The first round of the 2023 National Cyclo-cross series took place at Falls Park in Belfast, hosted by VC Glendale, on Sunday 17 September 2023. The club has a great reputation for hosting grand cyclo-cross events, adorning the park with lots of Belgium flags and banners which match their club kit. This year the club built an impressive set of steps with a ramp at a key location which attracted a crowd of onlookers. Thanks to Belfast City Council for their support in hosting the event in this superb park. It was a wet start to race day with heavy rain during the early hours of the morning. This left the park very muddy, a challenge for riders and spectators.
The day started with some youth support races, the first of which were the Under 6s. The 11 young riders had to complete two laps of a short course around the barriers. All were greeted with a goodie bag at the finish.
The Under 8s had their own course through the trees. As per all races they started on the tarmac lane. The Under 8s had 5 laps to complete. Taking the win in the boys’ race was Daithi Hughes (Square Wheels) with Séan McGahan (Square Wheels) second and James Kavanagh (Lakeland) third. In the girls’ race it was Ríonach Campbell (Square Wheels) who took the chequered flag when she finished ahead of Marian Mulvaney (Sliabh Luachra Cycling Club) and Isla McCourt (VC Glendale) who took second and third respectively.
The Under 10s course went further into the trees on the lower side of the park. They were the first to use the plank obstacle, where they had to dismount, lift their bike over the planks, then remount and charge on. Benjamin Cunningham (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) and Leo Gallagher (Shelbourne/Orchard CC) had a close battle for the win in the 4 lap boys’ race but Benjamin managed to win the final sprint. Leo finished second with Jaxon Jennings (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) taking the final place on the podium. In the girls’ race it was Molly Turner (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) who crossed the line first ahead of Ruby Millar (Square Wheels) with Fiadh Craig (VC Glendale) taking third place.
Next up were the Under 12s. Their course was similar to the Under 10s with just a short extension for a longer sprint up the tarmac path. They had 6 laps to complete. Jack McGahan (Square Wheels) put in a great performance to take the win in the boys’ race. Daragh Quigley (Foyle CC) was second with Diarmuid O’Sullivan (Greenmount CA) third. Aoife Campbell (Square Wheels) continues to dominate the girls’ race, finishing well up among the boys. Laoise Crinion (IMBRC) and Lilly McDermott (Un-Attached Leinster) were racing side by side with Laoise crossing the line just ahead of Lilly.
After a short break for podium presentations and course practice it was the turn of the Under 14s and Under 16s. They had to use the full course and they were the first of the national series categories.
In the Under 14 boys’ race Josh McClune (Team Madigan C.C.) put on a fine display of racing across the 4 laps to take the win. Eoin Davis (Bohermeen CC) was second with Eunan Campbell (Square Wheels) third. In the Under 14 girls’ race it was a home win for Aoife Craig (VC Glendale). Katie Turner (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) and Ava Baker (Breffni Wheelers) finished second and third respectively.
Caleb McGreevy and James Armstrong, both from VC Glendale, were battling hard for the win in the 4 lap Under 16 boys race with the lead changing after each lap. At the end it was James who took crossed the line first with Caleb having to settle for second place. Fionn Killeen (Kilcullen Cycling Club Murphy Geospacial) rounded off the podium. In the Under 16 girls’ race Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles Cycling Club) took the gold medal with Ami Flavin (Dungarvan CC) taking silver and Grace O’Rourke (Cuchulainn CC) the bronze.
The next race had four race categories, Women, M50s, M60s and the non-cyclocross support race. In the Women’s race it was junior rider Aliyah Rafferty (Island Wheelers) who took the win. Caoimhe May (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) was second with Darcey Harkness (VC Glendale) third. Stephanie Roche (Scott Bright Motor Group) was fourth with junior rider Faith Robinson (Bray Wheelers) taking fifth and the prize for the first unplaced Junior. Caroline Martinez (Chain Reaction Cycles) took the prize for first unplaced Master.
In the M50s race Pj Hynes (Cuchulainn CC) lead from start to finish. Des Woods and Jason Henry, both from Inspired Cycling, took second and third respectively. Last year’s National Series winner Fearghal Regan (Kilcullen Cycling Club Murphy Geospacial) took fourth place with Raymond Brownfield (North Down CC) fifth and Declan McEntee (Emyvale CC) sixth place.
There were 6 riders lined up for the M60s race. As expected Johnny McCabe (Cuchulainn CC) took the win. Paul Birchall (Verge Sport PI Cycles) finished second with Aidan Lafferty (Island Wheelers) picking up third place on the final lap ahead of Lloyd Moore (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club).
There were 19 riders in the non-cyclocross support race. Two riders from the host club took the first two positions on the podium, Ryan Mercer and Sean McCourt (VC Glendale). Gavin Thompson (Un-Attached Ulster) took the third place on the podium.
The next race had Juniors, Seniors and M40s. The Juniors had 5 laps to complete with the Seniors and M40s having 6 laps. In the Junior race Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) finished over a minute ahead of David Gaffney (Dungarvan CC) with Ben O’Keeffe (Killarney Cycling Club) taking third.
In the M40s race the lead changed between Ronan O’Flynn (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) and Marcus Flavin (Dungarvan CC) but it was Marcus who got ahead on the final lap and took the win. Ronan finished second with Drew McKinley (Newry Wheelers CC) third. Frank McDermott (Oldcastle CC) was fourth with Aaron Parks (Banbridge CC) fifth and Peter Morrison (Velo Cafe Magasin) sixth.
The Senior race was hotly contested between Darnell Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles) and Travis Harkness (Scott Bright Motor Group). After a closely fought contest it was Darnell who crossed the line first. Travis finished second with Richard Barry (St. Finbarrs CC) picking up third place. Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) was fourth with Tadhg Killeen (Kilcullen Cycling Club Murphy Geospacial) fifth and Daniel Brickenden (Team WORC) sixth.
Well done to all the riders to faced the mud today. A huge thanks to host club VC Glendale for all their work in hosting this event and making the park look magnificent. Thanks to Belfast City Council for the use of the park and to the sponsors for their support. The next round of the National Cyclocross Series will take place at Clonmel, Co. Tipperary over the weekend of 14/15 October. This event will double up as the UCI C2 race.
Commissaires: Jim Adams, Martin Grimley
Report by Martin Grimley
The Belgian Project (FlickR) – here