Cyclists compete at Memorial Races

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CYCLISTS and race officials were treated to glorious weather for the 2011 edition of Banbridge CC’s John Beggs and Sean McGreevy Memorial Races in Dromore.

While the weather may have made the racing more enjoyable it was certainly no picnic for the riders as they faced one of toughest circuits on the racing calendar.

Starting in Dromore, climbing into Ballykeel before climbing further through Drumlough and through the fast roads between Hillsbourgh and Dromore to re-join the circuit, there is virtually no-where to rest when the pace is on.

Despite the reputation of the course, competitors travelled to Co.Down in the knowledge that ahead of the hard stage races of the Easter period such a race would represent a true test of racing form against some of the best in the country and with an inflated prize fund thanks to FS Herron Farm Feeds the winners would be well rewarded for doing so.

Three races were promoted on the day, varying in length for the different racing categories. The A4 category riders faced five laps, totalling 80km, and with plenty of local riders there was plenty of support around the circuit.

Early favourites included Banbridge’s Kevin McAlinden who was been knocking on the door for a win in this category in recent weeks. Despite numerous attacks this race mostly stayed together until the last lap when unknown quantity Jeff Robinson from Bray attacked the bunch.

Sensing the danger McAlinden launched himself after the Bray man determined to cross the line first. Robinson had timed it to perfection however and crossed the line alone while in an ironic twist of fate the final drag to the finish line which McAlinden had helped design in the weeks leading up the races was enough to take enough speed out of the Banbridge rider allowing the now galloping main bunch to catch him only meters from the line.

It was another local man Mark Alexander from West Down Wheelers who led the bunch home to take second place. Banbridge CC’s Michael Curran who has been showing great form was 6th while Kevine McAlinden virtually collapsed over the line inside the top 10 after his heroic effort.

The A3 race was non-stop attacking from the start with some riders showing excellent form over 6 laps of the circuit. Early Favourites included Banbridge riders and regular training partners Scott Daly who thrives in the hills and off road supremo Matthew Adair.

The decisive move in this race came on the penultimate lap when three riders moved clear of a large breakaway, including Adair. The three riders, Cormac Clarke of Newry Wheelers, Letterkenny’s Conor McIlwaine and Daniel Stewart of Ards CC built up a healthy lead but with only a lap remaining a touch of wheels left Stewart crashing to the ground and in the hands of the onsite Red Cross.

McIlwaine and Clarke worked well together and in a dramatic sprint to the line left the judges with an impossible task of splitting the two to announce a winner. Despite much checking and re-checking various photo finishes a clear winner could not be identified and the two young riders will share the Sean McGreevy trophy for the next 12 months.

The remainder of the breakaway had now split and it was Castlereagh’s Chris Richardson who completed the podium closely followed by Tony Boyle. Banbridge CC’s Simon Curry led the main bunch home in another dramatic sprint beating Dromora rider Gavin Magowan who rode strongly all day.

The main race of the day, covering 125km, attracted some of Irish cycling’s best talent and top teams, including Ryan Sherlock and Martyn Irvine of Giant Asia racing team, Euro Cycles’ Adam Armstrong and Frazer Duncan – winner of last week’s Tour of Ards, Slane Cycles’ Ryan Connor and Peter Lilley – a local rider and member of Banbridge CC who has been showing great form after spending the last couple of months racing in Belgium. Missing was Banbridge CC’s four time winner of the event Roger Aiken who is currently training in Majorca ahead of the Easter races.

A2 riders were given a handicap of 6 minutes over the A1 riders but with such firepower in the A1 bunch this quickly dropped to under two minutes in the first couple of laps by which time a group of six, including some of the pre-race favourites, had moved clear of them main A1 bunch and where close to catching the front of the race.

This fast moving group of elites formed the break of the day and would stay clear for the remainder of the race. The tough circuit and distance took its toll on many of the riders and with only two laps remaining even the front group had been reduced to 4; Stuart Henry of the English Wheelbase squad, who has returned home for the Tour of The North, Simon Williams of the newly formed Team Basso, 2010 Commonwealth games rider Adam Armstrong of Eurocycles and Giant Asia’s Martyn Irvine, recently home from the World Track Chmapionships where he secured an excellent top 10 overall in the Omnium event.

Unfortunately Henry suffered a mechanical and was left to chase alone but was unable to re-join the fast moving trio. On the final lap the riders attacked each other in hoping to get en edge on one another before returning to the finish in Dromore in front of the expecting crowds. In the closing km the speed carried over from the track was too much to live with for others as Irvine crossed the line to receive a loud cheer ahead of Armstrong and Williams.

The great team work of the race marshals, timekeepers and judges ensured the days racing represented an excellent promotion for Banbridge Cycling Club which was enjoyed by all as planning now begins for the next promotion of the Noel Teggart Memorial in Banbridge in June.