In-debt report of Martin Grimley (off-road Ulster commission and Commissaire) and photos from David Mc Veigh (BP Media & Flickr)
2021 saw only one cross-country mountain bike event in Ulster. Ards Cycling Club, under the direction of Glen Curry and Christopher White, sought to change this when they hosted their first MTB race at Whitespots Country Park, in Conlig, Newtownards on Sunday 5 December 2021. The site is a former lead mine and is currently known for motorcycle trails events and for walkers but mountain biking does have a history at the site with the last event held there in September 2005. Thanks to Ards and North Down Borough Council for permission to use the site and to Mototrial NI for their support of the event. Race day started off cold but with clear skies and sunshine, it became a very pleasant day for December. Almost 100 riders had registered to take part coming from as far away as Dublin. The race village was on the clearing within the shadow of the disused windmill stump and within sight of the new wind turbines. This area held the registration, coffee van, podium, commentator, and start/finish area.
The first race of the day was the Men’s A’ race. This was held over 9 laps of the main course which took the riders up over some steep rocky climbs, across the top of the hill, down some technical descents, and back to the finish. Leading from start to finish was Dean Harvey (VC Glendale) who stayed well out in front for the whole race. The main competition was for second place which was contested between Lee Harvey (VC Glendale) and Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC). After 9 laps it came down to a sprint to the line with Lee managing to hold off Gareth by half a wheel. Fourth place went to local rider Chris Oakley (VC Glendale) with Peter McLean (Ards CC) fifth and Peter Davison (Unattached) sixth.
Next up were the youth races which started with the Under 6s who had two laps of a short course to complete. Well done to the 6 young riders who got to enjoy a goodie bag at the end. The Under 8s used the same course but they had 6 laps to complete. In the boys’ race Benjamin Cunningham (Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) made his way from the third-place up to first on the last lap. Jack McGahan (Square Wheels) who was leading the race had to settle for second. Edward Reynolds (Un-Attached Ulster) finished third. Sophia Campbell (Phoenix CC) won the girls’ race when she finished ahead of Lucy Reynolds (Un-Attached Ulster) and Ruby Curry (Un-Attached Ulster).
The Under 10s used a different race loop to the Under 8s and had 6 laps to complete. Rory McCool (Square Wheels) lead the boys’ race from start to finish. Kealan Doherty (Foyle CC) finished second with Ewan Ewart (Belfast City BMX Club) crossing the line in third place. Skye Spence (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) won the girls’ race when she finished ahead of Carmen Buchowicz (Un-Attached Ulster).
The Under 12s used the same loop as the Under 10s but had to complete 10 laps. Caleb McGreevy (Apollo Cycling Team) dominated the boys’ race with a large time gap back to second place rider Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club). James Cunningham (Orwell’s Wheelers Cycling Club) completed the boys’ podium. Maeve McCool (Square Wheels) won the girls’ race with Lacey Aicken-Johnson (North Down CC) taking second.
The final race of the day was for the Men’s B’s race, Women and Under 14s. The Under 14s had 3 laps to complete and it was Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) who took the win. Harry Hobbs (VC Glendale) finished second with Finn Gibney (Un-Attached Ulster) third. There was only one entry in the Under 14 girls’ race with Elisa Sunderland (Lisburn BMX Club) having to run across the line pushing her bike due to a mechanical issue.
The Women’s race was held over 5 laps with Ruth McKee (Banbridge CC) enjoying every lap and taking the chequered flag. Newcomers to the sport Claire Henderson (Unattached) and Lyn Mutch (Ards CC) finished second and third respectively.
The Men’s B race was being led for the first 4 laps by Harold McQuaid (Unattached) but by lap 5 Milos Hajek (IMBRC) came to the front of the race and crossed the line first. Harold finished second with Aaron Fegan (Ards CC) getting third. James Carinduff (Ards CC) was fourth with Conor Doris (Unattached) fifth and Michael Gordon (Unattached) sixth. Ross Blayney (North Down CC) was enjoying the race on his e-bike completing 8 laps in the timeframe.
“Thanks to all the volunteers from Ards Cycling Club for hosting the event. Thanks to the sponsors, and to The Belgian Project for the commentary. Hopefully, we will see more mountain bike events at this location next year“, regards Martin Grimley
A special mention to our good friend John Hammer, he traveled from Carlow (a 4-hour journey) to take some photographs as one of our guest photographers, John provide me for years with photos of events in the South, this when I am otherwise engaged up-North, he has done so much for women cycling in Ireland, also being a qualified masseur when traveling with Leinster teams…John received today the Gold Medal of the Belgian Project, this awarded to people who have dedicated their free time to Cycling in Ireland, and promoting our beloved sport…so chapeau to this kind man to…well deserves