Sunday 7 October 2018 is now an important date in the history of Irish Cyclo-cross as this was when the first UCI C2 race took place. The idea came from a discussion between event organiser Glenn Kinning and Andy Layhe (the cyclo-cross representative on the Cycling Ireland Off-road Commission), when returning from the World Cyclo-cross Championships at the start of 2018.
The race was hosted by Kinning Cycles with support from friends from other clubs. Mallusk Playing fields lie on the outskirts of Belfast and boasts great facilities for the sporting public, most notably for football. The course used was build around the football pitches and made great use of the steps and off-camber banks. The host club has used the venue in the previous two years so they knew how they were going to design the course but they were then tasked with upping their game to host the UCI event. This included: 300+ barriers, a chip timing company with a start and finish gantry, large marquee, UCI level prize money, an international commissaire, drug testing, getting sponsors on board, a GoFundMe campaign and lots of administrative hoops to jump through.
The UCI races on the day were for the Junior Men, Women and Senior Men. There were two non-UCI events: A race for the Under 14s and 16s and, the biggest field of the day, the Men’s Support race.
The venue at Mallusk is rather exposed. There was a cold start to the day and some early rain made the event feel more like the winter sport that it is normally associated with. Thankfully the rain did stop and the temperature did rise but the biggest factor on the day was the wind which had some strong gusts throughout the day which tested how well the many gazebos were tied down.
An early start for the first race with the whistle blowing at 9 am for the Under 14s and 16s. The Under 16s boys had 4 laps to complete with the Under 16 girls, Under 14 boys and Under 14 girls completing 3 laps. Taking an impressive win in the Under 16 boys’ race was Somhairle Owens Fisher (Omagh Wheelers Cycling Club) with Conor Gallagher (Errigal Cycling Club) second and Joseph Owens (Omagh Wheelers Cycling Club) third. Annie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) won the Under 16 girls’ race. Erin Creighton (XMTB) finished second with Caoimhe May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) third. Taking the chequered flag in the Under 14 boys’ race was Shane Scullion (Island Wheelers) with Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) a minute behind him and another minute gap to third place Oisin Ferrity (Island Wheelers). Finishing over 4 minutes ahead of her nearest rival was Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) in the Under 14 girls’ race. Cara Moffitt (Phoenix CC) finished second with Keela Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) third.
Lining up next was the Men’s Support race which saw 88 riders lined up for their 6 lap race. This was Alan Bingham’s first cyclo-cross race of the season. The Newry Wheelers CC rider just came off the back of a strong road season and lead the race from start to finish. Finishing second was another veteran rider Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale) with Richard Lenehan (Lakeside Wheelers Mullingar CC) third. Barry Convery (Newry Wheelers CC) finished fourth and took the first unplaced M40 prize. Des Woods (Newry Wheelers CC) had to work hard to stay ahead of fellow club mate Peter McConville as they finished fifth and sixth. Des took the first unplaced M50 prize.
The first of the UCI races was for the Junior men and was held over 6 laps. Out in front was Adam McGarr (Biking.ie) with Lee Harvey (Un-Attached Ulster) chasing hard. At the end there was only 18 seconds between them with Adam taking the win. Finishing third was Ciaran Dixon (McConvey Cycles) with fourth going to Paul-Antoine Hagan (Team Vision Racing), a relative newcomer to the sport. Donal Walsh (AAA Cycling) was fifth with Oisín Doherty (Donegal Bay Cycling Club) sixth.
The next UCI level race was for the Women which included Junior and Senior Women. This race was also held over 6 laps. Chicago based rider Maria Larkin (The Meteor p/b Allied) had been disappointed with her National Championships result back in January 2018 but was on form for this race taking a comprehensive win. Junior rider and current Irish National Cyclo-cross champion, Lara Gillespie (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club), had to settle for second with third going to Michelle Geoghegan (Autoglas Wettern Cycling Team). Klaudia Bajolek (Scott Eurocycles.com) finished fourth ahead of Lisa Stapelbroek (Kenmare Cycling Club) with Ciara Macmanus (Un-Attached Ulster) finishing sixth, her first cyclo-cross race this season.
The final UCI level race of the day was for the Senior Men. The start line had 34 riders lined up. Leading from the start, despite a fall just after the start, was David Conroy (Scott Eurocycles.com). Starting from the back of the grid was Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) who held second place for the first half of the 9 lap race before being caught by Niall Davis (Biking.ie) and Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles). Niall finishing second, Graham third and Thomas fourth. Having not raced cyclo-cross since the National Championships back in January 2017, Christopher McGlinchey (Chain Reaction Cycles) proved he still hadn’t lost his form as he finished 5th. Legend of Irish cyclo-cross, Robin Seymour (Team WORC), finished 6th with Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles Cycling Club) putting in a superb performance given the demands of being a race organiser. Current National Champion Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles) did not have a good day at the ‘office’ after rolling a tire on the first lap but managing 8th. Richard Maes (Killarney Cycling Club) finishing 9th with Seán Ó Tuathail (Bray Wheelers) 10th.
After the races the riders could refuel from the various food suppliers on site. A huge thanks to Kinning Cycles and to all those who came together to help put on this special event. A big thanks to all the sponsors – Bio Racer, Atlassins, Trek, Challenge Tires, McKinley Contracts, Charm Wedding Studio, Greenscape NI, Belgian Project.
Report by Martin Grimley
Commissaires: Eric Follon, Paul Watson, Maurice Mayne, Jim Adams, Lisa Millar, Martin Grimley