Donard Park in Newcastle was the venue for the 9th and final round of the 2017 Ulster Cyclo-cross Series. The beautiful park, lying just behind the main promenade of this seaside town, has the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains, which, at this time of the year were topped with snow. Race day morning was dry with strong winds blowing cold air off the top of the mountains. Challenging conditions for the gazebos! A tremendous job by race director Mickey Clarke and the volunteers from the host club Shimna Wheelers and neighbouring clubs for all the preparations and course setup. This is only the second time a cyclo-cross race has been held in the park.
Thankfully the wind did die down for the start of the youth races. This began with the Under 6s who had to complete one lap of their course which was contained on the flat grass area. The Under 8s were next with 3 laps of the same course. Ryan McBride (Banbridge CC) got his third win of the series as he finished ahead of series leader Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) with Brodie Hull (Trail Demons CC) third. First and second places in the girls’ race haven’t changed all season with Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) and Aoife Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) taking first and second respectively. Chloe Hepburn (Island Wheelers) finished third.
The Under 10 and Under 12 course seen some late changes to the circuit to include the sand trap that the senior riders were getting to use. The Under 10s had 5 laps to complete and crossing the line first was Curtis McKee (Maryland Wheelers) who clocked up his 8th win out of 9 races. James Armstrong (Dromara Cycling Club) was second with Elliot Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) third. Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles) won the girls’ race with Cara Suckling (Maryland Wheelers) second and Rachel Irvine (unattached) getting her first podium this season taking third place.
The Under 12s course was longer than the Under 10s one and they had 7 laps to complete. There was a great battle at the front of the race between the leading boy and leading girl. Reuben Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) just managed to cross line ahead of Aine Doherty (VC Glendale). Behind these two there was a close battle for second place boy between Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) and Daniel Scott (Island Wheelers) with Conor just getting the edge over Daniel. In the girls’ race Cara Moffitt (Phoenix CC) took the silver medal with Zoe Lindsay (Dromore CC) taking bronze.
After the usual break for podium presentations the next races got underway. For the rest of the day the riders would be using the full course which was all laid out across the large sections of park making the racing very spectator friendly. Lining up alongside the football pitches were riders in the Women’s Cyclo-cross, Women’s mountain bike support race, Under 16s and Under 14s categories. They set off along a long straight which passed the timing gazebo before heading through the fence and turning sharp right to head up the hill.
Visiting the series for the first time this season was the current women’s national champion Beth McCluskey (Team Jadan) who finished first in the Women’s CX race despite not racing too much this seaon. Trudy Brown (VC Glendale) finished second to secure her the overall series win. Julie Rea (Phoenix CC) finished third today and third in the overall league. Niamh McKiverigan (J) (Powerhouse Sport) was the first unplaced Junior and finished second in the overall series. In the Women’s MTB support race Alison McMullan (unattached) rounded off her season with her 8th win out of 9 races. Karen Wynne (Foyle CC) was second with Debbie Boyd (Apollo Cycling Team) third.
Ciaran Dixon (Phoenix CC) attacked early on in the Under 16 boys’ race and had to keep pushing himself onwards to the finish to stay ahead of Donal Walsh (AAA Cycling) who finished second with Somhairle Owens Fisher (Omagh Wheelers Cycling Club) third. Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) made it her 8th win out of 8 races this season in the Under 16 girls’ category with Maria McAllister (Island Wheelers) second. In the Under 14 boys’ race Conor Gallagher (Errigal Cycling Club) finished his first race of the season with a dramatic win against Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) with just one second splitting the two riders. Shane Scullion (Island Wheelers) completed the U14 boys’ podium. Hannah Mullin (Trail Demons CC) has raced in every round of the series and not only won her race today but won the series overall. Keela Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) finished second today and second overall.
The Men’s Cyclo-cross A’ race took place next with 62 riders lined up on the start line. David Montgomery (Unattached) set out his stall very early on in this 7 lap race as he hammered out the laps to take the win today and the overall win of the series. Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) was initially lying in second place but a fall aggrivating the injury he received the previous week had him retire from the race. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) pushed hard to keep the gap between himself and Barry Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) with Graham maintaining that gap until the chequered flag. Barry finished third with Graham and Barry finishing second and third respectively in the overall series. Fourth place went to Darnell Moore (Caldwell Cycles Omagh) who was the first unplaced Espoir (Under 23) rider. Alan Bingham (Cuchulainn CC) was fifth overall and first unplaced M40. Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles) finished 9th, first unplaced Junior with Aiden McDonald (Cuchulainn CC) finishing 10th, first unplaced M50. There was a mix up in team prize with Newry Wheelers getting the team photo but on review the team prize went to Cuchulainn CC when Alan Bingham, Aiden McDonald and Johnny McCabe crossed the line.
The final race of the day started at 2:15 for the Men’s Cyclo-cross B’ race and the Men’s Mountain Bike support race. The race starts were separated by a one minute interval with both categories taking on 5 laps of the main course. It was Velo Club Mourne rider Jonathan Graham’s day when he finished almost 1 minute ahead of fellow club mate Adam Cunningham. Fraser Duncan (The Bike House CC) was 3rd with fellow club mate Paul Ferguson 4th. Mark Gordon (Newry Wheelers CC) finished ahead of Brian Wilson (Dromara Cycling Club) to take 5th and 6th respectively. Ray Beers (East Antrim CC) took a nasty tumble and had to be treated by the first aiders.
In the MTB support race Scott Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) had another win with Gavin Thompson (Maryland Wheelers) taking second and Brian McAuley (unattached) third. Brian McAuley won the overall series with Denver Irvine second overall and Scott Maitland third.
There was hot food and drinks in the race village for riders to enjoy. As the prize giving ceremony was conducted the job of pulling down the course was being carried out across the park. Many thanks to all those who helped make this a great race. Next week we have the Ulster Cyclo-cross Championships which will be held up at Mallusk Playing Fields on the outskirts of Belfast. Hosted by Kinning Cycles this is a pre-entry only race. See details on www.ulstercyclocross.com.
Commissaires: Jim Adams, Lisa Millar and Martin Grimley