Sunday 16 September seen the opening round of the 2018 Ulster Cyclo-cross season take place at Lurgan Park. Host club Apollo CT is well-versed at running events in this park and wish to thank the council and park managers for their ongoing support. The park is the largest in Ulster and is very busy most days with casual users and event attendees including those enjoying the Junior Parkrun. The park was in great shape with the recent dry spell making the grass very firm and fast. The weather on the day was pleasant with no rain and light wind. Sign on took place at the bowling pavilion which also accommodated the prize giving and generous catering as well. The youth races took place around the bowling pavilion and tennis courts. The senior races all started and finished on the main grass expanse in the centre of the park.
The first race of the day was for the youngest category, the Under 6s with their ‘fun’ race. The start line for their race was over towards the tennis court which gave them a short course which the parents, who were running alongside, were pleased about! All of the 24 young riders, some on strider bikes, received a goodie bag at the end of their race. A perfect introduction to the sport.
The first of the ‘serious’ races was for the Under 8s. They were given 2 laps to complete, but the fastest ones could easily have done another lap. Their course incorporated the usual dismount section which is demarked by foam lengths of insulation. The aim of this feature is get the riders accustomed to dismounting and remounting their bicycles. Starting the season off in great style was overall winner Brodie Hull (Trail Demons CC) with Rory McCool (Square Wheels) second and Eunan Campbell (Square Wheels) third, completing the boys’ podium. Fastest girl was Leah Hepburn (Island Wheelers) with Skye Spence (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) second and Annie Ervine (Apollo Cycling Team) third.
New for the Under 10s and Under 12s this year were a set of wooden planks (12 cm tall) to further challenge their dismounting skills. This is one of the fundamental skills of cyclo-cross and these young riders continue to excel at bike handling skills – putting the adults to shame.
The Under 10s race was held over 4 laps and saw the biggest field of youth riders with 44 taking to the start line, 30 boys and 14 girls. Well out in front was Rhys Hepburn (Island Wheelers) who took the chequered flag with Jamie Rockett (Ards CC) just getting ahead of Ryan McBride (Banbridge CC) in a close battle. Finishing 4th overall was the first girl Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles). Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) was second girl with Maeve McCool (Square Wheels) completing the podium.
The Under 12s were up next and were given 8 laps of the same course that the Under 10s had used. The usual arrangements for all youth races is the split start with the boys going on the first whistle and the girls on the second whistle, just a few seconds later. The talk of this race was Aliyah Rafferty (Island Wheelers) who powered past all the boys to lead the overall race. Behind Aliyah was the battle for first boy between Calum Hepburn (Island Wheelers) and Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) with Calum just holding on for the win. Third boy was Karl Rockett (Ards CC). Tori Moffitt (Phoenix CC) and Rhiannon Dolan (Cuchulainn CC) finished second and third girl respectively.
After a short break for prize giving the timing crew moved down to the senior course in the centre of the park. The first race was for the Under 14s, Under 16s, Cyclo-cross Women and Women’s mountain bike support race. All riders lined up on the wide grass section near the Brownlow House end of the park. The riders then set off along the grass keeping the line of trees to their right. On the first lap they by-passed the plank obstacles which then got added in from lap 2 onwards.
Setting off on the first whistle were the Under 16s boys who had 4 laps to complete. Somhairle Owens Fisher (Omagh Wheelers Cycling Club) took a comfortable win ahead of Conor Gallagher (Errigal Cycling Club) with Adam McGeever (AAA Cycling) third and Fraser Harrower (Dromara Cycling Club) fourth. Next to start were the Under 14 boys who also had 4 laps to complete. It was an Island Wheelers one-two with Oisin Ferrity taking the top step of the podium ahead of Shane Scullion (Island Wheelers). Reuben Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) completed this podium.
A large field of Cyclo-cross women (20) then started on their 5 lap race. While Rachel Irvine (The Bike House CC) lead after lap 1 it was Fran Meehan (Kinning Cycles) who took over the lead which she held to the line. Third place went to Joanna Bula (Lakeside Wheelers Mullingar CC) with Niamh Stephens (TC Racing) 4th and Leah McCarthy (Team Giant Dublin) 5th. First unplaced junior woman was Niamh McKiverigan (J) (Powerhouse Sport).
The Under 16 girls started 15 seconds behind the CX women and had 4 laps to do. Annie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) crossed the line first with Maia Simmons (The Bike House CC) second, Maria McAllister (Island Wheelers) third and Grace Kearns (Dunloy CC) fourth.
Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) continues her dominance of racing as she took the win in the Under 14 girls’ race. Cara Moffitt (Phoenix CC) was second with Erin Kelly (Dunloy CC) third and Ellie O’Shaughnessy (Cuchulainn CC) fourth.
Karen Wynne (Foyle CC) enjoyed her win in the Women’s mountain bike support race. Nicola Nelson (Apollo Cycling Team) was second with Debbie Boyd (Apollo Cycling Team) third.
The next race of the day was the Men’s Cyclo-cross A’ race. Current National Champion, Darnell Moore (Caldwell Cycles Omagh), was content to race with Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) for the first 5 of 7 laps but put in an excellent 6th lap to draw out a gap of over 30 seconds at the finish. Glenn settled for second place with Angus Fyffe (Caldwell Cycles Omagh) holding third place for the whole race. There was a close early battle for fourth place but, by the end of the race, it was Sean O’Tuathail (Bray Wheelers) who took this position and picked up the award for first unplaced M40. Barry Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) was 5th overall with Tim O’Regan (Killarney CC) finishing 6th. First unplaced M50 rider was Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale) with Lee Harvey getting the prize for first unplaced junior. Kyle Fisher (Lakeland) was first unplaced Espoir but, unfortunately, this was not identified in time for the podium presentation. Also not identified at the time was the Team Prize which went to Newry Wheelers when Colm Quinn, Barry Convery and Gary Sheils crossed the line.
The final race of the day had two categories – Cyclo-cross Men’s B’ race and the Men’s mountain bike support race. In the CX B’ race there were 86 riders with a further 12 in the MTB support race. Both categories had 6 laps to complete. In the CX B’ race Paul Ferguson (The Bike House CC) lead from start to finish. Raymond Rocks (Island Wheelers) finished second with William Larmour (The Bike House CC) third. Marek Pluciniczak (Portadown Cycling Club) had a great race to finish fourth with Sean McCourt (VC Glendale) fifth and Lee Somerville (Lakeland) sixth. In the MTB support race Jonnie Boyle (Team Cavan Racing) carved his way up through the CX men to finish 8th overall, first MTB male. Second place went to Jonathan Sims (Banbridge CC) with Eugene Clarke (Bann Valley Road Club) just pipping Brian McAuley (Unattached) to take third and fourth respectively.
After the races the riders were able to enjoy the food laid on by the club – soup and sandwiches. Just before the final prize giving got underway there was a draw for the dates for the 2019 season.
Many thanks to all those volunteers within Apollo CT for giving up your time to host the event.
The next round of the 2018 season takes place next Sunday (23 September) at the beautiful Necarne, Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, hosted by Lakeland CC. Details can be found on www.ulstercyclocross.com.