North Down’s Cycling Club’s David Watson is the 2015 Ulster Cycling Road Race champion after pipping Caldwell Cycles’
Craig McAuley and former Foyle favourite Ryan Reilly in a thrilling race at Eglinton on Sunday.
The main field faced 81 tough miles (three laps) and right from the outset, Reilly - now riding for French Club AC Bisontine - was forcing the pace. Within a few miles they had already swept past the coasting Junior Race who had a two minute head-start on the main field and by the end of the first lap one, Reilly was away in a group of five riders including Paul McCarter (Donegal Bay) and Kevin McKinney (Armagh City Cycles) with just over a minute on a group incorporating Foyle’s Ronan McLaughlin and Eglinton local Craig McAuley (Caldwell Cycles).
As the second lap progressed some of the riders from the McLaughlin group made it across to swell the leading bunch and with further breaks all the way down the field, it looked like Reilly would hold off the main bunch.
However with some six miles remaining Reilly was caught by a hard-charging Watson and with McAuley the three sprinted for the line with Watson crossing first from an audibly disappointed McAuley with Reilly taking the bronze medal. Foyle Junior Gavin O’Neill finished safely in the main bunch with McLaughlin inside the top 10.
With conditions perfect for the 27 mile course at Eglinton over 100 competitors had pre-entered the event with separate though concurrently held races run for the ‘Masters Over 40’ and Ladies, who had two laps, and ‘Masters Over 50’ and ‘Masters Over 60’ Classes who faced a single lap.
Almost 50 riders took to the road for the ‘Masters Over 40’ race which was off first and saw plenty of attacks from early on, but the bunch passed through the village together at the end of the first lap. Further breaks were attempted over the second lap but it wasn’t until the last climb up the Baranailt Road that Emmet Vallely (Square Wheels CC) and Niall O’Gorman of Phoenix made it stick with Vallely taking the title. Jason Henry crossed the line in a bunch sprint in third place with Daniel Logue the best Foyle Rider in 12th.
With some of the strongest female riders in Ulster including Sandra Devine, Eileen Burns and Ciara Doogan taking part in the five-day An Post Ras Na mBan in Co. Clare, a smaller than usual field took to the road for two tough laps of the course.
The group stayed together for just the first 7 miles when, on the Glenshane Road, Karen Hull of Phoenix CC made a break followed by her team mate Judith Russell and Evan Bartley of Lakeland Wheelers with Russell eventually riding solo across the line.
The ‘Masters Over 60s’ and ‘Master Over 50s’ races faced a single lap with Foyle’s Robert Curry aggressive from early on as he attempted to break away at the Baranailt turn. He was initially caught by eventual race winner Chris McCann and then the main bunch. Curry forced a further attempt at Loughermore and was joined once again by McCann and M60 riders Sean Hargan (Phoenix CC). However the main bunch caught up again and this resulted in a sprint finish with McCann (Dig Deep Coaching) the M50 Championship Winner and Curry second for the host club. In the bronze medal position was Geoff Garret of Phoenix.
The Masters over 60 race was won by Michael Carroll (Ballymena Road Club) followed by Sean Hargan (Phoenix CC) and Ronnie Grant (also Ballymena CC) in third.
Commenting after the event a delighted Foyle Chairman Simon Gill described the event as a huge success.
“Just as Foyle C.C. reaches a particular height something else comes along to take us to another level,” enthused Gill, “The hugely successful hosting of the Championships has served to show the rest of the Province that we can put on a race to rival all other Clubs in Ulster.
“We would like to thank ‘Cycling Ulster’ for entrusting us with this important race and also the Commissaries and Time Keepers as well as the staff at the Eglinton Community Hall.”
Simon also paid tribute to Race Director, Chris McElhinney, and his team as well as the club members who put such a great effort into running the race and the catering volunteers from the club, led by Lucia Mullen and Tonya Moran.
The next event for the Foyle Club will be a round of the exciting Ulster Cyclo-Cross Championship on November 27th. Cyclo-Cross racing takes place off-road but competitors ride on toughened and are faced with difficult challenges meaning some running with the bike is required, creating all sorts of spills and thrills! There are classes for mountain bikes as well and races for all ages from under 6 and up with family fun events and entertainment to amuse the young. The event will be held in Derry at a venue to be announced soon.
Foyle Cycling Club meet at the Templemore Complex for less cycling every Saturday and Sunday mornings, with groups paced at different levels as well as a beginners group. There is also a Thursday Group ride meeting at the Coffee House at 9.30am. Please see www.foylecycling.net or find the club on Facebook for further details.