Banbridge Cycling Club managed to pull off the unexpected when they hosted the 2015 edition of the Travers Engineering Annaclone GP on Saturday past.
Only two weeks ago the club were notified that the traditionally used Annaclone circuit would be unavailable due to rescheduled road works in the area.
However, with the assistance of Gibson Bro’s Ltd who facilitated a last minute temporary re-opening of the road to accommodate the cyclists, the GP was back on and opened the Ulster road racing season in close to zero temperatures.
Two races were hosted, the first catering for the A1, 2 & 3 category riders and the support event catering for the A4 riders. Facing a distance of 48 and 40 miles respectively, the distances would be relatively short but the enthusiasm and speed was high with racers keen to see the results of their training efforts over the winter months.
The main race was handicapped with the A3 riders given a three minute advantage. Banbridge had a number of yellow jerseys in both groups with Nathan Sturrock, Simon Curry, James Curry, Daniel Purdy and Cameron McIntyre all in the large A3 bunch with Gareth McGreevy and Mark Downey in the chasing A1 and A2 bunch.
McGreevy and Downey didn’t hang about with the rest of their group and made a quick escape on the opening laps with three other riders, closing the deficit and making the juncture to the A3s with approximately 10 miles remaining.
Unfortunately for them, an escape group of three riders had already made a bid for glory and had gained an advantage of 50 seconds. Making up the escape group were Andrew Bye of Newry Wheelers, Matthew Brennan of Ballymena Road Club and Niall O’Hagan of Ballymoney CC.
The focus of the combined A3 and A1/A2 escapee group was now solely on catching the leading three but perhaps underestimating the strength of Bye of Newry who pushed on ahead solo to increase his lead over the chasers, so much so that he would cross the finish line with an impressive two minute advantage. A fast charging, recently crowned Junior Irish Cyclo-Cross Champion, James Curry of Banbridge CC bagged third, showing his form from off road is easily transferable to tarmac.
In the A4 event, Banbridge CC were represented by David Lavery, Andrew Beattie and long-time sponsor of the event Don Travers. Travers could be seen in multiple moves trying to break free of the main bunch but the race would remain largely intact until a large crash on the penultimate lap would see all but about 20 riders delayed. Christopher McGlinchey of Chain Reaction Cycles, who had looked strong all day, used his off-road skills as a well-known mountain bike downhiller to avoid trouble and would power home with a small advantage over Mark Sergeant of Keevan CC. Kevin McKinney of Armagh CC would lead home the bunch sprint to round out the podium.
1 – Andrew Bye (Newry Wheelers) 01:58:28
2 – Niall O’Hagan (Ballymoney CC) @ 02:12
3 – James Curry (Banbridge CC) @ 2:24
4 – Sean Carey (North Down CC) @ ST
5 – Mark Heaney ( Carn Wheelers) @ ST
6 – Andrew Stewart (Shelbourne Motors / Orchard CC) @ST
7 – Curtis Gilmore (Team Madigan) @ ST
8 – Daragh Campbell (Novo Nordisk Development Team) @ ST
9 – Glenn Dunwoody (Shelbourne Motors / Orchard CC)
10 – Aaron Hanthorn (Shelbourne Motors / Orchard CC)
1 – Christopher McGlinchey (Chain Reaction Cycles) 01:47:00
2 – Mark Sergeant (Keevan CC)
3 – Kevin McKinney (Arnagh CC)
4 – Paul McMinn (Ards CC)
5 – Chris Mollaghan (Orwell Wheelers)
6 – Owen Henry (Newry Wheelers)
7 – Mark Johnston (Bann Wheelers)
8 – Richard Topping (Ards CC)
Banbridge CC would sincerely like to thank those who made the event such a success, including the many static and motorbike marshals who also endured the bitterly cold conditions, Annaclone GAA club for the use of their excellent facilities, Gibson Bros Ltd for their efforts in ensuring a safe circuit despite the required road works and Sean and Don Travers of Travers Engineering in Rathfriland for their ongoing support and sponsorship of the event.