Cycling Ulster riders headed off to Belgium this festive season for the packed series of international cyclocross racing.

Belgium, well known for putting on great events at this time of year, was a huge commitment for the riders and the staff, especially over Christmas and New Year.

Cycling Ulster wished the whole team of Aine Doherty, Travis Harkness, Dean Harvey, Conor Murphy, Cameron Henry the best of luck before their trip.

Riders took part in

  • Antwerpen World Cup
  • Gavere World Cup
  • Zolder Superprestige
  • Diegem Superprestige
  • Exact Cross Loenhout

They were accompanied by Brendan Doherty, Philip Harkness, Mark Harvey, Niall Murphy, Jason Henry.

The Team was supported by funding from the Cycling Ulster Off-Road Commission and all riders gained lots of racing experience in what was a very competitive field.

‘On behalf of all the parents/helpers we would like to say a massive well done to all the riders who travelled to Belgium over the Christmas period, each rider gave their all and will no doubt come away having gained invaluable experience for the future. It’s always an uphill task with our low gridding, hopefully something that can be looked at for the future. Starting down the grid against specialised CX riders from all over the world puts you at a disadvantage, however every rider moved forward from their grid position in every single race. This was the first time we took a team away and we feel all went very well.  We have of course learnt a lot, as have the riders. Hopefully in the future other provinces emulate what we at Cycling Ulster have done and we get many more Irish riders over.’

We caught up with the riders after their return to find out how the trip went for them.


It was a great experience to be staying in Belgium over Christmas. The Christmas period is one of the busiest and most important part of the cyclocross season. There’s not many opportunities to get so much racing in a short period of time. The races I did were, Antwerp u23 world cup, Gavere Elite world cup, Zolder Superprestige, and Loenhout Exact cross. It was great to be racing on famous courses that you recognised from the TV. The courses were all very challenging both physically and technically. Each course was also very unique to each other and had challenges which you couldn’t find racing at home. The experience I got out of doing these high level races was very valuable and will help me going forward with my season. It’s not something many people get to experience so I’m grateful to everyone that made it happen.


I travelled to Belgium over the Christmas period to compete in several CX races. My first race as at Antwerpen, this was partly a sand race and was my first experience of riding on sand, I started at the back and was able to make some places up and keep a good pace to the finish. Next up was Zolder and was my favourite course that I raced at, this was very fast and technical, I once again had to start at the back due to my lack of UCI points being a first year U23 but was able to make up places right to the end. Then we went to Diegem, a famous night race, the atmosphere was something I had never experienced before and I really enjoyed it. The following morning we were up early and travelled to Loenhout, this was a wet race and unfortunately I got caught uo in the crash at the start, I got back going again and pushed to the end. This was my 3rd race in 3 days and by this time the legs were starting to get heavy.  It was both exciting and daunting to be racing against Van Der Poel, Van Aert, Pidcock etc guys I normally watch on TV and the pace they can ride at is incredible. The next time I go back I will know what to expect and will be able to push harder. I would like to say thank you to Cycling Ulster and everyone who made this trip possible.


I travelled to Belgium on 26th. I raced in Zolder on Dec 27th, Diegem on 28th and Loenhout on 29th They were all brilliant experiences lining up against top riders from all over the world. I managed to improve each day and get a couple of good results. In Zolder I had a few issues dropping my chain a few times and ended up finishing 71st. In Diegem I finished 25th and in Loenhout 7th. The experience and the learnings from this trip were enormous.

Thanks to Cycling Ulster for the support with the trip and to all the riders and parents who helped each other throughout the trip.


I am very grateful for the opportunity and I would like to say a big thank you to Cycling Ulster for helping me attend and compete in some of most prestigious cyclocross races in Belgium during Kerstperiode. I raced 3 races back to back starting in Zolder, followed by Diegem and lastly Loenhout. I didn’t have the best of luck in these races with a few mechanicals and poor gridding as a result of limited UCI and super prestige points.
I made good progress in each race and by the 3rd race I was starting to feel much more competitive.
I definitely gained a lot experience from the trip, gaining great knowledge from the other male junior, female and elite Ulster riders which I can hopefully take on board when racing abroad in future.   Racing as a first year Junior against the top European and American junior cross riders on world famous courses was amazing and it has given me confidence that if I continue to work hard and improve I hopefully can return as a second year Junior and make a bigger impact next year.
Thank you again for this great opportunity.  Also big thank you to Brendan, Philip, Mark, Niall and Darnell for all their help.



Getting to race the Christmas period over in Belgium has been something I’ve always dreamt of, to be able to race with the professionals and experience all the iconic courses. I started to trip with a Junior World Cup in Antwerp and I had a good race in the sand. My next 3 races were a lot harder racing with the Elite Women but with every race I got further into the race getting stronger and was able to finish off the week finishing on the same lap as the winner in Loenhout which I’m very happy about. I really enjoyed my time in Belgium and learnt so much that I will take with me for future races. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity, many thanks to Cycling Ulster for supporting this trip and to all the staff Brendan, Mark, Philip, Jason and Niall for the support within the pits through the races.



We are really proud of our young riders and these trips help them grow. We look forward to seeing where 2024 takes them.

Photos: Gareth Gibbons