Banbridge CC Mountain Bikers take on world’s elite as part of Ulster Team

Gareth McKee
Gareth McKee

The Cycling Ulster Team, including four Banbridge CC members, competed in the third round of the British XC Mountain bike national points series over the weekend.

The venue, Dalby Forest in Yorkshire, England, was a host to one of the UCI mountain bike World Cup rounds in 2011.

The team consisted of four Banbridge Cycling Club members, James Curry, Gareth McKee and John Buller with Simon Curry as team manager for the squad of five riders.

Arriving on the Saturday morning at the venue the team was able to pursue three important practice laps to get a feel of this spectacular, challenging World Cup course.

All three Banbridge men were due to race at 3.15pm on Sunday afternoon.

All in separate categories, Gareth McKee wore his national champion jersey in the Elite category which included some of the world’s best riders visiting the UK to race on the run up to the Olympic Games and World Championships.

Three major names participating in this event included Marco Fontana and the current U23 world champion Anton Cooper, both of which ride for the professional Cannondale Factory racing team, and Grant Ferguson who is the British Elite XC mountain bike champion.

Gareth had a great start to his event, leading the race of just under 40 riders out of the starting field and into the first main section of challenging single track. With a tough race ahead consisting of five laps of the World Cup course he had to find his rhythm in order to finish with a great result.

Gareth rode a hard fought race completing all six laps in 18th position against an extremely talented and strong field.

This great result followed his previous strong results at round one in Pembrey (Swansea, South Wales) where McKee came in a strong 20th position and round two hosted in Plymouth were another great performance brought the Irish champion home in 14th.

Set off two minutes behind the elite category was the Junior males. In this category John Buller was hoping to finish well inside the top 10.

Starting in the middle of the bunch, a strong effort was required in order to gain a good position heading out of the field to begin the first of three laps.

Luckily with a strong start and getting through a few gaps John was comfortably with the top five or six riders heading into the trees. With a slightly shorter race than usual a strong starting position was vital.

Battling hard over the course of the three laps John had entered the finishing straight in ninth position sprinting to line to gain eighth position narrowly defeating a team mate also riding for Cycling Ulster, Sean Bradley of Carn wheelers.

This result follows up John’s strong finish at round 1 in Pembrey where he came across the line in 9th position.

Behind the junior category was the final race to be set off, the expert race consisting of James Curry.

Due to having a starting position as last man on the grid of 40+ riders, gaining positions in the opening lap was again crucial.

James managed to enter the trees making up some good ground, however traffic throughout the opening laps meant the leaders opened up an advantage on the Banbridge man.

Over the four laps set for the expert race, James managed to gain positions every lap crossing the finish line in an outstanding sixth position.

This result shows his talents and abilities considering he was forced to start last man on the starting grid and will set him up for a better starting position for the next round.

Competing in the elite category at rounds one and two James picked up two fantastic results of 27th and 24th in his first year of elite racing.

With Simon doing a fantastic job in the pits for all three riders from Banbridge and the remaining two Cycling Ulster riders these results would not be possible and he cannot be thanked enough.

The team are off to the next round in Fforest Fields, Wales on the 11-12 of June with the fifth and final round completing the series in August in Cannock Chase.