Sunshine and dusty trails for the XC National Championships

The 2021 Cycling Ireland National Cross-country (XC) Mountain Bike Championships took place at Tinkerhill Motorcross Circuit on the outskirts of Newry in County Down over the weekend of 27-28 August. The event was hosted by Chain Reaction Cycles under the direction of event organisers David O’Neill and Caroline Martinez. With the Covid-19 restrictions in place since March 2020 this was the first cross-country event since before the lockdown. Normally the national XC championships would take place in July but that wasn’t possible. The XC cycling community were glad to get a championships this year and this was reflected in the large number of rider registrations, over 300. The weekend was blessed with dry and sunny conditions on both days with the added bonus that the landowner allowed camping on site.

On Friday evening the course was available for practice from 3 pm. At 6 pm the support races began. First up was a race for the Under 6s which had the 10 riders take on two short laps around the grass field used for the pit area for the main races. Next up were the Under 8s who had 3 laps of a longer course around the field. In the boys’ race Jack McGahan (Square Wheels) took the win ahead of Benjamin Cunningham (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) with Jake McKee (VC Glendale) third. In the girls’ race Aoife Campbell (Square Wheels) returned to top form taking a comfortable win over Ruby Millar (Square Wheels) with Grace Clogher (Un-Attached Leinster) finishing third.

The Under 10s had 7 laps of the same course as the Under 8s. The top 4 riders in the Under 10 boys’ race had a crowd pleasing battle. In the mix was
Adam Daly (Scott Quanta Racing), Brodie Hull (Un-Attached Ulster), Eunan Campbell (Square Wheels) and Rory McCool (Square Wheels). The lead kept changing, the riders were wheel to wheel and the crowd was cheering loudly! Such a great race!!! In the end it was Eunan Campbell taking the win with Adam Daly second and Rory McCool third. Brodie dropped back to 5th. In the girls’ race Sophie Baxter (Un-Attached Ulster) crossed the line first ahead of Laoise Crinion (IMBRC) with Chloe McRoberts (Banbridge CC) third.

At 7 pm the racing moved over to the main track with 24 E-bike riders lining up at the motorcross starting gates. This was the first E-bike race in Ireland. They had 3 laps to complete. Local rider, and part of the course design team, Glyn O’Brien (Chain Reaction Cycles) was the favourite. Streaming out from the start line was Tommy Magnenat (Lisburn BMX Club) who put in a strong early burst however, it wasn’t long before Glyn took to the front and never looked back. Tommy finished second with Ronan O’Sullivan (Team Giant Dublin) third, Philip Mullan (Sperrin Mountain Bike Club) fourth and Paul Murphy fifth.

Saturday had four races schedules for the championship categories. First up were the Under 12s who took on a reduced section of the main course. Caleb McGreevy (Apollo Cycling Team) won the four lap boys’ race with Rian McCrystal (Bellurgan Wheelers) second and Fionn Crinion (IMBRC) third. Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) finished well over a minute ahead of Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles Cycling Club) with Lacey Aicken Johnson (North Down CC) third.

Race two had 6 categories, Junior men, Under 16 boys, Under 14 boys, Women, Under 16 girls and Under 14 girls starting in this order and all taking on the full course. The Under 14s had two laps to complete with Curtis McKee (VC Glendale) taking the win in the boys’ race ahead of Oisin May (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) with Ryan Daly (Scott Quanta Racing) third. In the girls’ race it was Greta Lawless (Team WORC) who took the chequered flag ahead of Faith Robinson (Bray Wheelers) with Erin McCormack (Ballina Cycling Club) taking the last place on the podium.

The Under 16 boys’ had 4 laps to complete. Travis Harkness (VC Glendale) was on a mission and blazed round the course finishing over 3 minutes ahead of Liam O’Brien (Fermoy Cycling Club) with Jake White (IMBRC) taking third. The Under 16 girls’ race saw another tremendous performance from Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) over their 3 lap race. Katie Reilly (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) finished second with Zoe Lindsay (TC Racing) third.

The Junior men’s race was held over 5 laps. Despite a slipped pedal at the start, and ending up at the back of the 8 rider bunch, Dean Harvey (VC Glendale) stormed through the other riders to take the lead. This was expected as Dean has just come off a terrific road season which seen him as the top junior male rider in Ireland. Dean crossed the line almost 5 minutes ahead of nearest rival Ruairi Coghlan (Scott Quanta Racing). Sam Bolger (Killarney Cycling Club) took third with Fionn Desmond (MBCC) fourth and David McCarthy (Verge Sport PI Cycles) fifth.

In the Women’s 4 lap race Niamh McKiverigan (Scott Quanta Racing) took the early lead but it was veteran rider Ciara Macmanus (Un-Attached Ulster) who took over by lap 3 and went on to take the win. Niamh finished second with Darcey Harkness (VC Glendale) third, Roisin Lally (Scott Quanta Racing) fourth and Niamh Stephens (Team Giant Dublin) fifth.

The next race of the day was for the Masters M40 and Master M50. The M40s had the biggest field of 39 riders and had 6 laps to complete. Taking back-to-back wins over the same weekend was Glyn O’Brien (Chain Reaction Cycles), a gold medal to complement the lightening bolt trophy he got from the E-bike race. Second place went to Colm McGarvey (EPIC MTB/Expert Cycles) with Barry Convery (Newry Wheelers CC) third, Sean Featherstone (Newry Wheelers CC) fourth, Scott Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) fifth and Ronan O’Sullivan (Team Giant Dublin) sixth. The M50s had 5 laps to complete with race favourite, and man with more national titles than any other in Ireland, Robin Seymour (Team WORC) lining up again. Robin took the lead and held it to the line finishing well clear of second place Kieran McKenna (Un-Attached Ulster). Vinnie Fitzsimon (Team WORC) finished third with Gerard O’Donnell (IMBRC) fourth, Johnny McCabe (Cuchulainn CC), an M60 rider taking fifth with Barry Russell (Carn Wheelers) taking sixth.

The final race of the day was for the Senior men and Master M30. Both had 6 laps to complete. The Senior men’s race was an exciting affair with the top 4 riders having a close battle – Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC) who won the national championships back in 2018, David Conroy (Scott Quanta Racing) who won the national championships back in 2019, David Montgomery (Dromara Cycling Club) and Lee Harvey (VC Glendale). By lap 4 David Conroy had dropped off the back of the other 3. After a slip up in lap 4 David Montgomery went on to take the win ahead of Gareth McKee with Lee Harvey taking fourth. David Conroy didn’t finish the race leaving Nathan Kurensky (TWC Maaslandster Zuid-Limburg) to take fourth, Chris Oakley (VC Glendale) fifth and Mark Dowling (All human/VeloRevolution Racing Team) sixth.

In the M30s race Richard Maes (All human/VeloRevolution Racing Team) lead the race from start to finish. Darragh McCarter (Spellman-Dublin Port) finished second with Timothy O’Regan (Team WORC) third. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) was fourth with Richard Felle (Team WORC) fifth and Paul Caldwell (Navan Road Club) sixth.

A huge thanks to David and Caroline for putting on the race and to all the volunteers who helped to make the day. Thanks to the landowner for the use of the site and to the first aiders who patched up the injured. Thanks to Paul Joyce for the commentary and to the live band for keeping us entertained. We are left with great memories and photos. Now to blow off the dust from the bikes, cars, clothes and timing equipment and to apply the after sun to the burnt skin.

Commissaires: Maurice Mayne, Iain Smith and Martin Grimley

Report by Martin Grimley

Results – support races here, championship races here

Gareth Gibbons – here
Eightynine media – here
Toby Watson – here

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