THE weekend past saw West Down Wheelers trio Paul Wilkinson, Ian and Alistair Walker taking part in the Newry Wheelers-promoted three-day race.
Almost 90 riders left Warrenpoint at 7pm on Friday evening for 44 mile Stage One and while a few movers tried to get away, the race mainly stayed together for the duration of the night.
On the Grinan Hill 1st Cat. climb splits appeared but were absorbed again on the descent before a sprint finish after three laps of Warrenpoint town. All three West Down men finished just three seconds back of Nigel Quigley (Bann Wheelers) who took the win.
An early start to Saturday morning and Stage Two saw a 2.5mile time trial from Hilltown. Paul had an excellent time of 4’34”, moving to 13th position overall with Ian Richardson (UCD) moving into first place.
Saturday afternoon’s 54 mile Queen Stage Three included the gruelling climbs of Reed Hall and Yellow Water before the 1st Cat. finish over Spelga.
Attacks were fairly regular and the resulting pace soon took its toll. Unfortunately Alistair also punctured on the descent of Reed Hall and dropped down the field. A very gutsy ride saw him complete the stage just four minutes back of a then well thinned out main group, lead home by Art McManus (South Dublin).
Sunday’s 66 mile final Stage Four set off at a fast pace with attacks beginning as early as the first two miles. This set the pattern for the day with the Wheelers men playing their part in the main bunch with some strong riding.
As the race moved from Newry, through Banbridge and on to Bryansford via Castlewellan a group of eight riders with locals Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC), Davy McKnight & Darren Weir (TVR) amongst them, distanced themselves from the main group, again testing even the most seasoned riders with a fast pace of 30mph plus at times to reel them back in.
By Rathfriland both Paul and Ian were suffering from cramp leaving Alistair out on his own to finish in Newry again just six seconds adrift of the first man home. Ian and Paul both finished the stage just over a minute later. McManus did enough on the day to retain his yellow jersey.
The Club wish to congratulate the lads on their great achievement as it moves forward, it’s great to see and also to thank Paul and Simon for looking after the boys behind the scenes and for providing the service car.