On the 15th September, a team of 8 riders, Shay Donley, Ciaran Dixon, Chris Donald, Odhran Doogan, Clodagh Gallgher, Niamh McKiverigan, Maria McAllister and Katie Neill, all travelled to the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow to compete in the Track Inter Regional Championships with Paul Dixon and Nicola McKiverigan overseeing the team. This event sees our riders compete against the best GB youth track riders.

We arrived at the Velodrome around teatime on Friday to sign on, and whilst most of our riders had been to the velodrome a few weeks earlier for training, it was clear from the outset that this event had a different feel about it. Maybe it was seeing all the other riders loosening up by spinning on the rollers or perhaps just seeing the fact that most GB riders had a lot more track specific equipment, pursuit bars and double disc wheels etc. Some even had team issue bikes.

Anyway, after the evening meal that night, we had a debrief of the events to follow the next day. Our team was effectively split into 2 boys 2 girls who would compete in a series of sprint events and the remaining team members would compete in the Points race. They had the option of doing the Madison but this is an event we simply do not have the experience in. The Madison can be a very chaotic race with a lot of riders on track, some resting and others dropping in constantly. With little indoor experience and none at this, we decided that this year would be best served by our riders observing the event and how it runs. Hopefully, this is something we can aim for next year.

Each of our sprint riders had to complete a flying 200 qualifier and this then determined who they would compete against in the sprints. Niamh had the best flying 200 of the Ulster riders finishing 8th overall out of 24. The four riders for the sprints were, Chris Donald, Odhran Doogan, Niamh McKiverigan and Katie Neill. Each rider then competed in a series of 3 sprint finals with Chris winning one of his finals and the two girls winning two of theirs.

The remaining riders competed in the points race which was over 60 laps. These were big races with 24 riders on the track at the same time. This is something we simply can’t replicate at our own track as we don’t have the same numbers attending. It was a great experience for our riders who managed to hang in with the main bunch during the race.

On the Sunday, we arrived early to get ready for the morning session which comprised of Team Sprints and Team Pursuit. The Team Sprint riders were Shay Donley, Chris Donald and Ciaran Dixon for the boys and the girls were Niamh McKiverigan and Clodagh Gallagher. This was probably the best result for Ulster as the girls made it through to the bronze final. This was the first time an Ulster team had ever made it through to the finals. Unfortunately they were just pipped to the bronze by 0.2 seconds, but a great performance nonetheless.

The team pursuit was our weakest event as the other teams were able to change their bike set ups for the specific event. Still all of our riders rode the event really well and still demonstrated that they have the proper bike handling skills, with some of the British Cycling coaches commenting on how good their changes were on the banking.

The afternoon was set aside for the elimination races. By this time, some of our riders were tiring from the efforts that morning. However, all qualified for the Minor finals in the afternoon. The idea behind the elimination is that the last rider over the line every other lap is pulled until there are only 2 left.

Maria McAllister was the highest placed girl and showed great positioning sense when it came to each ‘hot lap’. Both Maria and Katie have potentially another two years of this event and this experience has really helped bring them on as riders.

The boys elimination was the most eventful. Unfortunately a crash on the high banking took out both Odhran and Shay early on. Odhran was able to get back on the bike and continue but Shay couldn’t. Ciaran had the best performance in the boys elimination finishing a credible 12th.

All in all a great experience. We were a young team, with 5 of our riders able to come back for at least 1 more year. Odhran, who before the event had never ridden indoor, showed great determination and despite his crash showed no fear of the track. All of the riders came back buzzing and are now looking forward to the track season next year.