Sunday 25 June 2017 saw Round 4 of the Irish Cross-country Mountain Bike National Point Series being held at Bellurgan Park near Dundalk County Louth. Hosted by Cuchulainn Cycling Club, under the leadership of Liam Burns, this venue was last used as the 2016 National Championships and the club went out to make this event look even more impressive. This time were we based in the large field closer to the single track with plenty of room for vehicle parking. The start/finish area was well laid out, plenty of room for gazebos, podium set up, wooden benches and catering. The weather was fine all day with periods of sunshine and blue skies and, under the music and commentary of MC Paul Joyce, there was a great atmosphere around the site. Almost like icing on a cake, the host club had also arranged to provide free ice-creams for all competitors!!! What more could we ask for? Dry dusty trails perhaps? Yes, that’s what we got as well !!
Kicking off the day’s racing were the Under 6s with 16 young riders lined up to complete 2 laps of the short course. Lots of cheering from parents and spectators and a medal for each competitor at the finish line. Next up were the Under 8s who had 3 laps to complete of a track which took them along the fence line, over a rocky hump before charging back into the main field.
Kevin Randall (Orwell Wheelers) took the win in the boys race with Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) second and Zach Thompson (Maryland Wheelers) third. Aoife Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club) won the girl’s race with Lucy McCarthy (MBCC) second and Rachel Irvine (Unattached) completing the podium.
Next up were the Under 10s. Their course was an extension of the Under 8s course and took them into the forest, up a fire road climb before turning sharp left and shooting down the roller coaster trail then back onto the fire road for a return to the field. They had 4 laps to complete with Faith Robinson (Bray Wheelers) winning the girl’s race ahead of Hannah O’Keeffe (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) and Cara Suckling (Maryland Wheelers). In the boy’s race Oisin May (Unattached) managed to pull away from Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) to take the win with Harry Hobbs (VC Glendale) getting a well deserved bronze medal.
The Under 12s headed out onto the main course for two laps which involved taking in the big climb before branching off and heading back to the start line. Luke Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) and Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) had a great close race and their finish was eagerly awaited by the crowd. Luke held his early lead with Travis giving his all to bridge the gap. Oisin Ferrity (Island Wheelers) was out on his own in third keeping well clear of the chasers. Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) had another terrific race finishing 4th overall, first girl with second place going to Saoirse Duffy (Unattached) and third going to Bobbi Gillespie (Orwell Wheelers).
There was a short break to allow for the podium presentations for the youth, allow the next set of riders to get a practice lap in and allow the officials to get a snack. Just before noon the riders were called to the start line to get gridded. They lined up as Under 16 boys, Under 14 boys, Senior 4 men, Under 16 girls, Under 14 girls and Senior 2 women. There was a time gap between each group with the Under 14s doing a shorter version of the main course.
Current National U14 champion, Dean Harvey (Kinning Cycles), was expected to win his category today and he didn’t disappoint finishing almost a minute ahead of David McGarr (IMBRC) who, in turn, finished well clear of third place, Donnacha Desmond (MBCC). Caoimhe May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) was also expected to dominate the Under 14 girls race and lived up to her expectation by finishing almost 7 minutes ahead of Erin Creighton (XMTB) with Annie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) completing the podium. In the Under 16 boys race the expected close battle between Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles) and Adam McGarr (Biking.ie) did not materialise with Adam having mechanical troubles leaving the on-form Lee to charge across the line unchallenged. Harry Byrne (EPIC MTB / Expert Cycles) had another strong race to finish third. In the Under 16 girls’ race Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport) felt at home in Bellurgan as she finished well clear of her close rival Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers).
The Senior 4 men had 2 laps to complete and the host club ended up with 2 of its members on the podium when PJ Hynes took the win ahead of club mate Jason Malone. Pearse O’Hagan (Inspired Cycling) completed the podium. The host club got another winner in the Women’s Senior 2 race when Anne Duffy took with win ahead of MAD MTB riders Niamh McGreen and Leah McCarthy.
After another break in the proceedings for podium presentations, practice laps and refreshments, the riders for the next races were gathered up just before 2 pm. The line up was a follows: Senior 1 men (5 laps), Junior men and Senior 1 women (4 laps), Senior 2 men (4 laps) and Senior 3 men (3 laps). The host club were again cheering when Brendan Foley took the win in the Senior 3 mens’ race as he finished ahead of Paul Donnan (Team WORC) and Vinny Colgan (Park Wheelers). Conor Campbell (Newry Wheelers CC) let out a big shout of joy as he crossed the line to take the win in the Senior 2 mens’ race. Brian Melia (Team WORC) and Derrick Evans (South-East Road Club) finished second and third respectively. Junior rider, Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles), was racing amongst his fellow team mates in the Senior 1 mens’ race which helped spur him on to a strong finish in the Junior race ahead of John Buller (Banbridge CC) with Jack Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) finishing third. There were just 2 entries in the Senior 1 women’s race with veteran of the sport Ciara MacManus (Summit Mountain Biking) showing she can still race cross-country as she finished well clear of late arrival Trudy Brown (VC Glendale). In the Senior 1 mens’ race, Gareth McKee (Cycleology MTB), was expected to finish strongly, despite starting on the third row of the grid. Gareth didn’t disappoint the crowds as he continued to carry his superb form that he has shown at the British series into this race finishing well clear of Under 23 rider David Conroy (Scott Eurocycles.com). The big battle of the day was between Tomasz Michalski (McConvey Cycles), Graham Boyd (McConvey Cycles) and Gareth Hegarty (Scott Eurocycles.com) with Tomasz and Graham pulling away from Gareth on the last lap to have a sprint finish for third with Tomasz holding his line to take third place. Ray O’Shaughnessy from the host club finished 6th. A special mention to Peter Buggle (Rocky Mountain) who finished 7th today after his impressive third place finish in the Masters World Championships (55-59 category) in Andorra during the week. Vinnie Fitzsimon (Team WORC) was also racing at the Masters World Championships (45-49 category) and finished 25th there and finished 11th day.
A huge thanks to all the hard working volunteers at Cuchulainn CC for putting on this excellent event. Many thanks to all the riders for coming along and congratulations to all the winners. Many thanks also to the sponsors of the series, Kellys Bike Company, who were present at the event, Spin 11 clothing and Elite Timing, who were also present. The next round of the NPS takes place on Sunday 9 July 2017 at Union Wood, Sligo. See www.irishxcnps.ie for details. There is a cross-country MTB event on Sunday 2 July 2017 at Drumcairne Forest, Stewartstown, Co. Tyrone. All welcome. See www.ulsterxc.com for details.
Date for your diary – the Irish National Cross-country Championships will be held on Sunday 23 July at Djouce Woods, Co. Wicklow. More details to follow.
Results from today – here
League results after 4 rounds – here.
Commissaire Martin Grimley
Report by Martin Grimley
Photos by Fran Hollywood (Facebook) – here