Beginning this Saturday and running over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, the Dixon’s Contractors Tour of the North looks set to produce some of the most brutal, exciting racing seen in many years. This year, the race comprises of four stages, three road stages and a TT. On paper, the stages appear short but there is a feast of climbing, in particular, a special 36 mile test with 5100 feet of elevation and 21 miles of climbing. This is sure to be a battle of epic proportions that will make the legs wobble.

120 of the finest riders from North and South as well as across the water will duke it out over the 4 stages with several previous winners, countless race animators and numerous young guns looking to make their mark and walk away with a prestigious win on their palmarès and a part of the £4000 prize pot.

Stage 1

First up. Stage 1. Easter Saturday. 31st March. This is a stage that had to be completely revamped a few weeks ago due to road closures.
The stage has been kept at a similar level of difficulty with two Cat 1 climbs and a Cat 2 over 65 miles. (105 km)
The race will start from the Seven Towers Leisure centre at noon.
Neutralised until Broughshane, the flag drops and the race will be on. The riders will climb up over the back end of Glenarm and down towards the village before cutting left and onto the Cat 2 climb of Ballyvaddy. Possibly the ‘easiest’ climb on paper of the race, it’s a 2.5 mile long haul back up Glencloy, before descending at some speed down to Carnlough.

A fast 8-mile section around the coast takes the race to the start of the Cat 1, 5.5 mile climb of Glenariffe at Waterfoot. Descending back down Glenballyeamon, the race enters Cushendall turning left and then a mile later, left again onto the Cat 1 climb of Gaults road.

Gaults is a long, testing, grinder of a climb that is open to the elements and it’s one that will test the strong men.
Over the top it’s a fast run down into Ballymena and on to the flat out finish on the Fry’s road.
4330 feet of climbing in total it’s a testing start to this years Dixons Tour of the North. The weather will have a big effect on this one but will it come down to a gallop or will the hard men escape?

Stage 2

Sunday, 1st April see’s the HQ move for the remainder of the race to the Galgorm Community Centre.

Stage 2 is a 4.8 mile individual non aero TT starting at 9am.

The start is just across the road from HQ and will head up into and through Ahoghill, finishing at the top of Tully.
Draggy rather than Hilly, the total climbing is only 98m (321 feet) but those who have ridden the Wallace Caldwell which is part of the classic league will know how tight this can be. The men will have to keep the chain tight on this one as there is no crystal cranking on this.

Stage 3

Those who rode or spectated last year will remember this epic. On paper, 65 miles doesn’t seem like much but this will sort the men from the boys.

The race will roll out from Galgorm at 13:45 and the flag will drop at Slatt bridge at 14:00.

A fast run up to Kilnock with some uncategorised lumpy bits thrown in for good measure will wake the legs up before the race turns right onto the circuit. Get left behind here and it’s a long day in the saddle.

There then follows 5 laps of the Roguery circuit. A run down to loughbeg and a flat run to McCoys corner see’s a left turn onto the fun bit.

A few lifts over the next 1.5 miles will soften the legs before the KOH hell of the mighty Roguery. There is no hiding here.

The KOH is only 3 mins of effort but it averages 14% and with highs of close to and over 20%.
A perfect hill for spectators, it was packed last year TDF style as can be seen from the videos on Facebook. Arnau Voss holds the Strava KOM here and if you have a look you can see the power needed just to ride this, let alone race it.

After 5 laps the race will head back down to the finish at Slatt Bridge.
65 miles (105km) and 785m (2600 ft) of climbing.

Stage 4

Easter Monday and the one that everybody has been anticipating. This will be huge. Some men won’t make it.

The race will leave Galgorm at 09:45 and is neutralised through Ballymena and out to and through Broughshane. As with stage 1, the flag will drop outside the village and this time the race will go straight to Carnlough.

Turning left there follows the same fast, flat run around the coast, however this time at Waterfoot the race turns right and heads for Cushendall. From Cushendall the race turns right and with 22 miles raced we start what is easily the hardest section of any stage we’ve ever seen in the Tour.

First up the race will tackle the Cat 1 of Cross Slieve. A hidden gem between Cushendall and Cushendun it’s a 2.3 mile climb hitting 16 % in places with a technical, hell for leather descent off the hill to Knocknacarry and through the picture postcard village of Cushendun.

Next up….the Torr.
The last time a big bike race went over it was the Milk race almost 30 years ago and if you speak to the old hands of your clubs, they will tell you how that went.
This has been listed as HC category because it really is worthy of it.
The Torr is basically 4 climbs. Hitting 24% on hairpins each climb is up to a mile long with sharp technical descents in between.
The KOH is at the end of the last section which means the total length of the KOH section is 6.3 miles.

After the KOH flag, the race drops down a couple of miles before going onto the 5.3 mile Cat 2 climb of Loughareema. An initial short 7% section leads onto a long 3-4 % big ring grinder up the vanishing lakes with a short steeper 500m to the KOH.

We then drop down 6 miles and then turn right onto the final Cat 1 climb of the day the 8 mile long Slieveamaddy (Orra to the locals).
A climb of 2 sections, the first steeper and the second through the forest, less so takes us over one of the highest roads in the country at over 1300 feet.
The race then drops down to the main Cushendall road and back to Ballymena for the same Fry’s road finish as Monday.

2018 Rider List

Number Name Licence Team Name UCI Licence Number Young Rider
1 Dale Bonnar 18A30195 Ballymena Road Club – CRC IRL   19870511
2 David Dougan 18A30544 Ballymena Road Club – CRC GBR 19850709
3 Shane Smith 18A10122 Ballymena Road Club – CRC IRL 19904028
4 Martin Robb 18A30221 Ballymena Road Club – CRC IRL 19870306
5 Philip Bremner 18A20183 Ballymena Road Club – CRC IRL 19910412
6 Kevin McKinney 18A118A10002 Banbridge CC IRL19930412
7 Peter Hughes 18A218A20135 Banbridge CC IRL19820327
8 John Buller 18A218A20286 Banbridge CC IRL19990204 Young Rider
9 Gareth McKee 18A118A10057 Banbridge CC IRL19880611
10 Roger Aiken 18A118A10204 Banbridge CC IRL19819519
11 Alistair Robinson 18A20206 Bann Wheelers CC 18A20206 (M50)
12 Andrew Robinson 18JR0112 Bann Wheelers CC 18JR0112 Young Rider
13 Glenn Howe 18A20127 Bann Wheelers CC 18A20127 (M50)
14 Nigel Bradley 00001 Bann Wheelers CC UCI1
15 Geoff Robinson 18A118A10073 Bray wheelers Irl19810515
16 Mark McGinley 18A318a30365 Bray wheelers 19990627 Young Rider
17 Mitchell McLaughlin 18A218a20203 Bray wheelers 19980318 Young Rider
18 David Conry 18A218A20028 Bray wheelers 19981003 Young Rider
19 Ali Gribbon 18A118a10021 Carn wheelers Irl19740921
20 Craig Gibson 18A218a20160 Carn wheelers Irl19731217
21 Gerard Scullion 18A218a20220 Carn wheelers Irl19770218
22 Jonny McConomy 18A218a20040 Carn wheelers IRL19800628
23 Johnny Taylor 18A118a1 0042 Carn wheelers Irl19791127
24 Aaron Wade 18JR0002 Cycling Ireland 12345678911 Young Rider
25 Shay Donley 18JR0144 Cycling Ireland 12345678912 Young Rider
26 Conor Gallagher 18JR0129 Cycling Ireland 12345678913 Young Rider
27 Conor Halvey 18JR0042 Cycling Ireland 12345678914 Young Rider
28 Archie Ryan 18JR0068 Cycling Ireland 12345678915 Young Rider
29 Mark McClure 18A10091 Donegal Bay irl19840317
30 Aaron McBride 18A10149 Donegal Bay IRL19950505
31 Caolem McCarter 18A30392 Donegal Bay irl19990416 Young Rider
32 Darragh McCarter 18A10062 Donegal Bay irl19850923
33 Keelan Carberry 18A30143 Donegal Bay IRL19990914 Young Rider
34 Aaron Watson 18JR0008 Dromara Cycling Club irl2000625 Young Rider
35 Gavin Magowan 18A20259 Dromara Cycling Club irl19700810
36 Jack Ferguson 18A30214 Dromara Cycling Club irl19991112 Young Rider
37 Nathan Mullan 18A10094 Dromara Cycling Club irl19931108
38 Stephen Irvine 18A20282 Dromara Cycling Club GBR19820930
39 Cathal Dillane 18A218A20090 (M40) Gerry McVeigh Cars IRL19720722
40 Gerard Forde 18A218A20079 Gerry McVeigh Cars IRL19910628
41 Tom Regan 18A218A20164 Gerry McVeigh Cars IRL19830207
42 Dean Burnside 18A20181 Island Wheelers GBR19851021
43 Conor Devlin 18A20242 Island Wheelers IRL19980623 Young Rider
44 John Scott 18A20193 Island Wheelers IRL19770114
45 Martyn Graham 18A20021 Island Wheelers IRL19710319
46 Matthew McAllister 18A20242 Island Wheelers IRL19990309 Young Rider
47 Ethan Downey 18A20053 KD Gas / ClannEireann 18A20053 Young Rider
48 Thomas Martin 18A10210 KD Gas / ClannEireann 18A10210
49 Liam Dolan 18A10000 KD Gas / ClannEireann to follow Applied for on Jan 21st.
50 Zeb Kyffin 18A10000 KD Gas / ClannEireann UCI0001
51 Alan Bingham 18A10009 Newry Wheelers
52 Gareth O’Neill 18A20189 Newry Wheelers 19960622 Young Rider
53 Des Woods 18A10006 Newry Wheelers Irl 19661011
54 Mark McKinley 18A10078 Newry Wheelers 19870715
55 Sean Featherstone 18A20288 Newry Wheelers 19810803
56 Andrew Chivers 18A10050 North Down CC IRL19970425 Young Rider
57 Javan Nulty 18A10159 North Down CC IRL19930323
58 Keith Phillips 18A10018 North Down CC IRL19860414
59 Stuart Henry 18A20262 North Down CC IRL19910207
60 Timmy Burns 18A10186 North Down CC IRL19801186
61 Gary Donaldson 18A10116 Omagh Wheelers IRL19951124
62 Gary Jeffers 18A202222 Omagh Wheelers IRL19890810
63 Aaron Wiley 18JR0079 Omagh Wheelers IRL20000714 Young Rider
64 Davy McFall 18A10087 Omagh Wheelers IRL19910319
65 Michael McGlynn 18JR0053 Omagh Wheelers IRL20001205 Young Rider
66 Matt McLaughlin 18A30648 Phoenix CC
67 Donal Shearer 18A312345 Phoenix CC IRL19990612 Young Rider
68 Jody Wright 18A112345 Phoenix CC 123
69 Ciaran McVeigh 18A112345 Phoenix CC 123
70 Niall O’Gorman 18A212345 Phoenix CC 123
71 Niall Morris 18A212345 Phoenix CC 123
72 Jack Stanton 00001 Pro Vision Race Team UCI1
73 Alex Simmons 450521 Pro Vision Race Team 10018468982
74 Sam Beeston 1252585 Pro Vision Race Team GBR20000404 Young Rider
75 Ben Joughin 417817 Pro Vision Race Team 10015820377
76 John Bourne 1243844 Pro Vision Race Team 10018864662
77 Charlie Passfield 1014430 Spirit Tifosi RT GBR10019268527
78 Ed Clemens 468961 Spirit Tifosi RT 10013823793
79 Jordan Peacock 431834 Spirit Tifosi RT 10014766111
80 Marcus Burnett 460208 Spirit Tifosi RT GBR10014813294
81 Rupert Graham 1116908 Spirit Tifosi RT 10052101007
82 Barry Hughes 18A218 A2 0043 (M40) Stamullen Road Club IRL19731005
83 Niall Craven 18A118 A1 0027 Stamullen Road Club IRL 19750514
84 Aureliusz Klus 18A118 A1 0166 Stamullen Road Club POL 19850121
85 Cian Delaney 18A118 A1 0095 Stamullen Road Club IRL19820826
86 Colin Robinson 18A118A10213 Stamullen Road Club 10011728391
87 Sean Landers 18A318 A3 0282 Stamullen Road Club IRL19980815 Young Rider
88 Angus Fyffe 18A10093 Team Caldwell Cycles IRL19950121
89 Adam Armstrong 18A10054 Team Caldwell Cycles IRL19870504
90 Calvin Moore 18A10205 Team Caldwell Cycles IRL19980401 Young Rider
91 Craig McAuley 18A10168 Team Caldwell Cycles IRL19960924 Young Rider
92 Darnell Moore 18A10034 Team Caldwell Cycles IRL19960827 Young Rider
93 Andrew McCullough 18A10016 Team Madigan GBR19900403
94 Gary Walker 18A20055 Team Madigan GBR19820510
95 Gary McCullough 18A20235 Team Madigan IRL19710210
96 Richard Maybin 18A10055 Team Madigan GBR19870421
97 Michael Boal 18A20146 Team Madigan GBR19950224
98 Gareth Mccullough 18A10226 Team Sportactive Racing
99 Toni Ballesterllobera 43189719 Team Sportactive Racing 10039861529
100 Christopher Birney 18A118A10141 Team Sportactive Racing IRL19920615
101 Paul Vaughan 18A218A20122 Team Sportactive Racing IRL19830112
102 Peter Hawkins 18A3941550 Termon Wheelers IRL19851216
103 Ciaran Donnelly 18A20110 Termon Wheelers IRL19780304
104 Martin Conway 18A30227 Termon Wheelers IRL19860712
105 Michael O’Kane 18A30161 Termon Wheelers IRL19681121
106 Stephen Daly 18A20080 Termon Wheelers irl19740219
107 Brandon Douglas 18A20013 West Down Wheelers 18A30013 Young Rider
108 Paul Wilkinson 18A10124 West Down Wheelers 18A10124
109 Ian Weir 18A30203 West Down Wheelers 18A30203
110 Adam Ward 18JR0093 Powerhouse Sport IRL20000902 Young Rider
111 Brendan Flannangan 18JR0092 Powerhouse Sport IRL20000615 Young Rider
112 Cathir Doyle 18JR0094 Powerhouse Sport IRL20010830 Young Rider
113 Lindsay Watson 18A10001 Powerhouse Sport


There are many favourites this year based on current form and no doubt there will be many more contenders once the dust has settled on the first stage. Previous champion, Ed Clemens from the ever-present Spirit Tifosi RT will be hard to oust but there are a number of others who will attempt to lay claim to the title. Watch this space for rider previews.