Slade Valley in County Wicklow may be well known for its golf courses but it was Saggart Woods which was the attraction for mountain bikers from across Ireland who headed along the narrow roads to where Round 2 of the Irish Cross-country Mountain Bike National Point Series was taking place. Host club IMBRC are regular users of the venue and have been busy developing and testing the trails in the forest.
Car parking had been provided in a nearby field with the starting area for the races just inside the forest at the bottom of the fire road. The finish line for almost all the races was up the top of the first rise in the fire road at a wide open area with great vistas of the valley below.
Pre-registrations for the event were down from previous years with less than 150 listed, perhaps due to the Enduro event happening in County Down, or the mixed weather forecast. In the end the riders did come with over 200 competing in the end. The weather was indeed mixed starting off with grey, heavy overcast conditions in the morning with light winds, changing to sharp gusts of wind which were testing the fastenings on the gazebos, During the early afternoon races we seen steady rain which created some mud around the course. At the end of the day the sun was breaking through the clouds and bathing the hard working volunteers in warm sunshine as they tore down the course and packed up the vans.
Racing got underway at 10 am with the Under 6s. This fun, introductory race had 15 riders signed on to try out some cross-country racing around a short course. The riders, some on strider bikes with no pedals, all made it round and received a medal at the end along with lots of applause from the spectators.
Next up were the Under 8s. They took off up the climb towards the finish line and then veering left and back down along the single track to the foot of the fireroad to start the climb all over again. Three laps in total. Killian McCoy (Lucan BMX) took the win in the boys race with Brian Crinion and Jude Tobin, both from the host club IMBRC, taking second and third respectively. Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) won the girls’ race with Anna Cobbe (IMBRC) second and Lucy McCarthy (MBCC) third.
The Under 10s used the same course as the Under 8s but had 5 laps to complete. Ava McCarthy took the win in the girls’ race with Hannah O’Keefe (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) second ahead of Cara Suckling (Maryland Wheelers). Oisin May was the first boy to cross the line with Darragh Saunders (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) second and Harry Hobbs (VC Glendale) third.
A longer course greeted the Under 12s who headed up past the finish line to a gap in the trees to begin their loop back to the start line. They had 6 laps to complete. Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) and Luke Murphy (Killarney CC) provided what arguable was the battle of the day as they kept swapping places keeping within touching distance of each other for the 5 laps. On the final lap Travis just got ahead of Luke on the final exciting sprint finish, letting out a shout of joy as he crossed the line. Shane Scullion (Island Wheelers) wrapped up the podium for the boys. Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) and Hannah Mullin (Trail Demons CC) were the only two entries in the girls race but were happy to chase down the boys. Aine took the win ahead of Hannah.
A break in the proceedings allows for the prize giving ceremony for the Under 8s, 10s and 12s announced by seasoned commentator Paul Joyce. The next races were for the Under 14s, Under 16s, Senior 4 men and Senior 2 women. The Under 14s had a short loop of the main course to complete 3 laps of. The other racers took in the majority of the main course, just skipping out the bomb hole.
Caoimhe May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) put on another impressive performance to take the win in the Under 14 girls race finishing ahead of Erin Creighton (XMTB) with Annie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) third. Dean Harvey (Kinning Cycles) had a comfortable win in the Under 14 boys race finishing well clear of Donnacha Desmond (MBCC) and David McGarr (IMBRC). The Under 16 boys race was an exciting affair between Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles) and Adam McGarr (Biking.ie) who were wheel to wheel for the first 3 laps with Adam pulling away on the final lap to take the win. Harry Byrne (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) finished third. The Under 16 girls race formed the usual close battle between Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) and Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) with Niamh finishing the stronger in this race. Amanda Draper (MBCC) completed the girls podium. The numbers in the Senior 4 men’s race were greatly reduced from normal entry levels but there was some great racing nonetheless. Mareks Andrejevs (IMBRC) came to the front on the three lap race and finished well clear of Pearse O’Hagan (Inspired Cycling) with Jason Griffin (IMBRC) third. In the women’s S2 race Niamh McGreen (MAD MTB) took her second win of the series as she finished ahead of Caroline McArdle and Caroline Murphy, both from EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles.
After another awards ceremony and a chance of a break for the marshals and timing team, the final races of the day took place at 2 pm. Lined up were the Senior 1 men, Senior 1 women, Juniors, Senior 2 men and Senior 3 men. On the front of the mass of riders were the Senior 1 men, a great turn out of 24 riders, waiting on the whistle to start their 5 lap race. Behind them were the three Junior men who had 4 laps to complete. Behind them were the Senior 2 men, a big group of 34 riders who also had 4 laps to complete. The Senior 3 men had the biggest turn out of the day with 37 riders competing across 3 laps. There were only 2 in the Senior 1 women’s race, missing Marlena Drozdziok who was competing in the World Cup in Nové Mesto, Czech Republic and injured Klaudia Bajolek, who was on site supporting her team mates.
Despite starting from the back of the field, Gareth McKee was soon at the front to take the expected win in the Senior 1 men’s race. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) had to work hard to stay ahead of Gareth Hegarty (Scott Eurocycles.com) with Tomasz Michalski (McConvey Cycles) fourth, Paul Caldwell (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) fifth and Brian Steele (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club), making his return to XC racing taking sixth place. Erica Grant (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) won the Senior 1 women’s race as she finished ahead of Joanna Bula (Lakeside Wheelers Mullingar CC). The Junior men’s race saw Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) lead in the early laps before John Quinn (Scott Eurocycles.com) took the lead and the chequered flag leaving Thomas with second place and Jack Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) with third. In the Senior 2 men’s race Ben Breach (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) had to keep on the power to stay ahead of chasing Brian Meila (Team WORC) with host club rider Anthony Quinn getting a big shout out from the crowd as he finished third. Emil Tyszecki (MBCC) took the win in the Senior 3 men’s race with Paul Donnan (Team WORC) second and Milos Hajek, also from the host club, getting onto the final step of the podium.
The host club ended up with riders on podiums in the Under 8 boys and girls race, Under 14 boys race, Senior 4 men’s race, Senior 3 men’s race and Senior 2 men’s race. Home advantage which hopefully can be repeated for ‘away’ races.
Many thanks to the hard working volunteers at IMBRC, under race director Davey Dunne. Many hours work was put into the course in the weeks and months leading up to the event and lots of organising on the weekend.
The next round (Round 3) will take place in Ticknock on Sunday 4 June 2017. See details on www.irishxcnps.ie. Please register early.
Commissaires: Colm Mullan and Martin Grimley
Report by Martin Grimley