The first round of the Ulster Cross-country Mountain Bike Series took place today at Tollymore Forest Park. Host club Dromara CC had been on site for two days preparing the course and the event field. With overnight rain the event field was left quite muddy underfoot and the single track trails were made more challenging with the wet tree roots. Notwithstanding the riders appeared from early on to register and receive their race numbers.
The first race of the day was for the Under 6s who had a short loop through the trees. When the commissaire blew his whistle to start the race he also managed to coincide with the first heavy downpour of the day. The young riders didn’t seem to mind the rain but the adults were reaching for umbrellas and shelter.
The Under 8s then lined up around 100 metres from the timing tent. They had 2 laps to complete of their course. In the boys race Rhys Hepburn (Island Wheelers) took the win ahead of Jamie Rockett (Ards CC) with Caleb McGreevy (Apollo Cycling Team) third. In the girls race Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) finished ahead of Poppy Magee (Trail Demons CC) with Aoife Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) rounding off the podium.
The Under 10s then started in the same location but they had the full youth course to complete over 2 laps. Leading from the start was Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) with Curtis McKee (Maryland Wheelers) finishing second and Thomas McAlinden (Apollo Cycling Team) third. Aliyah Rafferty (Island Wheelers) had another strong race finishing well clear of Aisling Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) with Tori Moffitt (Phoenix CC) getting the bronze medal.
The Under 12s start line was further back down the event field. They were using the same course as the Under 10s but had to complete 4 laps. The finish off the boys race was the most exciting all day with Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) just pipping Adam Rafferty (Island Wheelers) on the line. Oisin Ferrity (Island Wheelers) finished third. Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) delivered another fine display of cycling finishing first with Hannah Mullin (Trail Demons CC) continuing to chase strongly with Keela Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) rounding off the girls race.
After a break for food and podium presentations the next races took place at noon with the Under 16 boys on the front row, Under 14 boys next, Senior 4 men, Senior 2 women, Under 16 girls then the Under 14 girls. All had to complete two laps of the main course, apart from the Under 16 boys who had to complete 3 laps. The course, by this stage, was becoming very tricky with expected lap times, taken from the day before, now well extended. As such, the Under 14s were racing for longer than usual. Dean Harvey (Kinning Cycles) took the win in the Under 14s race with Darren Rafferty (Island Wheelers) his closest rival and Scott Roberts (McConvey Cycles) taking third place. Katie Neill (Carn Wheelers) was still smiling as she finished her race with Erin Creighton (XMTB) and Eva Gordon (Carn Wheelers) finishing second and third respectively. In the Under 16 boys race Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles) put on a dominant display to take the win. His closest rival, Drew Armstrong punctured on lap 1 and was delayed quite some time in the pits but still managed to retain second place. Ben Wilson (Dromara Cycling Club) finished third which made him the second podium finisher for the host club. There were just two entries in the Under 16 girls race with Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) finishing well ahead of Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) who was sporting some injuries after a fall on the steep shute. Anne Duffy (Cuchulainn CC) crossed the line first in the Senior 2 women’s category with Lisa Millar, from the host club, second and Ruth Aiken (Banbridge CC) third. In the Senior 4 men’s race Geoff Black (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) took the chequered flag with Pearse O Hagan (Inspired Cycling) second and Gavin Thompson (Maryland Wheelers) third.
There was another break in the schedule to allow the riders to practice the course and to allow the many volunteers to swap over and get fed. Racing kicked off again at 2 pm with the Senior 1 men lined up first, Junior men in the line behind them, Senior 2 men next, then Senior 3 men. There was only one starter in the Senior 1 woman’s race, Claire Oakley, who pulled out early on in the race. Johnny Comac (Square Wheels) passed early leader Oleksii Kolbasko (XMTB) in the Senior 3 men’s race to take the win. Brian Wilson from the host club matched his son Ben Wilson in taking third place on the podium. In the Senior 2 men’s race Clive Caldwell was out front at the start before he was reeled in by John Scott (Island Wheelers) who went on to take the chequered flag. Ronan O Sullivan (Team Giant Dublin) was rewarded for his long journey to finish third. John Buller (Banbridge CC) had a good clean race in the Junior men’s category finishing ahead of Craig McCarthy (McConvey Cycles) and Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles). Thomas had to run most of the first lap to get back to the pits to repair a puncture. In the Senior 1 men’s race Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC) was kept under pressure by World Masters Champion Robin Seymour (Team WORC) but managed to pull away from the veteran rider to take the win. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) had another good clean race finishing third, well clear of his nearest competitor, and club mate Tomasz Michalski.
Post race the riders were able to tuck into the fine range of food on offer. The sun came out and the park was illuminated in bright spring sunshine. A great way to end the day.
Many thanks to all the volunteers at Dromara Cycling Club for supporting the event. Also thanks to all the riders who came along, from near and far, to compete. Well done to all those who podiumed.
Many thanks to the Forestry Service for the use of the land. Thanks to Hills Mixtape Coffee van and Mech Monkey for coming along to support the event as well as supporting some of the up and coming off-road cyclists.
Commissaire: Maurice Mayne
Report by Martin Grimley