Drumcairne Forest in County Tyrone was the venue for the 5th and final round of the 2017 Ulster Cross-country Mountain Bike Series. This is the second year that host club Island Wheelers has used this venue as part of the series and there was clear evidence of how much extra work they had put into the venue from last time. This quiet forest just outside Stewartstown was part of a former grand house but now sees very little footfall from the general public making it an ideal spot to host a mountain bike race. Entry numbers were slightly up from last year but still lower than the rest of the series. Those who do come to experience racing in the forest do rave about the place so hopefully more will come next year.

The weather added to the day with dry conditions overhead and under-tyre. It remained dry all day with occasional breaks in the cloud which bathed the site in warm sunshine.

As normal the day’s racing started with the ‘fun’ Under 6s race. Both the Under 6s and the Under 8s started on the fire road up past the timing tent. The Under 6s just had to follow the single track down the hill and finished at the bottom. There was a bunch of 12 riders in this category and all made it to the finish where there were sweets handed out as race numbers were returned.

The Under 8s had 2 laps to complete which was 1.5 times up the finish climb. The boys set off first but the 17 strong pack took a long time to get through the tight first corner. The girls waiting patiently on the start line before they set off around a minute later. In the girls’ race Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles) took her third win of the series as she finished ahead of the two Poppys – Poppy Magee (Trail Demons CC) and Poppy Hamilton (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club). In the boys race Caleb McGreevy (Apollo Cycling Team) took the win finishing ahead of Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) with early leader Rhys Hepburn (Island Wheelers) finishing third.

The Under 10s started on the tarmac near the sign on tent. From this location there was a sweeping right hand turn before the riders charged up the finish hill, up over a sharp hump and then up onto the fire road. Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) took the win in the 3 lap race as he crossed the finish line ahead of Luke Webb (Trail Demons CC) with Curtis McKee (Maryland Wheelers) finishing third. Aliyah Rafferty provided the host club with their first winner as she took the chequered flag ahead of Tori Moffitt (Phoenix CC) with Cara Suckling (Maryland Wheelers) third. Aliyah has won all 5 of the rounds.

Next up were the Under 12s who had 3 laps of their own course to tackle. Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) stormed around the course to take the win ahead of Adam Rafferty and Oisin Ferrity, both from the host club. Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) had another terrific race finishing 4th overall, first girl. Hannah Mullin (Trail Demons CC) was her nearest rival battling strongly for second with Keela Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) in third.

After podiums and refreshments the next races started at noon. Setting off first were the Under 16 boys which saw a well strung out field with Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles) taking the win, his 4th of the series. Drew Armstrong (Team Mechmonkey Mixtape) was second with Andrew Gordon (Ballymoney CC) third. Starting next were the Under 14 boys which was lead from start to finish by Darren Rafferty (Island Wheelers) with Dean Harvey (Kinning Cycles) second and James Webb (Trail Demons CC) third. There was a close race between the Under 16 girls Niamh Mckiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) and Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) with Niamh just getting ahead of Darcey on the finishing section. In the Senior 4 men’s race Gavin Thompson (Maryland Wheelers) crossed the line first with Robert Conn (Phoenix CC) second and Philip Legge (North Down CC) third. Katie Neill (Carn Wheelers) took the chequered flag in the one lap Under 14 girls race with Eva Gordon (Carn Wheelers) the only other competitor in this category. Angie Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) won the Senior 2 women’s race with Janice Hepburn from the host club second and Ruth Aiken (Banbridge CC) third, finishing ahead of Wannita Broome (Dromara Cycling Club).

At 2 pm the final races of the day took place. The Senior 1 men’s category started first and had to complete 5 laps. They were followed by the Senior 2 men who had 4 laps to complete with the Senior 3 men setting off last for their 3 laps. There were no Senior 1 women or Juniors at this event. Taking the first chequered flag was Oleksii Kolbasko (XMTB) with Rastislav Najdez (Clogher Valley Wheelers) putting in a great race coming from the back of the grid to second. Johnny Comac (Square Wheels) completed the podium for the Senior 3s. Clive Caldwell (VTT) took the win in the Senior 2 mens category with Conor Campbell (Newry Wheelers CC) second and David Broome (Dromara Cycling Club) third. Leading from start to finish was Gareth McKee (Cycleology MTB) who
put in a great performance of fast consistent laps. Lindsay Watson (Powerhouse Sport) was Gareth’s nearest rival and came home in a well-deserved second place. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) kept well ahead of his nearest rival, and club mate, Tomasz Michalski, to finish third.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who came along today and had been preparing the course in advance. Thanks to the event sponsor Cano’s Italian Restaurant.

The next cross-country race is on Sunday 9 July 2017 at Union Wood, Co. Sligo which is the 5th and final round of the Irish NPS XC series (see www.irishxcnps.ie for details). The National XC Championships will be held in Djouce Woods, Co. Wicklow on Sunday 23 July 2017.

The Ulster XC Championships will be held at Castlewellan Forest Park on Sunday 30 July 2017.  Details coming soon on www.ulsterxc.com.

Commissaire: Martin Grimley

Report by Martin Grimley

Results here