Bellurgan Park didn’t disappoint for this year’s National XC Championships
The 2022 Cross-country (XC) Mountain Bike National Championships took place at Bellurgan Park, County Louth, hosted by Bellurgan Wheelers. The event was held over two days, 23-24 July with Saturday given over for practice and non-championship youth races and Sunday for all championship races. The weather leading up to the event was fairly dry and the trails were riding well. Thanks to the landowner we had the use of the main field which had abundant room for car parking as well as a grass section of the course up to the finish line. The event attracted almost 230 entries.
Racing on Saturday started at 6 pm with the Under 6s. Five young riders took in one lap of the Under 8s course. Next up were the Under 8s who had two laps to complete. Their course took in a single track path behind the fence before finishing with the grassy climb up to the finish line. As expected it was Benjamin Cunningham (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) who took the win in the boys’ race with Leo Gallagher (Shelbourne/Orchard CC) second and Callum McRoberts (Banbridge CC) third. In the girls’ race, Ruby Millar (Square Wheels) took the win ahead of Fiadh Craig (VC Glendale) with Ríonach Campbell (Square Wheels) finishing third.
The Under 10s course took them up into the forest, along the climb and then back down the roller coaster section and into the event field. The Under 10s had 3 laps to complete. Despite the girls starting off around 10 seconds behind the boys it was Aoife Campbell (Square Wheels) who crossed the line first. First boy was Rían Watkins (Un-Attached Munster). Second boy was Jake McKee (VC Glendale) who was just ahead of second placed girl Laoise Crinion (IMBRC). Third places went to Lilly McDermott (Un-Attached Leinster) and
Jacob Robinson (Bray Wheelers). All Under 6, Under 8 and Under 10 riders received a medal and a goodie bag.
On Sunday the first of the championship races took place at 10:10 with the Under 12s lined up at the start line. Their course took them further up into the woods that the Under 10s course but still returned via the rollercoaster to the event field. After the 3 laps it was James Cunningham (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) who took the win in the boys’ race when he finished ahead of Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) and Eunan Campbell (Square Wheels). Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) finished well clear of Eire McCrystal (Bellurgan Wheelers) with Sophie Baxter (Lisburn BMX Club) completing the girls’ podium.
At 11:10 the Junior men, Women, Under 16s and Under 14s lined up for their race. The Under 14s circuit was a shortened version of the full course with all other riders completing the full course. Taking a comprehensive win in the 3 lap, Under 14 boys’ race was Curtis McKee (Scott Bright Motor Group). Ryan Daly (Scott Bright Motor Group) finished second with Rian McCrystal (Bellurgan Wheelers) third. The Under 14 girls completed 2 laps with Cara Suckling (VC Glendale) taking the win. Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles Cycling Club) finished second with Aisha Gannon (Breffni Wheelers) completing the podium. The Under 16s had to race around the full course. The Under 16 boys had 3 laps to complete. Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) put in a very consistent effort to finish well clear of second place Daniel Scott (Un-Attached Ulster) with Cameron Henry (Inspired Cycling) finishing third. The Under 16 girls’s race was held over 2 laps of the full course. Greta Lawless (Team WORC) took the win ahead of Faith Robinson (Bray Wheelers) with Aoibhe Murray (Moynalty Cycling Club) third and Lauren Murray (TC Racing) fourth.
The Junior men’s race was held over 4 laps of the main course. There was a great battle between Travis Harkness (VC Glendale) and Curtis Neill (Carn Wheelers) with Travis getting the win by a few seconds. Jake White (IMBRC) finished third with Scott Gallagher (Northwest MTB) taking fourth. Caoimhe May (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) put on a strong performance in the 3 lap Women’s race. Hannah McClorey (RFDA) finished second with Niamh McKiverigan (Scott Bright Motor Group) third. Darcey Harkness (VC Glendale) and Leah McCarthy (Team Giant Dublin) finished fourth and fifth respectively.
At 13:20 the Masters M40 and M50 races took place. The weather up to this point in the day had remained dry, however, during the race there was a heavy rain shower. This turned the course from dry and fast into sketchy with slippery roots. The M40s completed 4 laps with the M50s completing 3 laps. Taking the win in the M40s race was Paul McCarter (Spellman-Dublin Port). PJ Hynes (Cuchulainn CC) lead after lap 1 but had to settle for second place. Conor Campbell (Cuchulainn CC) finished third, his second time on the podium in two weeks after taking second place at the Enduro National Championships the previous Sunday. Alan Bingham (Newry Wheelers CC) finished fourth with Geoffrey Robinson (Bray Wheelers) taking fifth.
When living legend Robin Seymour (Team WORC) enters a race, the other riders are just competing to see who will get second place. Robin has been winning National Championships for over two decades and didn’t disappoint this year taking a comfortable win in the M50s race ahead of John Doris (EPIC MTB/Expert Cycles) with Vinnie Fitzsimon (Team WORC) taking third. Jason Henry (Inspired Cycling) was fourth with Johnny McCabe (Cuchulainn CC), an M60 rider, taking fifth.
The final race of the day started at 15:30. It was a bad sign when a heavy shower arrived just as the riders were about to be called to the start line. Thankfully the shower passed after a few minutes but this additional downpour would not have helped the state of the course. The riders faced further heavy showers during their race. Taking on the challenging course were the Senior men and, starting 1 minute behind them, the Masters M30 category.
Leading from start to finish in the 5 lap Senior men’s race was Christopher McGlinchey (Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus). David Montgomery (Spellman-Dublin Port) was unchallenged in second place with Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles) taking third place on the podium. Colm Mullen (Team WORC) was glad to get to the finish after bike issues preventing him from completing his last two cross-country MTB races and was rewarded with fourth place. Gareth McKee (Cycleology Racing Team) finished 5th, the first time since 2015 he hasn’t made it onto the podium. David Conroy (Scott Bright Motor Group) finished sixth. VC Glendale’s Lee Harvey had a bad start with a puncture on lap 1 which put him out of contention. Missing from the start line was Sean Nolan (Navan Road Club) who suffered severe injuries while out riding his bike in Townley Hall in the lead up to the race. He fell victim to a trap placed across the trail. We wish him a speedy recovery.
In the M30s race Lee Clarke (Shelbourne/Orchard CC) lead from start to finish. Darragh McCarter (Spellman-Dublin Port) took second with Gareth Davis (Biking.ie) taking third. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) was fourth with Robert McKenna (Bray Wheelers) fifth.
Well done to all the competitors and congratulations to those who made it to the podium. A huge thanks to Bryan McCrystal and his team of helpers from Bellurgan Wheelers, Cuchulainn CC and others. Thanks to Lorna Reilly (Cycling Leinster) and her crew of timekeepers. Thanks to the landowner of Bellurgan Park and to the sponsor Wheelworx Bike & Tri Shop. The Cycling Ireland Off-road Commission’s Cross-country rep Caroline Martinez was on hand to give out the prizes for the National Point Series (NPS) at the event as well. Thanks to Caroline for all her work with cross-country this season.
Commissaires: Maurice Mayne and Martin Grimley
Race report by Martin Grimley