Matty leads the way in the latest individuals race

RACE five of 21 in this year’s Banbridge Cycling Club individuals race series, took place on the six-mile Quarry Road circuit a mile or so outside Banbridge on Wednesday May 23.

With five testing inclines and hills along the route and four laps, this race has historically favoured the stronger riders within the club, particularly those riding in the category one and elite groups, irrespective of club handicapping and delayed releases. Weather conditions were absolutely perfect for the race and with blue skies, no wind and a temperature of 19c, expectations were met for a high turnout. Forty-seven riders made up the field, a club three-year high, with participants broken into five groupings as normal based on ability, measured on previous 10 mile TT performances. Again the club welcomed neighbouring club members with 8 taking up the opportunity largely from TVR. So with sign on complete, groupings organised and marshals posted, it was time to release the first riders. Four under 14 riders made their way off with the time at zero. Three minutes later it was the Cat 4s to be released followed by the Cat 3s a further 2:45 behind, then the Cat 2s now 8.30 behind the under 14s group, then the Cat 1s at 10:15 and the Elites at 11.40. All groups settled quickly into their race rhythm although with one lap complete, it was clear that a number of riders were out of sorts, or were clearly not suited to the hillier terrain of this circuit.

The Under 14s posted a first lap of 19:56, a lap time they maintained for the next two laps before the group splintered.

The Cat 4 group looked steady but showed some early signs of trouble as several riders struggled to stay in touch with the group. The front of the Cat 4s came through the finish area with a lap time of 18:53, which they held throughout the race.

The Cat 3 group posted lap times of around 17:30, the Cat 2’s at 16:55, the Cat 1s at 16:15 and the Elite Cat rolling through with laps of around 15:45. Once again it looked as though the race would come down to whether or not a well drilled and marshalled Cat 2 group could be caught by the fast men of the more senior groups. For two laps each group hunted the group in front, but by lap three the race had come together. Dropping riders out the back, the high pace was held relentlessly. With the fast speed , warm conditions and testing terrain, attrition was high. Only 36 riders finished the race from the 47 that started. A number of club riders failed to finish, with several citing punctures, Scott Daly suffering a broken chain and an unfortunate Paul Carlisle sliding off on a difficult corner.

At the start of lap four around 25 riders rolled through at pace, in one extended line. For the senior riders this was business as usual. For the newer club riders and those of lesser ability, this was a torturous fight to hang on, but with riders rotating and taking their turns at the front when they could those representing the top three categories held positions that would see them challenge in an end of race sprint finish. And with all the chips on the table it was Matty Taggart who was to outsprint second placed Simon Curry, taking a fine club win on the back of some great form that saw him take the Northern Ireland under 16 Road Race Championship at the weekend for the second time in a row.

Third placed on the night was Paul McGuckin , obviously benefiting from his over 50’s open racing, and finishing out the top five were Dan Purdy in fourth and Philip Beattie in fifth. This was a superb race, with a number of young riders displaying growing stature within club. Right across the field riders displayed determination and the willingness to work together for mutual gain. Not forgetting the main aim of the evening, racing at club level, it is safe to say that those visiting have continued to add strength to the events enabling group sizes to be sufficiently equal and strong to allow a greater race experience for everyone. From the guest ranks it was Cathal Clarke who crossed the line first in an actual 3rd position, with 3 riders from TVR filling out the top 10. The club league sees some minor change again with Paul McGuckin again in pole position . Next week sees the 15.5 mile TT for the Skelly Cup on the Rathfriland Road –Katesbridge-Castlewellan Road circuit.

IAN WINS AT WEST DOWN GP - The Banbridge CC over 50’s squad finally got the win they have threatened all season when Ian Cochrane led team mates Phil Beattie and Paul McGuckin to a 1-2-3 victory at the West Down GP masters race on Saturday.

This 22 mile race over two laps of the Katesbridge circuit was held in near perfect conditions with our good friends in West Down Wheelers delivering an excellent event which was superbly organized and marshalled from start to finish.

The course was challenging with numerous hills and a stiff headwind along the back. Phoenix CC once again competed fiercely throughout and Appollo CC’s Campbell Armstrong was to the fore covering all the Banbridge and Phoenix moves.

The action turned frantic from Moneyslane on the final lap with the riders flat out in the tailwind while looking for position before the last charge up the Katebridge straight to the line. The three Banbridge men just managed to hold off the chasing bunch to record a memorable clean sweep for the first time in the series with Ian a worthy winner after last week’s second place at North Down.

In the A4 race Aidie Finnegan and Marty Winters rode strongly over the four laps to finish well up in the main bunch behind a couple of early breakaway groups. It was much the same story in the A3 race over five laps with Kevin McAlinden active in chasing down breaks and Stevie O’Hagan consolidating his position in the main field.

The race at Katesbridge has rightly earned a reputation for the high standard of post race refreshments set up by the West Down ladies and Saturday once again proved the point – favourably commented upon by many riders.

SHENNA WINS AGAIN AT EMYVALE GP - Well done once more to Banbridge CC’s Northern Ireland under 14 girls champion Shenna McKiverigan who clinched first girls prize at the Emyvale GP on Sunday past.

In the U14 mixed race Shenna finished second in the bunch sprint behind a breakaway of five boys to place seventh overall - a great performance in sweltering hot conditions that took a toll on many of the young riders.