We headed to Ticknock Forest in the Dublin Mountains for Round 3 of the 2017 Irish Cross-country Mountain Bike National Point Series (NPS). Local club, MTB Association of Dublin (“MAD” for short), know the forest intimately and had developed on last year’s course which takes in part of the mountain bike trail centre. The organisation of the day was superb, improving on an already well oiled setup, to delivery a top class event. The weather was even kind to us, as per last year, although not as warm. The race village is on a forest clearing overlooking a valley where we could watch the forecasted heavy rain clouds in the distance. For us there was a couple of light showers during the day but they quickly disappeared leaving a mixture of overcast conditions and cloudless skies. A great day for riding bicycles.
The youth riders (up to Under 12s) had their races in a separate part of the forest to the older youth and senior riders. The start for their races was on an inclined forest path which then turned sharp left and climbed up above the spectators to join a single track path. The early morning starts had not given time for the sun to warm up this part of the forest which had the timekeepers shivering at the finish line.
The first race of the day was for the Under 6s. Fourteen riders lined up, some with pedal bicycles, some with balance bikes, some with parents running behind, some too fast for parents to keep up. They had one lap to complete and all riders received a medal from the club for their efforts.
Starting next were the Under 8s. They had four laps to complete. There were only 3 entries in the girls’ race with Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) taking the win ahead of Lucy McCarthy (MBCC) and Poppy Hamilton (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club). In the boys’ race Kevin Randall (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) was the clear winner ahead of Killian McCoy (Epic MTB / Expert Cycles) with Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) and Charlie Byrne battling it out for third spot.
Next up were the Under 10s who started further down the slope. They had to tackle 5 laps of an extended course to the one the Under 8s had completed. Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) got off to a slow start but worked his way to the front of the pack and pulled away from Oisin May to take the win. Harry Hobbs (VC Glendale) chased hard but had to settle for third place. In the girls’ race Faith Robinson (Bray Wheelers) had a huge smile as she crossed the line first ahead of Hannah O’Keeffe (Epic MTB / Expert Cycles) with Maria O’Shea (IMBRC) third.
The Under 12s was a very exciting affair with Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) and Luke Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) racing hard for first place across the 6 laps. Luke managed to pull away from Travis on the final lap to take the win. Oisin Ferrity (Island Wheelers) rounded off the podium as he took third after his battle with fellow club mate Shane Scullion. Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) was the single entrant in the Under 12 girls’ race but she had a great race with the boys to take 5th overall.
Race management then moved up to the race village. After prize giving for the Under 8s, 10s and 12s, conducted by DJ Paul Joyce, the riders were then gathered up at the far end of the main forest path at 12 noon. Lined up first were the Under 16 boys followed by the Under 14 boys, Senior 4 men, Under 16 girls, Under 14 girls then Senior 2 women. All had 2 laps to complete, apart from the Under 16 boys who had 3 laps. The Under 14s had a shorter course for their race with a manned junction out in the forest to direct the riders.
Looking first at the Under 14 girls’ race, Caoimhe May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) put on another outstanding race finishing well clear of Erin Creighton (XMTB) and Annie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) who took second and third respectively. In the Under 14 boys’ race, expected winner, Dean Harvey (Kinning Cycles), didn’t disappoint as he had another great race finishing ahead of David McGarr (IMBRC), who, in turn, finished well ahead of third place rider Aaron Finnerty (Ballina Cycling Club). The Under 16 girls’ race had the usual battle between Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) and Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) but Niamh found the course more to her suiting and finished comfortably ahead of Darcey this time. Amanda Draper (MBCC) rounded off the podium in third.
The Under 16 boys race looked set to be a great contest between Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles), Adam McGarr (Biking.ie) and Drew Armstrong (Team Mechmonkey Mixtape) but it didn’t turn out that way. Drew didn’t even get to complete one lap as he suffered a puncture on the opening lap, Adam then punctured on lap 2. Lee was able to race unchallenged to the finish line with Harry Byrne (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) then coming into the spotlight to show that he can race strongly, taking second place. This left a long gap before the remaining Under 16s came through with Evan Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) taking the third step on the podium. In the Senior 4 men’s race Radek Blaha finished first ahead of Pearse O’Hagan (Inspired Cycling) who had his 3rd second place finish of the series. Philip Hayden finished third. In the Senior 2 women’s race Caroline McArdle (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) was well out in front, taking the chequered flag with Leah McCarthy (MAD MTB) second and Caroline Murphy (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) third out of the 7 entries in this category.
After the usual break for podium presentations, practice time and refreshments, the next set of races got underway at 2 pm. First off were the Senior 1 men, followed within seconds by the Junior men. The Senior 1s had 5 laps to complete, the Juniors had 4. A minute later the Senior 2 men started on their 4 lap race. Over 2 minutes later the Senior 3 men, the biggest field of riders on the day, started their 3 lap race. There was only one entry in the Senior 1 women’s race with Erica Grant (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) racing along with the Senior 3 men.
The Senior 3 men’s race turned up an unexpected result with Richard Maes (Killarney Cycling Club) setting lap times that would have had him in the top half of the Senior 1 men’s race. Kenneth O’Sullivan (Killarney Cycling Club) finished second with David Meredith (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) third. The Senior 2 men’s race looked to be in the bag for Ben Breach (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) giving him 3 wins out of 3 but a puncture had him retire from the race. Chris Mollaghan (Team WORC) then took over the lead and finished 39 seconds ahead of Feidhlim Dignan (Cunga CC) with Derrick Evans (South-East Road Club) completing the podium. The Junior men continue to impress especially Jack Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) who was racing high up among the Senior 1 men. John Quinn (Scott Eurocycles.com) finished second with John Buller (Banbridge CC) third and Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) fourth.
Last year’s World Masters MTB champion Robin Seymour (Team WORC) hasn’t done much cross-country racing this year and was not gridded for today’s race. Starting from 4 rows back it wasn’t long before his strength and experience, (he is the most decorated off-road rider in Ireland), was shown as he was first up the long climb. Robin continued to push on across the race finishing comfortably ahead of Lindsay Watson (Powerhouse Sport) who was taking a break from road racing (he finished 40th in the An Post Rás this year) and showing he can still ride off-road. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) was in a tight race for third place with Gareth Hegarty (Scott Eurocycles.com) but had an incident with a back-marker and had to retire. Gareth went on to take third with Tomasz Michalski (McConvey Cycles) 4th, Paul Caldwell (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) 5th and Barry Kellett (Dromara CC) 6th.
After the races the riders were able to make use of the catering supplied by Last Lap Café. There was a light shower as the final podiums were being held but, thankfully, it passed to allow the organisers to take down the course and pack everything away in dry conditions. Many thanks to all the volunteers for giving up their time for this event. Thanks to the sponsors, Kelly’s Bike Company, Spin 11 Clothing and Elite Timing. The next round of the NPS series takes place on 25 June 2017 at Bellurgan Park, Dundalk, hosted by Cuchulainn CC. Keep an eye out on www.irishxcnps.ie for registration opening and please register early.
Commissaire: Martin Grimley
Report by Martin Grimley