AWESOME, fantastic, championship quality, best course ever used, worthy of National Championship status, outstanding event!
These were some of the adjectives used to describe the weekend’s bike racing around the Stranocum, Armoy roads.
The honour of hosting these first ever ‘Provincial’ championships in Ulster was awarded to Ballymoney Cycling Club as they were voted the Club of the Year and for this they got the opportunity to showcase this blue ribbon event here on our north Antrim roads.
With the race head quarters at the Ballymoney Rugby Club, over the two days saw 200 racers and the same again in supporters and spectators, all of them enjoyed the hospitality put on by the local club with a dedicated group of members in attendance to make sure no one went hungry.
Saturday saw what looked like bedlam on the entry to the Kilraughts rode a racers, team cars, support vehicles, lead cars, motor bikes,
marshalls and officials milled around in expectancy.
In the middle of it all was race organiser Maurice McAllister who has shown that he possess enough experience to see these events pass off without hitch. And as expected amidst whistles and car horns the field of one hundred riders headed out towards the start at Gracehill Road.
Three races were scheduled to take place, the “Elite” senior event over 80 miles around what has been described as “The best course ever used for a bike race”. This route took in the “Park” a picturesque series of windy roads amidst sleepy homesteads and farmland outside Armoy and also one of the most photographed natural sights in Ulster, “The Dark Hedges”
This race was ran at neck break speed and the first 11 miles covered at over 27mph average. Riders were loosing contact as the prestigious
title of Ulster Road Race Champion was going to be a battle worth winning and top names like eventual winner Peter Hawkins, Team Sigma Sport,
Fraser Duncan, Team Euro Cycles, Gary Cranston, Glen Kinning both Audi East Antrim, along with local riders Steven McAllister, BCC Racing Team and
Devon McIlwaine Team Duffin. With the field constantly splitting and riders trying to break free it was on with two laps to go that Hawkins, Duncan, Cranston and to junior Daniel Stewart had broke clear of the field and although being chased by a group of eight it was clear to those watching that the medals would be decided by this fast travelling quartet. Through the start and finish a leg seizing attack was launched by Hawkins and his breakaway companions could not respond to his aggressive riding and immediately looked to have settled for the minor placings!
With a good crowd gathering in the balmy sunshine, necks were stretched to see in the small figure of Peter Hawkins could hold on, and with the car horn of the lead car signalling his arrival to the finish area in the village at Stranocum. It was a clear and decisive victory for the Belfast pro team rider Peter Hawkins.
Gary Cranston from East Antrim had also broke clear and took silver with Fraser Duncan getting the bronze. Young junior Daniel Stewart got the gold for the first junior rider. Audi East Antrim won the Team medals.
The Vets and woman’s race was run on the same course over 50 and 57 miles, again the pace was frantic and both races in the last two laps saw a breakaway establish a good lead. Winner of the vets was Paul Mulligan from Euro Cycles and the woman’s race went to Amy Brice of Phoenix CC. Local rider Niall O’Hagan from Loughguile missed out in a medal but was delight to get a very good 5th place in the Vets race. Ballymoney CC was represented by our own winner of the Vanishing Lake chase last month, Philip McKeown.
Special thanks has to go to the local residents of the Park for you patience and co operation and to the residents of Stranocum especially Mr Douglas the garage owner who was practically besieged for the last hour. To all the marshalls and helpers from our own Club at Ballymoney, but also to Dunloy, Duffin, Carn Wheelers,
Ballycastle, Ballymena, Bann Wheelers, Chain Reaction and Bann Valley.
Marcus Christie and Philip Mcguigan win on Sunday!
The Ulster Time Trial Championships took place on the Ballybogey/Portrush line in warm, sunny conditions with a slight side wind. 56 riders from all over the province came to do battle for the medals on offer and the prestigious title of TT Champion.
It was great to see top local specialist in this discipline back in action, John Madden who had a nasty crash during the Tour of Ulster this year had taken a break but was making a comeback in time for the Championships. Ballymoney CC riders Ryan Patton, Jason Taggart and Ricky McMaster were also amongst the starters.
The former winner of the Ras Donegal and also making a comeback was super-kid Marcus Christie, the Strabane student is coming back to cycling after
injury and a well earned break. Stormed through Ballybogey and round the Portrush Rd roundabout at Ballymoney to take the gold in a time of 20 mins 21 seconds.
From silver medallist John Heverin from Lurgan and the bronze going to local man John Madden. Woman’s prize went to Amy Brice, Vets to John Heverin and Junior prize to Ian Inglis, Girls prize went to Laura Maxwell and the Martin Birney Trophy went to U16 rider Craig Crawford
This event was timed by the ever reliable Gordon Parker!
McGuigan wins the 50 mile A4 Support Race
With four races already successfully organised the weekend was finished off with an A4 race over the unusual for these rider distance of 50 miles.
Again Stranocum was the venue and Fivey Road, Bregagh Rd and Ballykenver saw the erratic action of the seven lap event. This time the organising
was left to BCC chairman Charlie Dickson and William Loughridge as Maurice McAllister was now the race Commissaire and was for a change getting a chance to see the racing close up. Ballymoney CC riders in this group were Jason Bartlett, Aaron Dickie, Jordan McCaw, James McCann and club 10TT championship bronze medal winner Mervyn Linton.
On the second from last lap on the steep rise on to the Ballykenver Rd a breakaway formed and in was the fast finishing McGuigan, who recently won the Dunloy Road Race. Coming into the finish on the up hill rise to the chequered flag, it was 1st Philip McGuigan Dunloy CC, 2nd Quinton McFaul Ballymena and Ryan Walsh Carn Wheelers.
Again it has to be said that if we do not have riders we do not have races, but as important if we do not have marshalls looking after the road junctions then as organisers we cannot hold these events. Ballymoney Cycling Club want to thank everyone who helped in any way make this weekend of racing a big success.
Already plans are in place for a “Classic” event for 2013 with some families who want to be involved making it a memorial race. Details will be announced when everything is in place.
Jason Taggart, Stuart Laverty, Ryan Orr and Mervyn Linton.
In next weeks news its about their achievements, the highs and some lows but all round it will make great reading as Ballymoney CC riders pick up more honours
all over Ireland and in different categories.
This Wednesday evening the Kirkhills circuit will be used for the club race, 16.7km of good roads and a few challenges through in.
Sign on from 6.30 and race starts sharp 7.15pm.More pics and stories inside.