Over the weekend, 14-15th December 2019, a large team of 9 riders represented Cycling Ulster at the last round of the HSBC British National Trophy Cyclo-cross race in York.

The event was held at York Sport Village with the course set around the outdoor velodrome and purpose built crit circuit with the steep grassed banks around the outside of the velodrome being used to create some really tricky off camber sections. 

Travelling under the guidance of Team Manager Graham Boyd, the 9 riders were supported to attend the event from budget allocated by the Cycling Ulster Off-road Commission. They were Niall McLoughlin (McConvey Cycles), Conor Gallagher (Errigal Cycling Club), Erin Creighton (McConvey Cycles), Ciaran Dixon (Team Type 1 Junior Team), Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers), Paul-Antoine Hagan (Banbridge CC), Darren Rafferty (Island Wheelers), Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) and Somhairle Owens Fisher (Omagh Wheelers Cycling Club).  Also travelling over was Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) and Aine Doherty (VC Glendale).

On arrival it was clear that the poor weather conditions in the lead up to the race had taken its toll on the lap. A lot of the grass sections were water logged and already badly cut up after the morning practice and first of the races. The off camber sections were largely unrideable and the thick mud elsewhere on the course had most riders running for large sections of the lap. Probably the most difficult conditions the riders had faced all year.

On the Saturday Aine had another great ride in the Under 14 girls’ race taking 12th on the day and 11th in the overall series despite the fact she had only competed in 4 of the 6 events. Erin Creighton was gridded 26th in a large field of 36 riders in the Under 16 girls’ race. Erin rode a strong race moving up a few places to take 23rd. 

Later in the afternoon it was the turn of Conor Gallagher, Niall McLoughlin and Travis Harkness in the Under 16 boys’ race.  They all rode well in the challenging conditions against a huge field of over 70 riders, with Conor coming home in 41st, Niall less than a minute behind in 45th and Travis finishing 51st.

On Sunday it was the turn of the Juniors with Darren Rafferty, Ciaran Dixon, Paul-Antoine Hagan and Somhairle Owens Fisher lining up in a massive field of 54. Darren had a blistering first lap moving from 24th on the grid into the top 10. He would stay here racing in the group for 6th to 9th eventually taking an excellent 8th.  It was hard to split the rest of the Ulster Juniors over the opening laps but Ciaran finished strong pulling away from the guys to finish 29th. Paul-Antoine was next home in 42nd with Somhairle not far behind in 44th.

Darcey Harkness was up next in the Senior Women’s event which is a combined race with Juniors racing alongside the Under 23s and Elite Women. Darcey battled hard in the continually deteriorating conditions taking 37th, 12th Junior.

The last rider to take on the mud was Thomas Creighton in the Elite race, again a combined event with both Under 23s and Elites racing together. Thomas had a strong race finishing mid pack in 26th (14th Under 23) after nearly an hour and 10 minutes of racing.

A big thanks must go to the support staff who travelled and assisted the riders over the weekend. The heavy mud and rain had the pit crews working flat out, with most riders taking a bike every half lap. Thanks to Davy, Philip and Paul for all your help. A special mention to Brendan and Charlie who, although didn’t travel as part of the team, worked tirelessly throughout both days to help our riders in whatever way they could. We couldn’t have done it without you all.

Full results can be found here