Bann Wheelers Cycling Club held their Annual Open Races on Saturday 28th April, on a very challenging circuit over the Cam between Garvagh and Coleraine.
The testing 11 mile circuit with 561ft of climbing per lap appealed to those who favour the climbs or sprints.
Sign on took place at Ballerin Sarsfields GAA Club in Garvagh and a neutralised roll out took place from there, through Boleran Road to the start line on the race circuit at the Cashel Road and finished following the relevant laps per race at the farm buildings 200 metres short of the Shinny Road junction on the Letterloan Road.
Four separate race categories took place. A1/A2 was a scratch race of five laps (56 miles), the A3/Juniors race followed also being five laps (56 miles), then the A4 race of four laps (45 miles) and then the Masters/Ladies race of three laps (34 miles).
Following completion of the races, refreshments and awards presentation took place in the Ballerin Sarsfields GAA Club.
In the A1/A2 race, Craig McAuley, one of the best U23 riders in the country, opened his account for 2018.
He took victory in the main event, just ahead of team mate Mark McClure. They were well ahead of the rest, with their team mates Darnell Moore and Angus Fyffe taking the next two placings making a 1-2-3-4 for Caldwell Cycles from Omagh.
What would prove to be a decisive breakaway went clear inside the first 10km of the race. With five laps of the course between Garvagh and Coleraine to be negotiated the leaders were never seen again. Caldwell Cycles managed to put their four, aforementioned men in the move. It was a composition that added real purpose to the group.
All nine riders co-operated up front and the gap went out over the first two laps. The lead group would then split; six men pushing on from the original nine.
The four Caldwell riders were there in the leading six along with Ronan McLaughlin (Viner-Caremark-Pactimo). Jody Wright also made the cut; the Phoenix CC man in very good form of late. He took third and fifth in the recent Coombes-Connor and Carn Classic respectively.
With around 20km remaining it was McClure who seized the day. He forged clear solo and pulled out a gap on the other five. On the last passage of the climb on the course McLaughlin took flight after McClure and McAuley also sprang from the group.
However, while McLaughlin was riding very strongly he had the misfortune of puncturing. That left McClure leading solo with McAuley on his own behind.
Those two joined up before the finish where McAuley took victory. Both he and McClure crossed the line celebrating their 1-2. Behind them Moore took the sprint for third from the three survivors, with Moore next and then Wright.
Andrew Nicholson from Phoenix CC took the A3 win from Shay Donley (NRPT-Chill Junior) in second. Shay applauding the winner while crossing the line was witnessed by the spectators and showed his great character in defeat, Liam Clarke (UCD-Fitzcycles.ie) completed the podium.
In the A4 race, Michael McDonald of Phoenix CC took the sprint finish from Barry Patton (Keevan CC) on the line in second with Romas Sarvas (Ards CC) in third.
Ian McClure of the Dave Kane club had the upper hand winning the Masters race, from John Rafferty of Ards CC only an inch behind, with Colin McCloskey (Apollo CC) a close third.
Robert McKinlay, BWCC Honorary President presented the prizes.
Bann Wheelers Committee would like to thank all the members who gave up their time to set up and marshal, keeping everyone safe on the course.
Also thanks to the commissaires and the finish line expert Ian Barfoot. A huge thanks to the catering staff who put out the excellent spread that Bann Wheelers are renowned for.
Yet again the Community Rescue Service also ensured that riders were kept safe. Thanks to Club Chairman Laurence Bradley and Club Race Secretary Steve Milliken and especially to all the riders for turning out to make a great day’s racing.
All at Bann Wheelers would like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors of the Open Races. Pictured are Gordon Moore from JP Corry and Roy Dixon from Trust Ford.
Also thanks to Seamus Doherty from TBF Thompson for their generosity and yet again to Russell Watton from LYNAS for supplying excellent desserts.
Credits and thanks for the photographs to Sharon McFarland.