5 April 2011

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The Tour of Ards is one of the most prestigious races on the spring calendar and each year it attracts a field of top class riders. This year was no exception and with the entry numbers increased to 80 there was a distinct big race atmosphere as the riders rolled through the centre of Newtownards in cavalcade before the racing proper got under way on the dual carriageway to Bangor. The expected high speed attacks began almost immediately with riders going off the front at speeds approaching 40mph. The Bangor ring road with its roundabouts often disrupts the flow of the race and it was there that a breakaway group was established. In the break were Bangor men Liam Curran, James McMaster (Curran Racing) , Frazer Duncan and Adam Armstrong (Eurocycles). Pre- race favourite Conor Murphy (Eurocycles) was a non- starter. Also in the group was Sean Downey, Commonwealth Games medallist and full time rider with continental team Cotes D’Armor. In the chasing group North Down’s Ross Blayney, Matty Blayney and Mark Irvine were active at the front and both Blayney boys tried valiantly to bridge the gap but with a headwind and a breakaway group of top men going flat out it proved to be an impossible task.


As the riders progressed down the coast the racing was hard with neither the breakaway nor the chasers giving an inch. The gap went out to just over a minute by Portaferry and it was not until the loop at Loughdoo Road that the lead group began to splinter. On the return to Newtownards the breakaway was down to eight riders and with a tailwind they were riding at almost 40mph at times. Through Greyabbey and into the final six miles the chasing group managed to close the gap to 25 secs but in the final sprint it was Frazer Duncan who took the victory with Eurocycles team mate Adam Armstrong in second place. Curran Racing’s James McMaster rode to third place, showing the sort of form that team coach Liam Curran had been predicting for some time. In the bunch sprint Ross Blayney got up to finish 13th, quickly followed by Matty Blayney and Mark Irvine. It was remarkable that the riders averaged 28mph, an indicator of the high standard of racing in Ulster.


A full programme of races is scheduled for Saturday when Banbridge CC promote the John Beggs and Sean McGreevy memorial races. The main race is for A1 and A2 riders and the McGeevy is restricted to A3 riders only. There is also a separate race for A4 riders. The programme also was to have had another race in the series for the Over 50 men but the governing body of Cycling Ireland has ruled the series unlawful, to the great disappointment of the competitors and promoting clubs. So far, no explanation has emerged from Cycling Ireland as to why it has been stopped. With other Over 50 races already scheduled the lack of explanation and uncertainty over future events has caused consternation and frustration throughout Ulster. The Beggs, McGreevy and A4 races are centred on Dromore and entries are being taken on the day. Signing on is at the Dromore Scout Hall from 10.30am and racing gets under way at 12 noon. To complete a double bill of racing Sunday’s event is the Bann Valley Classic, Two races are on offer, the main race for A2,3 riders and the supporting race for A4 competitors. Sign on is from 12 noon at Clady Hall and racing starts at 2pm.


North Down Cycling Club’s annual programme of club time trials, hill climbs and races kicked off this week with the lung bursting one kilometre time trial at Orlock. A big turn-out was expected and club race secretary Eric Blayney was hoping for decent weather for an event that calls for flat out riding for about 80 seconds. As usual, riders rode a kilometre in both directions and times were averaged. Results will appear in this column next week.



Last week’s club quiz night was a sell-out and the packed hall at Pickie Bowling Club enjoyed an entertaining evening and a fabulous supper prepared by Mark Brooks of Bow Bells in Donaghadee. Mark himself is looking very fit and looking forward to next week when he and 55 other club members head for Majorca on the club’s annual spring break. Organiser Philip Downie has struck a very competitive deal in Puerta Pollenca but the outcome of his negotiations on the weather remain to be seen.


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