A new venue for the Ulster Cyclo-cross series, Palace Demesne in Armagh, and a new host club, Square Wheels. The Palace was the residence of the Archbishops of the Church of Ireland for 200 years from 1770 and is surrounded by a 300 acre parkland. The racing took place in the fields towards the southern end of the park at the back of the palace with the youth races located within the gardens. Sign on took place inside the 19th century glasshouse where the refreshments were served later on. The weather was great, dry with hardly any wind. The park looked magnificent.
Kicking off Round 3 of the Ulster series was the Under 6s ‘fun’ race with 13 boys and 9 girls completing one lap of their course. The Under 8s started next for their two lap race. Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) continued his winning streak as he crossed the line with Brodie Hull (Trail Demons CC) second and Ryan McBride (Banbridge CC) third. First girl was Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) with Aoife Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) second and Isla Doherty (Apollo Cycling Team) third.
Countering the issue of race length from the previous week’s race, the Under 10s were left in the dark as to how many laps they had to complete. With their fast lap times around their specific course they ended up with 6 laps. The front end of the boys race had 4 riders in contention in the early stage of the race with Curtis McKee (Maryland Wheelers), Elliot Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club), James Armstrong (Dromara Cycling Club) and Rhys Hepburn (Island Wheelers) riding strongly. At the finish it was Curtis who took the win ahead of a sprint with Rhys with James taking the final podium spot. In the girls’ race Aisling Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) had a close finish with Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles) with Cara Suckling (Maryland Wheelers) taking the bronze medal.
The Under 12s had the same arrangement with regards to their number of laps, as they had their own course to contend with. Their race turned out to be 5 laps as it took in more of the garden area with extra turns added where possible. Repeating her feat from last week, Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) again managed to pass all the boys on the first lap to get to the front of the race and then pull away from all other riders to finish comfortably. Aliyah Rafferty (Island Wheelers) was also well up amongst the boys as she finished second girl with Cara Moffitt (Phoenix CC) making a great recovery from her crash last week to take third this week. The boys’ race was a close affair between Reuben Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club), Karl Rockett (Ards CC) and Daniel Scott (Island Wheelers) finishing in this order with mere seconds between the riders.
Racing then moved out of the garden and into the large fields with their tall spruce trees. The course took in the main field, crossed a bridge, did a loop around a section of grass with a small trench to negociate, up the fire road climb to the top section which used both the path and the section among the trees (muddy up there), descending back down, over another bridge, past the pits, into the first field and then with wooded sections added in. The finish was a drag across the grass which had less and less grip as the racing went on.
At 11:45 the Cyclo-cross women, mountain bike support women, Under 16s and Under 14s started. A welcome return to racing for Fran Meehan (Arcane Cycling Team) who said it has been 3 years since her last cyclo-cross race. Fran showed she hadn’t lost her off-road racing ability as she took the win. Riding strongly behind Fran was junior rider Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) with Gill Smith (Phoenix CC) taking third and Martina Hawkins (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) fourth. First unplaced junior was Summer McGibbon. In the mountain bike support race Alison McMullan (unattached) coped better with the conditions than chaser Lisa Millar (Dromara Cycling Club) with Karen Wynne (Foyle CC) taking third. Darren Rafferty (Island Wheelers) was well clear of nearest rival Ciaran Dixon (Phoenix CC) in the Under 16 boys’ race with Thomas Warke (Ballymoney CC) making his appearance on the podium. Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) finished ahead of Maria McAllister (Island Wheelers) in the girls’ Under 16 race. In the Under 14 boys’ race Adam McGeever (AAA Cycling) improved on his two third places this season to take the win finishing ahead of Adam Rafferty (Island Wheelers) with Shane Scullion (Island Wheelers) third. Erin Creighton (XMTB) and Hannah Mullin (Trail Demons CC) had a close battle in the Under 14 girls’ race with Erin pulling away on the last lap to take the win. Keela Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) took the bronze in this race category.
The men’s A’ race took place next held over 6 laps. David Montgomery (unattached) was in a class of his own and wasn’t troubled throughout the race. The battle of the day was for second between Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) and Barry Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) who were riding wheel to wheel for every lap apart from the last when Barry crashed leaving Graham to take second without the anticipated final sprint. Barry recovered to take third. Derek Finnegan (Keevan CC) was fourth with Ross Collins (McNally Swords CC) fifth and Christian Nachtigall (Phoenix CC) sixth. First unplaced junior was Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) who finished 7th with first unplaced M40, Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale), finishing 8th. Peter Davison (Dromara Cycling Club) took the first unplaced Espoir (Under 23) prize. Des Woods (Newry Wheelers CC) took the first unplaced M50 prize as well as getting one of the team prize envelopes along with the other two Newry Wheeler riders, Colm Quinn and Peter McConville. There were 18 retired riders from this race.
Next up was the men’s Cyclo-cross B’ race and the men’s mountain bike support race. Round 2 winner Jack Ferguson (Dromara Cycling Club) repeated his winning form finishing well clear of the chasers which was lead by Jonathan Graham (Velo Club Mourne) with Daniel Daly (Phoenix CC) third. Dean Lockhart (Carn Wheelers) was fourth with Seamus McAuley (Velo Cafe Magasin) fifth and Round 1 winner Neil Armstrong (Dromara Cycling Club) finishing sixth. Significantly around 38 riders did not finish the race many suffering from bike failures due to the tacky mud.
After the races the riders were able to enjoy the refreshments in the glasshouse with an opportunity to wash off the mud from the bikes with the hoses on site. A huge thanks to Square Wheels for their hospitality and well done on hosting their first cyclo-cross race. Next week we are off to Delamont Country Park in Killyleagh which is another new venue and will be hosted by another newcomer to the series Killinchy CC. See details on www.ulstercyclocross.com.
Commissaires: Jim Adams, Lisa Millar and Martin Grimley