Report Martin Grimley & All photos courtesy of Paul Hannigan (Banbridge CC) with thanks
The fourth and final round of the Irish Cross-country (XC) Mountain Bike National Point Series (NPS) took place at Castlewellan Forest Park on Sunday 23 June 2019. Hosted by Banbridge Cycling Club, under the direction of Race Organiser Gareth McKee, this event also doubled up as Round 3 of the Ulster XC series. The venue has been used for many years and boasts a wide range of activities with camping on site, water sports on the lake, orienteering, getting lost in the Peace Maze (among the top 10 largest hedge mazes in the world) and mountain biking. The forest is under the management of Newry, Mourne and Down council and with recent issues around insurance, the event only got the go-ahead less than 2 weeks before the race date. Lots of work going on behind the scenes to pull everything together. The event attracted riders from all corners of Ireland to the venue. Registration, podium, timing tent and the start line were located on the grass field in front of the castle. The weather was overcast but thankfully stayed dry all day. On behalf of the club and the Ulster Off-road commission, we would ask that riders do not use any of the natural trails that have been developed for this race. Let the trails go back to nature. We risk not getting access to the forest for next year if these trails become regularly used. There are plenty of excellent trail centres to use both at Castlewellan and other forests. Many thanks for your assistance on this.
The first race of the day was for the Under 6s which was held in the grass area close to the lakeside. A short 2 lap affair around the bushes which the 19 young riders seemed to enjoy as well as the goodie bag afterwards. The Under 8s, 10s and 12s races took place inside the forest at the bottom of the fire road climb. The Under 8s had to complete 2 laps of their course. There was a very close finish between the top four male riders with Eunan Campbell (Square Wheels) just getting the win ahead of Cian Walsh (IMBRC) with Brodie Hull (Trail Demons CC) finishing third. Series leader Rory McCool (Square Wheels) finished 4th. Among the girls it was Aoife Campbell (Square Wheels) who took the win as she finished ahead of Skye Spence (Shimna Wheelers), who won at Round 1, with Laoise Crinion (IMBRC), winner at Round 3, finishing 3rd.
For the overall National Point Series (NPS), the winners were: U8 BOYS 1st Rory McCool (Square Wheels), 2nd Sean Heverin (Kinning Cycles), Joint 3rd Eunan Campbell (Square Wheels) and Cian Walsh (IMBRC) U8 GIRLS 1st Cassie Rocks (Island Wheelers), 2nd Skye Spence (Shimna Wheelers), Joint 3rd Laoise Crinion (IMBRC) and Aoife Campbell (Square Wheels).
The Under 10s used the same course as the Under 8s but had 4 laps to complete. A bit of drama at the start of this race when one of the gridded riders in the boys’ race, Caleb McGreevy (Apollo Cycling Team), had a mechanical on the start of the fire road climb, just metres from the start and was passed by all the boys and the girls. Back on his bike, Caleb managed to power past the majority of the riders to finish 3rd. Taking the win, however, was Fionn Crinion (IMBRC) who improved on his 2nd place at Round 3. Ryan McBride (Banbridge CC) was doing his first cross-country race this season but still managed to finish 2nd. The girls’ race had a close battle between Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles) and Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) with Aoife managing to pull out a gap on Emer to take the win. Maeve McCool (Square Wheels) completed the podium.
Under 12s had a different length course and 5 laps to complete. There was another close battle at the head of the boys’ race between Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) and Oisin May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club). Conor managed to pull away from Oisin on lap 3 and extended that lead to 30 seconds. Oisin completed a clean sweep of second places across all 4 rounds. Curtis McKee (Maryland Wheelers) was out on his own finishing 3rd. In the girls’ race, Greta Lawless (Team WORC) improved on her 2nd place at Round 3 to take the win. Series leader Faith Robinson (Bray Wheelers) finished 2nd with Cara Suckling (Maryland Wheelers) 3rd.
The Under 14s had 2 laps of the full course to complete. Shane Scullion (Island Wheelers) gave it all to finish first in the boys’ race, his second win of the series. Oscar McCarthy (Killarney Cycling Club) was second with Oisin Ferrity (Island Wheelers) completing his first NPS of the year by taking third. Just 2 entries in the Under 14 girls’ race with Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) putting on another fine display to take first. Katie Reilly (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) finished second which secured her the overall series win.
Under 16 boys had to complete 4 full laps. Ruairi Coghlan (Killarney Cycling Club) was leading after the first lap but series leader Dean Harvey (VC Glendale) got to the front from lap 2 to the end. This gave Dean the 4 wins out of 4 races. Ruairi finished second on the day and second overall for the series. Aaron Finnerty (Ballina Cycling Club) completed the podium for the Under 16 boys. The Under 16 girls seen Erin Creighton (McConvey Cycles) put on a superb race to take the win ahead of Caoimhe May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) who had won two of the other rounds. Annie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club), the only girl to compete in all 4 rounds, finished third.