5th December 2005

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North Down Cyclists Secure Ulster Medals

In this column last week it was predicted that North Down Cycling Club would be the team to watch at the Ulster Cyclo Cross Championships.  This was no idle speculation but a reflection of the form being displayed by all our riders, irrespective of the category in which they race.  It was fitting, therefore, that the owner of club sponsors AQUATECH, Sam Craig, was on hand to congratulate Ray Brownfield, Stuart Henry and Keith Millar after they had powered to victory by washing away the opposition, last Saturday. 

The Senior Championship was dominated by Commonwealth Games rider Lewis Ferguson and our own Ray Brownfield, even though both riders suffered punctures during what turned out to be a thrilling battle for the title. Indeed the opening circuit ended with Ray Brownfield holding a slim advantage over Ferguson, this pair already having opened up a gap over the pursuing pack of Peter McConville (Newry Wheelers), Sean Downey (Banbridge CC), Glenn Kinning (Castlereagh CC), Conor Campbell (Newry Wheelers), Alisatair McSorley (Apollo CT), Liam McGreevy (Banbridge CC), Joe McCall (Team Worc) and Barry Monaghan (Newry Wheelers).  By the end of lap two Ferguson and Brownfield had consolidated their position at the front of the race as Kinning slotted into third, having broken clear of a superb battle for fourth involving McConville, Downey, McSorley and Campbell.

The battle for the title took a dramatic turn on the fourth lap, the halfway mark, as Brownfield came into view on his own; unfortunately for Ferguson he had lost time because of a puncture in his front tyre.  The drama, however, increased on the fifth lap when Brownfield came up to the pit area, still in the lead, but screaming for a wheel, having suffered a rear tyre puncture. Ferguson could not believe his luck as he passed through the pit area to take the lead from Brownfield with Kinning still third.  

On the final laps Brownfield made a tremendous effort and closed the gap up to Ferguson, but despite his best efforts Ray simply could not get past him and had to content himself with the silver medal.  Nevertheless, this was a fantastic performance from this multi-talented rider and it bodes well for the future.  

It is worth noting, however, that the North Down supporters had more than Ray’s performance to warm their hearts on a cold, wintry afternoon.  Keith Millar and Michael Hamilton were also continually in the thick of the action, with Keith eventually securing bronze in the Veterans section.

Yet the excitement didn’t focus solely on the senior race.   In the words of race commisaire, Andy Potts, perhaps one of most exhilarating events of the day involved North Down teenager Stuart Henry.  From the ‘off’ Henry was involved in a fantastic three way battle for the lead  with two of the MTB legends – Johnny and Gerry McCabe from the Cuchulainn in Dundalk.

With very limited experience in this discipline, Henry had to rely on natural ability rather than technical know-how.  Indeed his lack of experience meant that Henry got a very poor start.  However, by the end of the first of the long laps he had made his way, firstly through the main bunch and then up to the McCabe brothers who had already established a sizeable lead.  

As this race progressed so did the tempo of all three riders, with each taking it in turn to attack the others and, as a result, the gap between them and the rest of the field gradually widened.   On the penultimate lap Gerry McCabe launched a savage attack which saw him race into a 20 sec advantage.  However, the ease with which Henry closed the gap was an indicator of what was to come.  As he passed McCabe and increased the speed, Gerry McCabe immediately began to regret his impetuous attack and was unable to keep contact with the flying North Down rider.  Although Johnny McCabe managed to stay with Henry, there was little doubt who was going to win the sprint and so it came as little surprise to any of the spectators that Henry should cruise to an emphatic victory and become the Ulster Under Sixteen Cyclo Cross Champion for 2006-7.

NICF / CU Talks

For two decades there have been on-going talks between the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation and Cycling Ireland regarding the future of cycling in Northern Ireland.  At the North Down Cycling Club’s AGM on the 6th of November approval was given, unanimously, for Northern Ireland Cycling Federation representatives to meet with Cycling Ulster counterparts to broker an agreement between the two cycling associations.  The subsequent meeting took place in mid-November and thanks to the transparency which has been central to all the recent negotiations, the emergent proposals were quickly placed in the public domain so that the members of both federations would have an opportunity to consider the ramifications of the recommendations.  The crux of the proposals are that the:
1 NICF will become affiliated to Cycling Ireland through their amalgamation with the regional body, Cycling Ulster.
2 NICF will continue to have administrative and promotional responsibilities pertaining to cycling in Northern Ireland.
3 NICF will nominate 3 members to the executive of CU.  They will remain for a period of 3 years.
4 Clubs presently affiliated to NICF will, from 1st January 2007, affiliate directly to Cycling Ireland and will enjoy the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other club affiliated to that body.
5 Members of these clubs will take out membership of and have race licences issued by Cycling Ireland.  Such licence shall bear the members’ preferred Nationality Code.

Given the consensus of support which members have expressed for the agreement, the North Down Cycling Club’s committee has instructed its delegates to support the proposals at the forthcoming NICF Special General Meeting on the 14th December in Antrim.  This meeting is open to all NICF members, although only the designated are permitted to vote.  The North Down Cycling Club also decided to hold a Special General Meeting on 27th December, so that the issue can be discussed in the local context.

Saturday Morning Cycles

Once again it is encouraging to note the number of cyclists who are turning up for the Saturday morning cycles.  Everyone is very welcome on these cycles, regardless of your expertise.  If you are a beginner or an experienced cyclist, why not turn up at 9am at the North Down clubrooms in Park Drive?

However, given the numbers who are now turning up, the North Down Cycling Club committee are asking everyone, especially North Down members to use their discretion with regards to the size of the group.  If there are twenty or thirty in a group, for example, it is very difficult for cars to pass.  It, therefore, seems logical to split this recreational ride up into smaller groups.  This could be easily achieved with those going as far as Portaferry leaving a few minutes before those going to Ballyhalbert and the group going to Ballywalter leaving last.

Dates for your Diary
Dates for your diary in December must include the hot port runs on Saturday16th and the 23rd.  These popular cycles will take a similar route to previous years, leaving the clubrooms, Park Drive at 9am and traveling through Comber, Saul and Strangford before returning via the Salt Water Brig.

For those wanting to burn off a few Christmas calories then the Mince Pie Cycle, on the 27th of December, will be a must.  However, this event is also geared towards newcomers to the sport and even those who have possibly only received their first bike from Santa!

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