BALLYMONEY Cycling Club 5th out of 18 teams, Stevie McAllister 9th overall in the final General Classification, Jason Henry 6th on stage 1 and 5th on stage 3.
And McAllister again 6th on the final monster stage finishing at the top of Glengesh mountain, this year run in freezing wet and treacherous conditions.
This performance by the Ballymoney club is the best ever by any team of individuals in the area.
Four Masters in Letterkenny promote annually the Ras Donegal based this year in Ardara. This is a tough four stage race held over 3 days.
Ballymoney CC entered a four man team for the challenge that lay ahead. Stevie McAllister
Bryan McKinney, Niall O’Hagan and guest rider and local lad Jason Henry gathered on Friday night along with 140 other riders to take part in what is known as “Crazy Friday” On the road out of Ardara on the way towards Glenties it was plain to see that was going to be a tough weeks racing. Speeds at almost 40 mph and constant attacks saw the stretched bunch struggle to stay intact. Onto the coast road for Killybegs and the now fractured bunch racing headlong to the bottom of the long Cat 2 climb before the neckbreak plunge down into Ardara main Street for the finish.
With Jason, Stevie and Bryan in this group it was not an evening for heroics but Ballymoney’s fast finisher Jason Henry launched his famous winning sprint for the line but the unfamiliar terrain saw him caught and passed before the line, settling for 6th place. Followed by Bryan, Stevie and Niall.
Stage 2 was on the side of a mountain, 2.6 miles of torturous climbing to the top.
The Ballymoney boys were off first led by Niall, this is Niall’s first experience in this type of stage racing and was showing his true grit in style, appearing out of the mist as the riders clawed their way to the top.
Fastest Ballymoney rider was Bryan McKinney, from Jason, Stevie and Niall.
It was now time for recovery and top up the energy levels before the important 3rd stage over 60 miles in tough unforgiving terrain.
The four boys were boosted by support from home as friends and members of Ballymoney CC came down to cheer them on. Leaving the Toon at 6am to get to Ardara for the 2nd and 3rd stages.
Special thanks to Davy Wallace, Nigel Elder, Olly Bateson, Garreth McBride and Adrian Madden.
2.30 pm and the now sore and suffering legs were evident as the bunch rolled out towards Portnoo. The Ballymoney boys were early into the action with Bryan McKinney breaking away and at one stage had 20 seconds on the bunch as he raced towards the steep and energy sapping Corkscrew climb in an attempt to get some points in the “King of the Mountains” competition.
But with the yellow jersey in a hostile mood Bryan was chased down and had to settle for third over the top. It seemed to be a day for sorting things out and a firm challenge could be mounted on yellow if the right people got together.
Racing towards Glenties and the final 4 miles to Ardara a now depleted bunch of 40 plus hardened riders were getting ready to sprint for the honours again.
Two mile to go and BCC’s Bryan McKinney punctured as the now racing bunch snaked across the road. Fast finisher Jason Henry was agin looking for a good position and was on the wheel of team mate McAllister as they jostled for position. Jason this time getting 5th.
The Final stage and pale weary faces signed on in torrential rain and biting winds, quiet conversations were held as plans were drawn up for a possible Ulster victory over the man in yellow from Castlebar Olympic rider Damien Shaw, Shaw led the field by just over 60 seconds.
With the Ballymoney riders under 2 minutes down it was clear from McAllister defiant and sullen demeanour that he had been stung and was under strict instructions to put in a challenge if not for the yellow jersey at least go for a top stage position.
With the familiar and daunting mountain top finish on Glengesh, the tired bunch headed out the road again for one final clash in this saga of mental and physical wills in the mountains of Donegal. 4 stiff Cat 2 climbs and the final Cat 1 were on the organisers menu for the day. After 30 miles it could be heard on race radio a group of four riders were 2 minutes up on the now disintegrated bunch that was split and scattered along the wet roads. Out of this bunch came an attack by Ballymoney’s Jason Henry followed by Steven McAllister.
Heads down the two lads set about hunting the four riders up the road down and making a serious challenge for yellow.
But the classy Castlebar man joined the two Ballymoney riders as they entered Ardara for the first lap and with 20 miles to go. McAllister who was riding strong and with the group of four caught he set a blistering pace with the yellow jersey on tow heading into the valley at the foot of the mountain.
With the summit shrouded in mist the unbelievably tough climb was hit with a frantic clattering of gears changing as they headed up the slopes to the summit.
Top Ulster team rider Matt Adair won the stage and the Ballymoney CC rider had to settle for 6th place and 9th overall for the Ras Donegal 2011. Team mates Jason Henry, Bryan McKinney and Niall O’Hagan were all successful finishers.
Special thanks goes to Eddy McKinney who looked after the team on the road each day with, wheels, bottles and food.
Reports coming next week,
The Ballymoney Cycling Club 10 TT Championships, head to head clash on the Portrush line, with a well deserved winner. The Noel Teggart Memorial Road races at Banbridge, first time outings for Devon McIlwaine and Wayne Stevens, read how they get on in this Classic racing.
Events this week
The Orra Mountain Classic TT on Wednesday evening starts in Magherahoney at 715pm. This weekend is the Newry 3 Day with Ballymoney CC entering a very strong 5 man team for this battle in the Mournes, full reports next week.