8 September 2009

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North Down Riders on Track

It’s been a busy time for North Down track cyclists lately. Paul Swenarton was in Manchester competing in the European Masters Championships. In addition, Nathan McLeer has just returned from the UK Schools Games, in Cardiff, where the Northern Ireland team was managed by Anthony Mitchell.

For young McLeer this was the trip of a lifetime. He was in awe at the massive opening ceremony and the feast of racing which awaited the youngsters from the province. In many respects the event was the culmination of a long season of hard work for Nathan. With the UK Schools Championships in mind, the team had been expertly prepared by Anthony and coach Brian Cardy.

Their preparation involved numerous visits to Orangefield track in Belfast, in addition to trips to Manchester and even continental Europe. This preparation did not go to waste and the performance of the Northern Ireland team drew much acclaim. Particular note was made of their performance in the Madison, which was described as; ‘a well oiled machine’.

Certainly the experience will stand Nathan in good stead as he embarks on his junior career. He told me this week that he can’t wait to tackle the junior events and with a good solid winter’s training, the sky is the limit.

European Master

For experienced champion veteran, Paul Swenarton, the experience of competing in the European Masters was less novel. Unfortunately for Paul he was not blessed by good fortune. In the 750 m Time Trial on day one he crashed. This was to have an impact on all the subsequent events, including the Sprint on day two, where he found it impossible to even get out of the saddle.

Similar misfortune followed Paul throughout the week. In his main event, the Pursuit on day five there was a bang as he left the starting gate. Paul automatically thought it was the starter calling for a restart and hesitated – only to be subsequently informed that something had fallen in the pit area. For trained athletes such a hesitation is catastrophic and cost Paul an estimated 8 – 9 seconds, a mammoth amount in such an event.

Dublin Irish Veteran’s Omnium.

However, Paul was able to show his ability in the Irish Veteran’s Omnium in Dublin. This year’s Omnium was brought in line with UCI standards, with the exclusion of Match Sprint and the inclusion of a points race and the Flying 200m TT as an event in its own right. The 200m normally serves as a qualifier for the sprint itself but for this event it was an early opportunity for the sprinters to get some points on the board. The Omnium was contested over 5 events, which also included a scratch race, a 2km pursuit, the newly added points race and finishing with the 500m TT. Paul was well placed in all five events and produced some excellent performances. For example, in the 200m time trial and the pursuit he was third behind Brendan Whelan (Lucan) and Stephen McNally (Orwell). In the end, despite a puncture in the points race, Paul finished a very creditable fifth overall.

Irish B Championships

Last weekend Duane McCready and William Barclay made the long journey to Donegal to compete in the Irish B Championships. Contrary to Cycling Ulster reports, there were two climbs on the course, one of which was significant enough to splinter the peleton into a multitude of small groups. William, a noted climber, found himself in ‘no-man’s land’ after the second of the climbs and had an extremely demanding effort to make contact with the leading group. Unfortunately he paid a heavy price for his efforts and subsequently got dropped, not on the climb but on the fast, flat section. Once again William found himself chasing and although his valiant effort lasted for forty miles he never again made contact with the leading group, although he did manage to stay clear of the chasing pack. Nevertheless, both North Down riders agreed that the course, although very, very hard was an excellent championship circuit, which was made even more daunting by the wind and rain. William’s conclusion was that it was ‘an exceptional day out and well worth the journey’.


Tour of Wales

Whilst William and Duane were battling the wind and rain in Donegal, Stuart Henry was facing similar climatic conditions in the Wales. Here he was in the green of Ireland competing in the three day Tour of Wales.

The Tour of Wales has been described as a savage event, with even the prologue time trial finishing up a mountain. The weather conditions last weekend only added to the severity of the race. In all there were five stages over three days.

The performance of the Irish team was exceptional and drew much praise from the Ireland manager Stuart McDonald, with every one of the team featuring in long breaks. In the end the team was very pleased to be placed 2nd overall with Marcus Christie and Charlie Prendergast being placed 6th and 8th respectively. For all four, who have competed all over Europe this season in the colours of Ireland, it was a fitting end to very successful junior careers. Stuart now heads off to Chester where he will commence his third level studies, and might just manage the odd visit to the Manchester Velodrome.

Clubroom Activities

It’s hard to believe that the winter is upon us and winter clubroom activities will be commencing. From this Friday, 11th September, the club rooms will be open every Friday night, from 7.30pm.

Throughout the winter it is intended to organise a programme of activities, similar to that compiled by Noel Boyce last year, which included the very popular bike maintenance classes, general health and fitness. There will also be the mandatory coffee, snacks, darts, cards, music and maybe the odd quiz night and cycling DVDs.

If anyone has any specific requests for inclusion on the programme, they should see either Noel Boyce or Julie Stevenson who will do their best to include them in the programme.

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