Banbridge Cycling Club’s Gareth McKee even surprised himself with a stunning podium finish last weekend.
He powered his way to a third place in the British National Points Series penultimate round at the Commonwealth Games course in Cathkin Braes in Glasgow, Scotland.
And in doing so, the talented mountain-biker even surpassed all of his own expectations.
He said: “It’s the top British and national series and I just started competing at that level this year. My only goal had been to break into the top 20 and once I did that with a 17th place, I just wasn’t to see how high I could get.
“I would say I believed I could break into the top 10 but getting a podium wasn’t even in my thinking.
“It was surprising. I hadn’t expect it at all because I wasn’t finishing anywhere near the podium in the previous rounds.
“It was an unreal feeling to take my place on the podium, especially after putting in so much hard work and seeing it pay off.”
Gareth’s Bann team-mate James Curry was also in action in the junior race, representing Cycling Ulster and finishing a fantastic ninth to see him sitting seventh in the British Series with one round to go.
McKee had started well down the grid in 18th position in the elite race and he couldn’t even get off to the flying start he wanted.
As soon as the starting whistle was blown the rider immediately in front of McKee slipped his pedal, forcing Gareth to slow down and go round and work his way through the field. After a tough first lap working his way through the riders ahead Team Manager Simon Curry was shouting that he was in fifth position and battling with a further group of two riders ahead.
In the next lap, McKee rode a steady and measured race with the group of riders, however coming to the end of the lap Gareth would lead the group across the line before making his break.
“The course suited me because it wasn’t overly hilly,” he said. “The group I was riding with at the start were riding quite negatively though so I broke away into third and tried to track down the leaders.”
Over the next few laps a strong chase group formed and was now chasing hard, closing to within 30 seconds of Gareth. With no let-up in the racing, Gareth could not take it easy and relax. It was a case of riding as hard as he could to the line.
With plenty of support from Manager Simon Curry in the pits along with team mate James Curry and fellow Banbridge man and training partner Lindsay Watson who had suffered a mechanical during the same race, Gareth was receiving plenty of cheers from the side-lines as he held on to a fantastic third place, a career best result.
This excellent result means Gareth moves up to sixth position in the overall British Series with one round still to go.
Before he takes on the final round though, he has the small matter of the Irish National Championships to look forward to, a race he desperately wants to win.
“This finish has given me a lot of confidence going into that one,” he said. “I’ve never won it before but that’s definitely the target this time. It would be nice to make it a double with James (Curry) winning as well.”
McKee was also quick to praise the his club after his impressive finish in Glasgow: “Thanks to Banbridge Cycling Club for all the support over the years, for without them this would not have been possible.”