A cold northerly wind greeted riders for Round 7 ofthe Ulster Cyclo-cross series. The wide open park, behind the Caterpillar (NI) factory at Seacourt in Larne, offers very few places for shelter but does offer great views out across the Irish Sea. After a heavy night of rain and a short, sharp shower of hail stones around 8:45 am the weather remained bright and dry all day, but the wind didn’t go away. Team Madigan were hard at work on Saturday setting up the course and Sunday morning the team was busy sorting out any broken course tape. This venue has been used for cyclo-cross racing for 8+ years and, with its split level of grass areas, provides a blank canvas for the organisers to design their course onto. Very much a big power course which suits those who do more road racing during the rest of the year. The finishing straight was in the same place as last year but the added difficulty this year was the strong head wind. There were no sprint finishes today. On the plus side, it was an ideal set up for the timekeepers!
Overall race numbers were down from last year, which was not a surprise given the cold conditions, but racing did get underway for all age categories. In a change from previous years the small youth course, which was usually set up to the right of the community hall, was not used this year and all racers used the same start/finish location. First up were the Under 6s (7 boys and 3 girls) who completed one lap of this ‘fun’ race. Next were the Under 8s of which there were 19 boys and 4 girls. They were given two laps of the circuit which included a short dismount section. Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) was once again the winner in the Under 8 boys’ race with Ryan McBride (Banbridge CC) once again the first runner up. Finlay Cook (unattached) completed the podium. In the girls’ race the usual two were first and second, Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) and Aoife Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) with Chloe Hepburn (Island Wheelers) third.
The Under 10s had a longer course to complete and 3 laps to cover. Taking his 6th win of the series Curtis McKee (Maryland Wheelers) finished well clear of Elliot Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) with James Armstrong (Dromara Cycling Club) third. Aisling Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) was back to her winning ways taking her 5th win of the series with Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles) second and Cara Suckling (Maryland Wheelers) third.
The Under 12s used the same course as the Under 10s but had to complete twice as many laps. Despite starting behind the boys Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) managed to pass them all to lead the race after the first lap and right through to the finish. Second and third place girls were from the same family, with Cara Moffitt second and Tori Moffitt third (both from Phoenix CC). Reuben Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) made this his 7th win out of 7 races. Seth Dunwoody (Orchard CC) got his first podium place of the series taking second with Thomas McAlinden (Apollo Cycling Team) third.
After a short break for refreshments and podium presentations the next races took place after a short delay to fix course tape. This race was for the cyclo-cross women, women’s mountain bike support race, Under 16 boys and girls and Under 14 boys and girls.
Trudy Brown (VC Glendale) is always up toward the front of the women’s cyclo-cross race but this week she was the winner, her second of the series. Junior rider Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) was second with Helen White (Stamullen RC) taking third on her newly acquired CX bike. Rachel Irvine (The Bike House CC) had been a podium contender in the early stages of the race but had to settle for 4th with Martina Hawkins (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) 5th. Emma Elder (Carn Wheelers) took the prize for the unplaced junior rider. Alison McMullan (Unattached) was the only entry in the women’s MTB race and just had to contend with chasing down the CX women. Ciaran Dixon (Phoenix CC) put on a fine display of racing to take the win in the Under 16 boys’ race with Somhairle Owens Fisher (Omagh Wheelers Cycling Club) finishing second and Donal Walsh (AAA Cycling) third. Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) was in a class of her own on this course finishing over 6 minutes ahead of nearest rival Méabh Flannagan (Ballymoney CC) with Sarah Elder (Carn Wheelers) third. Adam McGeever (AAA Cycling) lead from start to finish in the 3 lap boys’ Under 14 race with Shane Scullion (Island Wheelers) second and Oisin Ferrity (Island Wheelers) third. Erin Creighton (XMTB) and Hannah Mullin (Trail Demons CC) were never out of each other’s sight in the U14 girls’ race but it was Erin who took the win with Hannah second. Keela Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) took bronze.
The next race was the Men’s Cyclo-cross A’ race. This was held over 8 laps with some close racing. Apart from the second lap Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) lead the race from start to finish. Behind him was a close battle between Alan Bingham (Cuchulainn CC) and Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) but it was Graham who got ahead on the last lap to take second with Alan taking third. Christian Nachtigall (Phoenix CC) was 4th with Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale) 5th and first unplaced M40. First unplaced Junior rider was Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) who finished just outside the top 10 with the first unplaced M50 rider Des Woods (Newry Wheelers CC) finishing 12th. Jack Ferguson (Dromara Cycling Club) was the first unplaced Espoir. An administration error at sign on lead to confusion regarding the winners of the team prize with Newry Wheelers unfortunately receiving the applause when it should have been Dromara Cycling Club who drew on points with Phoenix Cycling with the position of the third rider in the team deciding the outcome. Congratulations to Barry Kellett, Jack Ferguson and Richard Cowan.
The final race of the day was for the Men’s Cyclo-cross B’ race and the Men’s Mountain Bike Support race. John Maginn (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) had amassed 99 points in the B league, just 1 point below the automatic upgrade to the A’ race so he managed to get one final B’ race completed which he did in style taking the chequered flag. Colm Watson (VC Glendale) had a strong race to finish second with Adam Cunningham (Velo Club Mourne) third. Ryan Rainey (Keevan CC) was 4th with Michael McMullan (unattached) 5th and Neil McCartan (Powerhouse Sport) 6th. In the MTB support race Denver Irvine (unattached) improved on his 3rd place back at Round 4 to take centre stage after winning this race. Brian McAuley (unattached) was second with Conrad Kettyles (VC Glendale) third.
After the race the riders were able to take shelter from the wind inside the community hall where there was hot drinks and food laid on. Many thanks to the small team of hard-working members from Team Madigan for putting on the event. The next round will be held at Ormeau Park in Belfast and hosted by Xmtb. See www.ulstercyclocross.com for details.