4 August 2009

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Northern Ireland Road Race Championships

It was a  cold damp morning that heralded the start of August for the North Down road racers. However it was also the day of the Northern Ireland road race championships so there was work to be done.

Myself – William Barclay, Paul Ferguson, Noel "skipper" Boyce, Richard McCullough and Matthew Blayney took our places in our home from home – the club bus and made the short trip to Kilroot.

Conspicuous by his absence was club president/team masseur/driver/team manager, Harry Adams. We felt he'd earned a day off after his heroic efforts to keep us organised during the Portaferry 3 day so we granted him a day's holiday from this thankless task. (Just the one!)

As this was to be the Northern Ireland Road Race Championships the venue was to be all-important and in this respect the organisers did not fail to deliver. The course was the notorious Madigan G.P. circuit which has been the undoing of many a good rider. Famous for it’s hard climbs "the lizard" heading in Gleno then the strength sapping "seven sisters" series of climbs following shortly after. This course was to be repeated three times resulting in a 55 mile race.


The pace was savage right from the gun pushing 30mph up the draggy road from Kilroot  towards Larne. The high speeds however did not prevent a six man break getting away at this early stage of the race. Consequently the first climb of the day arrived very quickly. We pushed on up the "Lizard" chasing down the break which even at this early stage of the race shredded the bunch. By the time we reached the quaint village of Gleno we had already lost two North Down riders plus quite a few other racers.


Gleno is possibly more famous as the birthplace of Maud's ice cream than a way marker on the Madigan G.P. though as far as I am aware no riders stopped to sample this local delicacy on the first lap although at the time I remember considering it as a serious option.


The King of the Hills points were further up the "Seven Sisters" climb though these points were being hoovered up by the break long before the bunch got anywhere near the line.


The race continued with little in the way of respite though this didn't stop Paul Ferguson launching off the front in a heroic attempt to bridge across to the break. Unfortunately he was left isolated driving into a headwind so the main bunch eventually swallowed him up>


The race ebbed and flowed though the break always kept a minute over the bunch. By the third time over the "Seven Sisters" climb, who had by now started to show an ugly side to their personality, the break were left to go producing the eventual winner and Northern Ireland Road Race champion – Simon Williams.

    There was still some glory on offer though and Paul Ferguson was the man to take it, leading the bunch over the finish line in his by now customary manner.All in it was a great day's racing over a challenging course that was well marshalled. Many thanks to the Madigan club for organising this prestigious event.

East Tyrone Challenge

Sunday morning then saw the club bus back in action again. This time with eight of our hardiest touring men on board. The course was the well respected Sperrin Sportive covering 72 miles of some of Ireland’s best roads. There were 150 riders on the start line which is testament to the regard that this event is held in.

The weather favoured the North Down riders as it was dry but cool. Perfect conditions for a hard day in Ulster’s hills.

Starting and finishing in Cookstown the course used some excellent back roads through the mountains. The course was challenging with steep climbs and fast descents. Some of our braver riders seeing 50mph on the quicker descents. In fact it was after one such descent that Mark Hodgkins discovered that the flapping noise he heard on the way down was in fact his rear tyre disintegrating! Fortunately Mark was able to find a short cut back and returned home safely.


The remaining riders continued on but probably were beginning to regret not following Mark back to the bus as the road went up and the road got steeper until the word’s of club president Harry Adams became prophetic – “There’s no hill I can’t walk over”. After the short walk our riders completed the rest of the course and the run back into Cookstown.


This is an excellent event with a choice of course lengths to suit any rider’s ability. For any North Down rider wishing to escape freewheeling on the Peninsula for a day then surely a day’s touring should be a consideration.

Testing Times

The testers were out in force again. Riding vigorously in one direction then turning and riding just as vigorously again in the opposite direction

Our two main disciples of this exciting discipline, John Hunter and Paul Swenerton, have been in action again. John setting a time of 23 mins 20 secs over 10 miles somewhere called Ballydonaghy.


Paul Swenarton has been using his time trialling talent to devastating effect on the track. He’s been competing at the highest level. Last week saw him at the world famous Manchester Velodrome at the European Track Masters.


Track racing is a very technical event requiring a lot of specialist training and a lot of work on the road, track and gym to perfect the start, accelerations and ability to hold the speed to the line and with such small fractions between first and last every aspect of the training is crucial.


Club Night

15 hardy souls braved the weather for last Wednesday’s 10. They braved a deluge to get to the start and it was touch and go whether the weather would win. However, foolishness prevailed and the event went on. Conditions for the run were actually very good and no rain fell until the finish.

Here are the results:
Noel Munnis 00:24:37
Ian Ingles 00:25:02
William Brown 00:25:38
Roger Doherty 00:25:41
Mark Coyle 00:26:11
Gary Swenarton 00:26:22
Micky Forbes 00:26:49
Gordon Paul 00:27:14
Austin McNally 00:28:09
Andy Young 00:28:15
Garth Maxwell 00:28:39
Johnny Webb 00:29:51
Stephen Morgan 00:30:18
Garth Beattie 00:30:41
Linda Marshall 00:31:09

Star of Tomorrow

In North Down C.C. we are always watching for the latest talent to emerge. Over the years we have cultivated many talented riders racing internationally at all disciplines. The Blayney’s in particular have produced more than their fair share of top level cyclists. It would appear however that they have been keeping the best until last and their latest prodigy Ian is now ready to step in the limelight. (and onto the podium). It has become apparent that Ian Blayney is the complete package. He can sprint, attack and climb with a natural cunning for tactics. A unique combination rarely seen in the specialist arena of road racing. True, some might say that as a rider he has taken some time
to develop but we believe that a talent such as this does not bloom overnight.

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