Peter Williams (Shelbourne Motors/Orchard CC) and Heather Wilson (Maryland Wheelers) claimed Champion's jerseys on Sunday at the Northern Ireland RR Championship promoted by North Down CC. Following a busy morning of organising events for Youth, Over 50's and A4's, the well-oiled machine that is North Down churned into action again in the afternoon by promoting the two Championship events for Seniors.
A full field of over 60 riders entered the men's race which covered nine laps of the course, totalling 74 miles. Last year’s winner Gary Cranston returned to defend his title backed by a strong East Antrim team while last year's runner-up, Stuart Henry (Herbalife) was hoping to improve on last year's result. Some of his team-mates from England travelled over to the event as well.
With strong winds and some climbing to do the event was always going to be hard but with some of the top names in the country in attendance the pace was high as well. Cranston and Liam Curran (Curran Racing) were the first to open a gap on the hard chasing peloton.
Joe Barr of Italian Heart Cycling, just returned from winning a Grand Fondo who was an unexpected entry, quickly reacted and began the chase taking Maryland's Mark Greer and North Pole's Rory Devlin with him. The race was on.
Next to react were Peter Williams (Shelbourne/OrchardCC), Desi Foley (Team Basso Today's Cyclist), Shane Farran (North Down) and William McMullan (Ards CC). In the bunch a lot of har riding at the front was done by Damian Lagan (North Pole), Peter Lilley (Slane Cycles) and James McMaster (Curran Racing)
A number of the chasing groups managed to get across to the two leaders and the race continued with small breaks forming fast moving chase groups. Michael Murray of Clann Eireann got across and halfway through the event decided to attack followed once agan by expert 'race reader' Curran.
However with the hard course and weather such breaks were never going to be allowed to develop too much and he was eventually reeled in by the chasers.
Hot on their heels a new group had formed which included Lilley, McMaster, Cormac Clarke (Newry Wheelers) Jason Henry (U/A) and Foyle duo Aaron Deane and Lawrence Watson as well Stuart Henry and some of the Herbalife squad.
Next up it was the turn of Fraser Duncan of Eurocycles to try and bridge the gap to the leaders. Despite hard riding on his part it was not to be his day.
In the penultimate lap, Cranston decided it was now or never and went for it as he crossed the line. He rode strongly but could not withstand the might of the determined early leaders.
As the race approached the finish line for the final time, three riders appeared round the corner out on their own and the sprint began to wind up. Cranston, possibly tired from earlier exertions could stay with the other two, so it was Peter Williams and Rory Devlin who contested the sprint to the line with Williams just taking it and the title to boot. Cranston had to be content with third place.
Next up was Murray who had ridden clear of the others to take fourth but he had also done enough work early on to lift the points for the King of the Mountains. Murray has been steadily coming back to form and rode the race after having a hard day in the saddle on Saturday in the Red Hand Trophy. There is a win coming soon from this rider.
The remaining places were lifted by a sprint among the remaining leaders with Curran getting fifth ahead of Foley followed in by Greer and McMullan.
Joe Barr was next across the line having been dropped from the break in the closing miles while Henry and Clarke were next up, the best of the chasers. Clarke had done enough to secure the Junior Champion Award.
Cycling Ulster would like to wish Joe Barr all the best in his next event to be held in Milan next week.
All in all this was a great race with some very dedicated and hard working riders. Jason Henry and Lawrence Watson were very noticeable and Aaron Deane is definitely back on his way to the top. Glen Kinning of East Antrim Audi rode hard all day but following his efforts in the Red Hand where he was in many of the breaks, on this occasion the legs failed him in the closing stages.
A group of about fifteen women lined up for the Women's event with a strong showing from Phoenix CC who fielded four riders. However with last year's winner, Heather Wilson of Maryland on the start line the eventual winner was almost assured.
The women set off together but it was not long into the race when a game of cat and mouse began between Heather Wilson, Ciara Mulholland (Clann Eireann) and Claire Oakley (WXC MTB).
Oakley dropped out of the game while Wilson and Mulholland continued to play games until Wilson put the foot down and rode away clear of the other women. It was now down to the chase and Julie Mulligan(Omagh Wheelers), Kay Hack (Bann Wheelers) and the Phoenix contingent rode hard but with little chance of making inroads into the gap created by Wilson.
Heather Wilson romped home to lift the laurels with the remaining places coming down to a bunch sprint amongst those who were still in contention.
On the line Mulholland's great sprinting techniques came to the fore and she lifted second place with Phoenix CC's Val O'Neill putting in a superb effort to take third.
Relative newcomer, Amy Brice of Phoenix was a close fourth and when she eventually manages to get rid of the 'garden gate' she is currently riding she will be a rider to watch.
Next placings were taken by Claire Oakley, Tonya Moran, Julie Mulligan and Therese Smyth (Phoenix CC).
Once again thanks to North Down for promoting so many events, to the PSNI and static and Motorbike marshalls and to comms, Brendan Kirk, Dany Blondeel and Jack Watson. The women back at the Rugby club were fantastic as were the main organisers, Tom Henry, Julie Stephenson, Austin McNally, Harry Adams, Ian Blayney and Noel Boyce.
FOR SOME MORE PICS OF THE EVENT CLICK ON THE GALLERY LINK BELOW.
Some more pics of the event by Alan Cranston can be viewed at
Report and Pics Marian Lamb
Pic of Heather Winning courtesy of Bronagh Kirk (Ards CC)
Results - Men's NI Championships - 115km
1. Peter Williams (SHelbourne Motors/Orchard CC)
2. Rory Devlin (North Pole CC)
3. Gary Cranston (East Antrim Audi)
4. Mickey Murray (Clann Eireann)
5. Liam Curran (Curran Racing)
6. Desi Foley (Team Basso)
7. Mark Greer (Maryland Wheelers)
8. William McMullan (Ards CC)
9. Joe Barr (Italian Heart Cycling)
10. Stuart Henry (Herbalife)
11th and 1st Junior Cormac Clarke (Newry Wheelers)
Results - NI Women's Championships
1. Heather Wilson (Maryland Wheelers)
2. Ciara Mulholland (Clann Eireann)
3. Val O'Neill (Phoenix CC0
4. Amy Brice (Phoenix CC)
5. Claire Oakley (WXC MTB
6. Tonya Moran (Phoenix CC)
7. Julie Mulligan (Omagh Wheelers)
8. Therese Smyth (Phoenix CC)
Photographs below courtesy of Eric Blayney