CYCLING: Downes bags early season race victory

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BANN Wheeler’s Chairman Robert Downes showed that he is not just a hard working Administrator but is also no slouch on the bike in winning his first race of the season on Sunday week past in the Phoenix CC Grand Prix at Nutt’s Corner.

By his own admission Robert has been ‘putting in the miles for Benidorm’ of late and this paid off handsomely for him in Seniors race where he carried the Bann Wheeler’s colours on his own. This trial event saw twenty senior riders line up. Included were teams from both Donegal and the host club. Undaunted, Robert and Harry Martin of the Clann Eireann Club drove the field around the twenty mile race, the group staying together until the final drag when the pressure went on. Although faced with a Phoenix team working together, Robert broke away in a two up sprint over the last 500 yards and saw off the experienced Dermot Hughes of Phoenix Club near the line.

Robert was delighted with his win and is looking forward to participating in many more Cycling Ulster events throughout the season. He also hopes that there may be some more support within Bann Wheeler’s for the Senior’s races which are to feature at a number of meetings throughout the season.

Start of Ulster Cycling Racing Calendar

The Ulster road racing season got off to a great start on the last weekend of February with full fields at Banbridge (organised by Annaclone CC) on Saturday and again at Nutt’s Corner (host club Phoenix CC) on Sunday. Local riders were prominently involved on both days.

On Saturday at Banbridge both Robert Downes and Ronnie Kidd of Bann Wheelers both finished in the top twenty of a sixty man field in the A4 race. Robert would of course go on to greater things the next day at Nutt’s Corner.

On the Sunday at Nutt’s Corner, Bann Wheeler Nigel Quigley made a welcome return to competitive cycling following injury problems over the last two years. Nigel was competing in the Phoenix GP B race as was fellow Bann Wheeler James Thompson. This was over four laps of a nine mile circuit.

James struggled to retain Nigel’s wheel on the opening lap and by the second lap a number of riders (including Nigel) had managed to drop the peloton and began to open up a gap.

By the penultimate lap a group of six riders had formed in the break. These were Kyle Cole ( Roe Valley), Nigel Quigley (Bann Wheelers), Cormac Clarke (Newry Wheelers), Stephen Fletcher (East Antrim Audi), Stephen Harkins (Team Madigan) and Thomas Doyle (UCD) who began to work together to keep ahead of the chasers.

Had Nigel’s shoe not slipped out of his cleat on the sprint finish he would have been a likely contender for crossing the line in first place; as it was he finished a very creditable sixth. On the line Clarke and Doyle sprinted with Clarke getting the verdict and first year junior Kyle Cole of Roe valley putting in a superb performance to claim third followed by Fletcher and Harkins.

James Thompson in his first Ulster race fought hard to finish well up the field of sixty riders.

Conor Murphy (Eurocycles) and Bann Wheeler Associate member John Madden (Curran Racing) dominated the A event going clear in the opening miles and working well together to stay away. On the line Murphy got the verdict ahead of Madden with the main field coming home a full two minutes later.

Kyle Cromie of Bann Wheelers also competed strongly in the A event, finishing in the group.

Bann Wheelers Club Meeting

At last week’s club meeting members were given advance notice of the third annual Causeway Cycle Challenge to take place on Sunday 31 July on the same circuit. Further details will follow.

Members were also advised that the race calendar for 2011 is now up on the website. The weekly Sunday morning run continues to gain momentum, meeting at Strand Road Service Station at 9am. The pace should be steady and possibly split into two groups depending on numbers; prospective new members are encouraged to come along and give this a try.

It is also hoped to restart the Wednesday evening beginner’s runs following the change hour on the first Wednesday in April. The next club meeting is on Tuesday 29 March at 7.30pm in the Sperrin Club.

Hearty congratulations were offered to Chairman Robert Downes on his winning the Phoenix GP Senior’s event at Nutt’s Corner the previous Sunday. What an example for all competitive members to follow!