Dromore is fast becoming the cyclo-cross capital of Ireland
It’s now four Irish Championships titles in a row for the town, after Roger Aiken reclaimed his title at Tollymore on Sunday.
That was his third success in four years, with fellow Dromore man David Montgomery taking advantage of his absence to win last season.
Montgomery secured second this time round, as well as the U23 title, but finished well behind the cycling legend and now five-times winner Aiken.
“It’s nice to win another one,” Roger told the ‘LEADER.’ “Five’s a great number and it was nice to win it 10 years after I won it for the first time.
“It’s all down to hard work and a lot of training really,” continued the Banbridge CC man, racing for Team ASEA Wheelworx.
Absent was Roger’s long-time rival and 18 time champion Robin Seymour, who was racing in the Veterans category in preparation for a potential bid at the World Championships.
“Even if he was going to be there, I was more worried about the liked of David Montgomery and Glenn Kinning,” said Aiken. “They made it tough and it was tight until around the half way mark. I managed to get a few seconds ahead and kept increasing my advantage until a couple of laps to go when I knew I was in good shape, barring a mechanical.”
Just missing out on a podium spot was another Banbridge CC man Gareth McKee. So with the club securing three of the top four places, what is the secret of their success at the discipline?
“We have a very good Ulster League with a lot of very good races on our doorstep,” said Aiken. “We don’t have too far to go to get good quality racing.”
Aiken did well to see off the challenge of reigning champion Montgomery, who went into the race as the fancied favourite following a busy season on the international circuit in Belgium.
It was Gareth McKee who made a blistering start as fellow Bann man James Curry came off on a tight corner, but the race soon began to settle with Montgomery hot on the heels of leader Aiken.
And Roger managed to draw out a 15 second lead with two laps remaining and from there, there was no stopping him as he powered ahead to confirm his standing as the top cyclo-cross rider in the country and claim his fifth national title. Montgomery would finish comfortably in second to claim the silver medal and first Under 23.
Behind them. things weren’t so comfortable as McKee had put in another blistering lap and was visibly closing on Kinning and the bronze medal. It was, however, too late for the Moneyslane man and Kinning secured third.
McKee’s effort was obvious to see as he collapsed on the grass from exhaustion – he could do no more, and should be proud of it. James Curry had also put in a very solid race in his first senior championship and claimd third U23, behind McGlinchey.
In the other age categories, Banbridge riders were also to the fore. Cameron McIntyre who recently signed for the Nicolas Roche Performance team was an excellent second following a tight fought battle with Banbridge CC rider John Buller who finished third.
The evergreen Don Travers was in the thick of the action in the over 40s race, finishing a fine sixth place. In the same race, newcomer Mark Kendall experienced mechanical difficulties, but battled on to finish his first National Championships. Ian Cochrane and William Forsyth also enjoyed some tight racing in the Over 50s.