialling and off road . North Down’s own club event calendar is being drafted at the moment and will be published well before the start of the programme in April.

Local riders may have been making the best of winter training schedules in a cold January but for  riders involved in preparation for the Commonwealth Games in Australia in March, an ideal opportunity to race in the sun came when the squad were invited to ride in the Tour of Siam, a UCI ranked race run over six days in Thailand towards the end of January. The team was managed by North Down’s Alastair Irvine, a former Irish champion and two times Commonwealth Games medallist and the other local input came from two riders, Martyn Irvine of Ards CC and mountain biker Lewis Ferguson from Bangor. Despite temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius and, in Martyn Irvine’s case, a late call up to the team, the Northern Ireland squad rode extremely well. At one point, having placed ninth in a stage, Martyn Irvine was lying in second place in the Young Rider classification and he only lost ground after crashing and suffering minor injuries. For Ferguson, a top class mountain biker, his ability to handle the pace and distances of a stage race must have given him great satisfaction. The Northern Ireland squad’s most experienced rider, David McCann from Belfast, was riding for his professional team, Team Giant Asia , along with Stephen Gallagher from Richill and at one point ,after four stages, McCann was only one second off the lead. He lost time, however, in stage five and slid down the general classification but by the end of the race Ballymena’s Ryan Connor had begun to show form, finally finishing 14th overall. Team manager Irvine was pleased with the performance and saw it as a boost to morale as the squad continues the build up to the Games.

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