The Cycling Ulster Cross-country team travelled to the last round of the British XC Series at the Royal Welsh showgrounds in Wales over the weekend 4/5 August 2018.
A total of five riders had been selected for the team consisting of, Thomas Creighton, Lee Harvey, Niamh McKiverigan, Ben Wilson and Darcey Harkness. The team was managed by Nicola McKiverigan and team Coach was Gareth McKee.
The team departed from Dublin on Friday via the ferry to Holyhead and then travelled to stay in static caravans 5 miles from the showgrounds. Saturday morning they headed for course practice which consisted of a course walk with team coach and then followed by some practice time on the bikes. The course was a mixture of fire road, small forest section and some banks in the arena. There were some very technical rock gardens followed by steep technical sections. All of the team practiced together and helped each other through the session discussing and trying out different lines. The weather conditions were very hot and this was a concern for race day.
When practice came to an end the team headed off in search of a local river were they had a wade to help their muscles and to cool off in general. On Saturday evening the team cooked a pre-race dinner and had a chat about the next days upcoming race and the timings put in place.
On Sunday the first race off was the Under 16s with Ben Wilson and Darcey Harkness representing Ulster. Ben finished 21st and Darcey had her highest finish in the series with a 7th. This is their first season in this level of competition and both riders have improved immensely from the start of the season. Both of them were really competent with the very technical sections and both rode the A lines all race. Ben finished the series in 26th place out of 71 and Darcey finished 11th out of 25. We really couldn’t of asked for anymore.
Next we had the Junior Female of Niamh McKiveirgan who was fighting as a first year junior in a very tough field. Niamh finished 6th overall which was her best result of the season just being pipped by 29 seconds to a podium finish. Again this was her best performance of the year. Niamh as a first year junior finished 5th out of 16 in the overall series which was a great result.
Last up we had the Junior Men of Thomas Creighton and Lee Harvey. By this time the temperature was in the high 20’s. All hands were on deck in both pits to try and keep the fluids coming during the race. Many thanks to Mark Harvey, Philip Harkness and Ric Jamison for helping with the riders welfare in the heat. After just over an hour of racing Thomas came home in 5th followed by Lee in 9th place. Both riders giving every last ounce of energy to finish off the series.
When all the points were tallied we were delighted with the final overall finishing positions for the team. In fact we managed to secure a podium in the Junior men with Thomas finishing 2nd overall in this category. Lee Harvey as a first year junior finished on equal points for 3rd place overall but on count back he finished 4th. As a first year junior in a total field of 31 this was an outstanding result.
Overall this has been an exciting year for the Cycling Ulster team. The commission introduced second year Under 16s to the programme and this has proved to be very beneficial. To run a team like this for 5 events is no easy task. Budget constraints, volunteer time and that very expensive piece of water between here and Britain. I would like to thank all the volunteers that have helped in some shape, form or fashion to make this happen. All the people that weren’t “officially” part of the team but helped without even being asked. Thanks also to the riders for their commitment, ability to listen and take on board the expertise of the managers and coaches, their attitude to improving themselves and improving the profile of Cycling Ulster as a whole.