Dromara cyclists take to the roads in Donaghadee
NORTH Down CC hosted the NI road race championships at Donaghadee.
The course appeared flat but had some draggy sections although road surface was excellent. The A3's were given a short handicap over the A1's and A2's but the with 79 miles to cover it made little difference.
By the third lap the groups were together and a seven man group formed after 40 miles of racing and never looked in danger of being caught by the chasing pack. East Antrim's Gary Cranston proved the strongest sprinter edging out Bangor's Stuart Henry (Herbalife) who had made a quick weekend journey from University in England at the weekend to compete.
The last podium place was taken by Cranston's teammate Glen Kinning. Stuart Henty (Herbalife) lifted enough points on th eprimes to takethe KOH title and the new Brian Marshall trophy in memory of North Down's former member who was killed three years previously.
As expected, Heather Wilson (Maryland CC) was a runaway victor in the women's event coming home five minutes clear of second placed Ciara Mulholland (Clann Eireann). The young Lurgan teenager was the only rider able to respond to Wilson's initial attack but had to drop back when the Irish National Champion put on the pressure.
The bronze medal went to Lisa Rodgers (Team Bikeworks) who has only recently returned to the local racing scene. Ten women lined out and although Heather's attack split the bunch the race was competitive with Phoenix CC's Tomya Moran, Julie Mulligan (Omagh) and Claire Oakley (XMTB McConvey Cycles) fighting back all the time.
Louise Fullerton of Ballymena had a mechanical early on and had a solo fight to get back to the chasers while team-mate Maeve Savage showed a great improvement in form.
The B event for 4th category riders saw a well deserved victory for Stephen McAllister (Ballymoney CC) who was rarely off the front of the bunch but still managed to find the strength to take the final sprint. McAllister crossed the line ahead of North Down's Warren Pauley and Simon Welby (Dromara CC) and Neill Currie (Dromara CC) in fourth spot.
Perhaps the best sprint of the day occurred in the A race. As the riders approached the finish area with the bell signalling the last lap, SportActive's Paul Vaughan. who was in the break all day, launched himself at the line and then raised his hands in victory only to hear the shouts of "Keep going, you have another lap." No doubt the tale will be told with embellishments for many a long day!
Not only did North Down host the Senior events but they also had racing for U14s and U16s. There was a good field for both events and the racing was competitive. In the U16 event the bunch split in two and although the chasers worked hard the break stayed away. In the end Orchard's Robert Anderson had the legs to take the win from Cormac Clarke (Newry Wheelers) and Daniel Stewart (Ards CC).
In the U14 event the three laps of the course split the idersinto several small groups. Mark Downey of Banbridge took the win easily from Craig Crawford (TSC Racing) while East Tyrone's Harry McComb took third. Tommy Lamb rode around with the U14's for the first lap until they shot him out. Ballymena's Adam McCullough took pity on him and tried to get him back on but to no avail.
As this was the first round of the Ulster Youth League, Youth Commission Chairman, Mickey McKenna was there and presented the prizes. He congratulated North Down on an excellent event and praised all the young riders for their agressiveness throughout the race.
The races were run off in mixed weather conditions with some warm sunshine and brisk winds but all events had more than their fair share of heavy downpours which left the riders soaking wet and cold.
North Down are to be congratulated on an well organised event. The new Safety officer did an excellent job with signage out before eight in the morniing and lots of marshalls at appointed corners.
The women who catered deserve a special thanks as they had food available from nine in the morning and they just kept on refilling plates and cups. Many thanks to them. Once agian the motorbike marshalls and the PSNI are to be thanked for making the event so much safer for all concerned.