The 2019 Ulster Cross-country (XC) Mountain Bike Championships took place at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park in South Belfast on Sunday 28 July. Host club Xmtb has been running XC races at this venue since 2009 and had devised good courses for all age categories. Unfortunately the predicted weather front did arrive on the morning of the race. Racing in light to heavy rain for most of the day. This may have been a factor in the lower-than-expected number of registrations for the event and for some of the no-shows on the day. However, there was plenty of great racing.
First up were the non-championship support races for the Under 6s, Under 8s and Under 10s. The Under 6s had 2 laps of the short wooded trail to complete. This is a great fun event for these young riders with lots of support from parents and spectators and a goodie bag at the finish.
The Under 8s then lined on the wide start straight. They had 3 laps to complete which included a final tricky 180 degree turn just before the finish line. With the wet grass this turn had to be taken carefully. Taking the win in the closely fought boys’ race was Eunan Campbell (Square Wheels) with Rory McCool (Square Wheels) just behind him and Brodie Hull (Trail Demons CC) third. Aoife Campbell (Square Wheels) was well out in front of the girls to take the win with Cara Toman (Trail Demons CC) second and Cassie Rocks (Island Wheelers) third.
The Under 10s then lined up for 5 laps of their course. Caleb McGreevy (Apollo Cycling Team) continued his great form this season to finish well clear of his rivals putting in 5 very consistent lap times. Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) finished second with Jamie Rockett (Ards CC) third. Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) continues to dominate the girls’ race to take a very comfortable win and managing to get up to 4th overall among the boys. Maeve McCool (Square Wheels) was back on the podium again to take second place with Sarah Jane Rocks (Island Wheelers) third.
The Under 12s race was the first of the Ulster Championship categories. Their course was longer than the Under 10s and they had 6 laps to complete. Following on from winning the National Championships in this category, Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) added Ulster Champion to his cycling CV. Second place went to Mr. Consistent Curtis McKee (Maryland Wheelers) with Karl Rockett (Ards CC) third. In the girls’ race Megan Lavery (Trail Demons CC) finished ahead of Edith Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club).
After a break for podium presentations the next set of race categories lined up at the start line in the following order: Junior men, Under 16 boys, Under 14 boys, Masters M50, Women, Under 14 girls (there were no entries for Under 16 girls). The Under 14s had a reduced course which avoided “the Ridge” – a slippery off camber section with a challenging climb straight after. The course, by this stage of the day, was becoming very slippery.
The first riders to appear at the end of their first lap were the leaders of the Under 14 boys race which saw another great battle between Shane Scullion (Island Wheelers) and Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers). They had two laps to complete and appearing at the end of the second lap was Shane who had to stop opposite the timing tent to sort out a mechanical on his bike which let Travis past to take the win. Travis added the Ulster title to his Irish title he won last week in Cork. Finishing third was Reuben Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club).
In the Under 14 girls’ race, Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) finished almost 6 minutes ahead of her nearest rival but what delighted Aine more was catching and passing her dad (Brendan) who was racing in the M50 category. Keela Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) finished second with Eimer Skelly (Carn Wheelers) third.
Despite being passed by his daugther, Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale), did go on to win the M50s race so that both father and daughter became Ulster champions. Andrew Burns (Shelbourne/Orchard CC) finished second with Raymond Doherty (Donegal MTB Club) third. Host club favourite Richard Faloon (XMTB) just missed out on the podium when he finished fourth.
In the Women’s race all eyes were on the current national champion, Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) to repeat her performance at Cork and Niamh didn’t disappoint adding the Ulster title to her legacy. Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) added another silver medal to her collection with Trudy Brown (VC Glendale) finishing third.
Setting the fastest lap times was Under 16s star Dean Harvey (VC Glendale) who finished almost 5 minutes ahead of second place Ryan Skelly (Carn Wheelers) after the 4 lap race. Frank Finley (McConvey Cycles) completed the podium. There were only two riders in the Junior men’s race. Only Andrew Gordon (Ballymoney CC) appeared after lap 1 and for the subsequent next 3 laps. Callum Richardson (Trail Demons CC) limped home pushing his bike with its broken derailleur.
The final races of the day were for the Senior Men, Masters M30 and Masters M40. With the feedback from the earlier race the Course Designer and Commissaire agreed to take out “the Ridge” and put the riders around the Under 14s course because the climb out of this section had become unrideable. This was appreciated by the riders as was the rain finally stopping leaving just overcast conditions. All riders had 5 laps to complete.
The M40s was the biggest category and saw Scott Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) put on a great performance, after his spell of bad luck at racing, to take the Ulster title. Paul McCarter (Donegal Bay Cycling Club) was runner up at the National Championships and runner up again at the Ulster championships. Raymond Rocks (Island Wheelers) finished third with Paul Hamilton (Dromara Cycling Club) fourth and John Scott (Shelbourne/Orchard CC) fifth.
There were only 3 riders in the M30s race. Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) put together a great race to take the win finishing well clear of Johnny McRoberts (Banbridge CC) with Dean Burnside (Island Wheelers) third.
The Senior Men’s race had a bit of drama at the start when favourite David Montgomery managed to snap his chain just metres from the start line. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) put in another consistent race to take the win with Chris Oakley (XMTB) second and Sean McIntyre (Caldwell Cycles Omagh) third.
After their races the riders could avail of the hot drinks and free food laid on by the club. Lots of mud and memories were taken away from the race. Many thanks to all the volunteers from Xmtb for putting the event on. Thanks also to Belfast City Council for their support of the event.
Photos by Xmtb here