Chain Reaction Cycles Belfast Get Behind Tour of the North Rider

Chain Reaction Cycles Belfast retail store launched its 2019 enduro MTB team in January who have hit the trails running with podiums at the recent first stage of the Vitus First Tracks enduro series in Ravensdale, County Louth and Irish Downhill series at Carrick, County Wicklow.

On the road, the store has sponsored upcoming junior star Nathan Keown from North Down CC who has had a fantastic start to the 2019 season.

Last week he won the A3 race at Bann Valley Classic, a victory at Derrymacash and two second places at Carn Classic & the PJ Logan. 

Stephen Laird, store manager said; ‘We got behind Nathan last season, supplying him with a Vitus Vitesse Evo with Ultegra Di2. 

Nathan was such a positive brand ambassador for us providing lots of content on social media and getting plenty of podiums that we decided that it would be mad not to support him in 2019.  Therefore this season we have put him on the Vitus ZX-1 Aero Disc.  Powered with Shimano Dura-Ace, DT Swiss wheels and Continental tyre package this will hopefully give him the added edge to move up the junior national rankings.

We are very proud to support local talent not only on the trails but also on the road with the wide selection of bikes available from the store.

I am personally very excited to hear that Nathan will be representing North Down CC at this year’s Tour of the North with the maturity of experienced team mates such as Stuart Henry & Andrew Hedley.  With a very strong field of riders from across Europe in attendance it will be very exciting to watch over the Easter break.

The staff at Chain Reaction Cycles in Belfast wish all of the competitors a safe and successful weekend of racing and hope the weather is in your favour this year.’

We asked Nathan a few questions on his thoughts on last year and plans for the new season.

How long have you been road racing for and who was your main inspiration to start?

‘I was given my first road bike for Christmas 2013, which was the year Chris Froome first won the Tour de France, so that played a part in getting me riding more, and from then I’ve been consistently taking it more seriously, racing more and getting stronger as a result.’

2018 was a very successful year for you; what was your biggest high point and what was the low?

‘After taking lots of seconds and thirds, I had accumulated almost enough points to move to A2 but without a single win. I knew it would be harder to win once I was in A2 so my high was winning the Hilltown GP, which got me the final 10 points I needed to move up. As I was away in July I missed some big races. I also lost more fitness than expected through being off the bike for a few weeks and I struggled in the following races, which was a low. This year, I am planning my summer around these events so I won’t have the same issues.’

Technology has been rapidly changing in the peloton over the past few seasons. You are currently riding on Shimano Dura-Ace disc brakes since their adoption to racing by Cycling Ireland recently.  What are your initial thoughts? 

‘I have really liked the disc brakes so far, after getting used to them, as they perform so well for both light controlled braking, which is not so easy with rim brakes, and for powerful braking where necessary, in all conditions. The one thing to be aware of is that other riders will not be able to brake as fast with rim brakes, but as long as you’re aware of this and don’t slam on the brakes at the front of the bunch, I haven’t found this to be a problem.’

We see you have fitted the new Continental GP5000’s to your wheels.  How do they perform as a training/race tyre?

‘I would not be the most observant person for differences in tyres to be honest, however as a whole the bike rolls along very quickly and road buzz isn’t as noticeable as on other aero bikes I have ridden, which can often be a disadvantage of aero bikes. Obviously this all must have something to do with the tyres, so for me they’ve been great for training and racing. It is also great to know you have one of the fastest tyres about, giving you that all important edge.’ 

Nutrition and hydration are obviously very key to any athlete.  How well disciplined are you when it comes to diet and what type of food is your guilty pleasure?

‘Nutrition is something I can definitely improve on. I generally have healthy balanced meals and drink plenty of water, and eat plenty of fruit and veg, especially around race days. However I also have quite a sweet tooth, and I’m sure if it wasn’t for how much I ride my bike, I would be much less suitable for going up hills.’

With the 2019 Tour of the North this weekend, how are you and your team mates getting on as riding together as a team?
‘With me being an A3 at the moment, I don’t get that many chances to ride with team mates, but when I do, A1 Stuart Henry is always useful sharing his wealth of experience and giving a wheel to follow if I need it. Paul McArthur is also an A3 who will be riding TOTN, and I have been getting on well riding with him recently. Last week at the PJ Logan we managed to ride away together from the end of lap one, work well together to get nearly a 2 minute gap, only to be caught by two juniors near the end of lap 7. We too to 2nd and 4th places respectively at the end.
We also have two guest riders for NDCC, Andrew Hedley from Ards CC and Sven de Meydts from Belgium, and it will be very interesting to see how he gets on.’