Road racing commences and there’s a medal haul for Gerry

THIS Saturday sees the start of the open road racing season in Ulster with the Annaclone Grand Prix hosted by Banbridge CC taking place on the compact local circuit.

This popular event is once again generously sponsored by long time supporter Sean Travers of Travers Engineering, Rathfriland .

The start and finish is at Loy’s pub and there are plenty of good vantage points around the circuit for those who would like to see what a local race bike race is like.

This race is always well supported and it is a chance for many of our local riders to guage just who well the winter training has gone.

Racing starts at 12 noon and marshals should check in well before 11am for briefing and deployment. If you are not racing there is plenty to do to help ensure that a safe and successful day’s racing ensues.

A Golden Return for Gerry - After almost three weeks intensive teamwork with the Ireland Paracyclists at the UCI World Track Championships in Los Angeles our own Gerry Beggs –chief mechanic, reflected on the outstanding haul of two gold, one silver and one bronze medal by the ultra - competitive Irish riders.

“This was way beyond our expectations and in fact drew much favourable comment from many larger national teams who were equally surprised at our achievements,” commented Gerry.

Things are looking really positive for the Paralympics later in the year and, once again, Gerry hopes to be right in the thick of things.

An ‘overnighter’ in February? - Banbridge Cycling Club caters for all aspects of cycling but when someone suggested a trip to Newtownstewart on the border between Tyrone and Donegal in February many thought it a shade ambitious – not least on account of the risky weather, limited daylight hours and an arduous route through the southern Sperrins.

However with Kirby McGovern and Paul McGuckin, two veterans of the route, accompanying Willy Weir, Ian Orr, Gerry Beggs , Cathy McArdle and Shirley Lee, the group were confident of reaching their destination before dark when they set off from Scarva last Friday morning.

Early rain disappeared to allow dry progress to a lunch stop in Cookstown via Portadown, Maghery, and Stewartstown. However the day got tougher with the ascent up through Orritor village and over the southern ridge of the Sperrins to the top of the Owenkillew river valley.

The beautiful scenery was shrouded in rain clouds as the long descent to Gortin was successfully negotiated into the face of a rising headwind. By the time the 60 mile mark was reached the group needed coffee and a welcome break in a warm Gortin hostelry revived spirits for the last 8 miles to Newtownstewart.

The evening in the hotel passed uneventfully with the main focus being on replenishing lost calories – one of the true joys of cycle touring!

Saturday morning dawned wintry cold but with a fabulous 20mph NW wind to blow the group home. Retracing Fridays route but with occasional snow flurries instead of Friday’s late drizzle, the return journey – in mostly bright sunshine, was completed in well under 6 hours cycling time.

With almost 140 miles over the two days everyone agreed that, having stepped off the plane from Los Angeles a mere 36 hours earlier, Gerry’s overall performance, after three weeks off his bike, was remarkable.

However the ladies, it has to be said, set the pace for long stretches and proved fully capable of mastering the conditions, the distance and their colleagues over the two day tour, much to everyone’s delight. This could be the first of many similar adventures during the coming season.