4 November 2008

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The Italian Job

A couple of weeks ago William Barclay and Paul Ferguson made the trip to Como, in Northern Italy to race in the Gran Fondo Giro di Lombardia. This event takes in 145 kms of racing in one of the most beautiful (and hilly) parts of the world.

They knew they were off to a good start when they picked up a stunning looking Alfa Romeo at the airport. If nothing else, they would be arriving in style. In addition, their accommodation, arranged through a fellow North Down cycling Club member, Russell, was right within the old walls of the city. This proved to be an excellent location, a mere 5 mins from the start line.

William and Paul had arrived a couple of days early, mainly due to the fact that the professional race was scheduled for the day before their event and they were keen to see some of it. Como was well geared up for the pro race with, for example, a big screen erected for live viewing. The piazza had been transformed into a total cycling zone and they were soon talking to other Gran Fondisti.

Gears were a hot topic of conversation as there were some big hills on the course. They managed to glean some insider information that the Caisse d’Epargne team were using 11-26 cassettes. Paul had arrived with a rather racier 12-23 but armed with Harry Adam’s advice – “There’s no hill I can’t walk over” – he put his concerns to the back of his mind. He faced the news of a very technical (read dangerous) descent into Como with the same stoicism. After all, to a seasoned racer like Paul – it’s all just tarmac.

The day of the race turned out to be perfect weather. The start line was right on the lake front. The valiant North Down riders lined up in the grid with none other than fellow Irishman and living legend Stephen Roche.

There was a very quick start with the huge group shredding all over the place during the first 10km of racing. This whittled down the group to smaller bunches winding their way along the edge of Lake Como. The first 100kms was just a “softening exercise” as everyone knew that the race began for real on the slopes of Madonna di Ghisallo, with 11km of climbing with 14% gradient in places. Anyone arriving at this point in poor shape knew there was to be no hiding place. From this point on, the riders were tracing exactly the course that the professionals had raced on the day before and in fact many times over the last century, such was the historical nature of this race.

It was here that Paul was working his way up the bunch. Pushing big gears that meant sitting wasn’t an option (for 11kms!) he was soon over the top and racing down the far side heading for the hills above Como.

Small groups reformed after the big climb as they raced towards the hills of Civiglio and San Fermo. Only the day before Damiano Cunego of the Lampre team had launched his winning move on these hills and dangerous descents and the team from North Down were in the same frame of mind.

After just over 4 hours of hard racing, in glorious weather, Paul and William rolled over the finish line finishing in the top ten percent of the amassed field. An impressive feat.

Note to race organisers:– Everyone was then treated to a three course lunch at the pasta party in the town piazza. Sounds better than Irish Stew on paper plates! One thing is sure – the North Down party will be there again next year.

Club Social Night

It was great to see the crowd of North Down members turning up for the Bokhara Night last Sunday. The strength of North Down Cycling Club has always been that it is not uni-dimensional. It’s a club which promotes events, encourages recreational cycling, racing and at the same time enjoys a healthy social aspect.

The club’s main social night of the year is only a few weeks away (last Saturday in November) and it is important that members let Eric Blayney know of their intentions to attend well in advance. Eric has managed to secure a price of £7 per head for finger buffet and disco, so no one can complain about the price. In fact Eric would be delighted if not only club members but friends came along and made it a night to remember.

One of the aspects of the multi-faceted North Down Club which goes relatively un-noticed is its charitable activities. For example, it was North Down which pioneered tandem cycling for the visually handicapped; it was North Down who promoted Celebrity Charity Cycle Races and it is North Down which organises the largest Charity Cycle in the country, the Coastal Challenge. The club committee has decided to further develop this aspect of the club at the social night when a large ballot will help raise funds for the Davy McCall Trust. Davy was a great cyclist and he himself was generous in his giving of both time and finance to the sport he loved, before he was so tragically killed earlier this year. The social night and prize presentation is an opportunity for us to say thank you in a very tangible and meaningful way.

Bike Maintenance

The last of the very successful bike maintenance classes will take place this Friday 7 October at 7pm in the Club Rooms.  The session will be taken by experienced cyclist Alistair Irvine who will focus on the rider’s position on their bike. This is a very important aspect, which is often overlooked, as a correct posture will maximise efficiency and also prevent injuries. Alistair will assess each person’s posture on their bike and advise on any changes necessary.

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