The first weekend in August saw Cycling Ulster Youth Teams (U14 boys & girls and U16 boys) take part in the Errigal International Youth Tour. This is always one of the toughest tests for our youth on the race calendar. Again, this year saw teams coming from Scotland, England, Isle of Man and even South Africa.
Stage 1 was based at Churchill just outside Letterkenny. The weather was mixed with the occasional shower. In the U14s races, Joseph Owens was the first Ulster boy home in 8th overall in the bunch with Darren Rafferty getting the same time. Conor Gallagher (U13) finished 27th and Shea O’Kane, struggling with a bad back, was 43rd. The race had been split with a couple of crashes and this also impacted on the girls race. The girls race contained a mix of U16 riders riding down and U14 girls. Ellie Kelso (U15) was our first girl home, 6th overall, with Katie 9th, Maria 11th and Maia 16th.
Stage 1 for the U16 team, saw a big crash on lap 1. This significantly held the race up with two riders taken to hospital, one with a broken ankle. We wish these riders well in their recovery. First Ulster boy home was Nathan Keown 7th, with Dylan and Cathal close behind in 10th and 17th. Ciaran was in the third bunch on the road in 38th.
Day 2, started with the time trial. This was approx. 3.8km. Conditions early on provided a tailwind for the U14s. Darren finished 7th overall with Conor 11th, Joseph 14th and Shea 41st. Maria had a really good TT finishing 8th with Maia 9th, Ellie 13th and Katie 14th. As the U16s started their TT, heavy rain came in and suddenly the wind turned into a strong headwind. Cathal finished 22nd, Nathan 23rd, Ciaran 64th and Dylan 71st.
Day 2 then continued on the infamous Kellogues stage. The U14s had to complete 3 laps of this tough course. As usual the parents, team managers etc had all gathered on the hill to cheer every rider on and even in some cases to give a little assistance to those finding it just too hard. Joseph and Darren came in together in 8th and 11th. Conor followed shortly after in 20th with Shea in 39th, still feeling the effects of his back injury. In the girls race, Ellie showed a strong performance finishing 8th with Katie close behind in 10th. Maia and Maria came in slightly later in 13th and 14th place overall on the stage.
If the U14s race was tough, the U16 had to face 5 laps of this brutal course. Perhaps the changing conditions in that mornings TT had taken their toll on some riders, as a couple of riders who had been strong up until then, suddenly found their legs missing. The Ulster riders hung in with Nathan providing our highest placing in 21st overall. Cathal soon followed in 29th and then there was a bit of a gap until a group, including Dylan and Ciaran, came to the line with Dylan in 35th and Ciaran 39th.
Day 3 was the Bank Holiday Monday and saw the whole race relocate to Letterkenny for the Crit. This was based on a 1.2km circuit around the streets of Letterkenny. Being such a short circuit provided for very fast racing. In the boys races, the race organisers announced that they would pull riders once they fell more than 40 seconds behind, whereas the girls would be allowed to complete their full race, although any lapped riders would have time added. The Ulster U14 boys finished the weekend of with a strong performance, Conor, Shea and Darren finishing in the bunch sprint in 14th, 19th and 23rd. Joseph was just off the bunch in 27th place. It was good to see Shea feeling a lot better after a tough first two days.
Ellie rode a good crit finishing 8th. Katie and Maia finished 12th and 13th with Maria finishing 16th.
The U16 boys race was fast from the start. The race was 40 mins plus 5 laps. Midway through, an Isle of Man rider crashed at the roundabout right in front of Nathan, yet miraculously no one else was taken out. This was the fastest race of the whole weekend with riders being pulled from about 20 minutes in. Three riders got a gap which the bunch never closed. All of the Ulster boys finished in the bunch behind the lead 3, with Cathal 14th, Nathan 30th, Dylan 32nd and Ciaran 33rd. The average speed for the boys was just a touch under 26mph.
A tremendous three days of tough racing and phenomenal organisation by Errigal CC. The U14 GC finished with Darren 6th, Joseph 19th, Conor 20th and Shea 36th. The girls finished Ellie 6th, Katie 12th, Maia 13th and Maria 14th. The U16 boys GC finished with Nathan in 6th, Cathal 15th (and 2nd unplaced U15), Dylan 24th and Ciaran 36th.
Well done to all our riders and we can now look forward to the Irish Nationals in Carlow.