Ulster Cycling News

Gerard Heverin Reflects on “That” Tour of Ards

Echelons are something we hear about when reading about races in Belgium and Holland, and they always sound like they make good racing, but on saturday in Ards we found out for real what they are all about. It was blustery when we headed off from the petrol station where we were sheltering from the conditions and thankfully we headed out the Bangor road with a bit of a tail wind but this was to be the highlight of the day as it was about to get a lot worse!!!
We flew through the Bangor roundabouts hitting over 45mph at times and anyone with little confidence or weak bike handling skills was spat out the rear of the bunch like an olive pip, never to be seen again. A lot of bike riders don't seem to realise once you lose a wheel it is twice as hard to get it back and so the bottom line is once you're gone, you're gone for good, unless you are very talented at cavalcade utilisation. So we headed out of Bangor for Donaghadee and already Tommy Evans was bridging a gap at 40mph to Lennie, Big B and a Stamullen rider. This was an impressive bit of riding and showed he's coming back into form, but didn't help too much when the race swang southwards and the group was finally brought back.
From here I could of sworn a saw a sign saying 'welcome to hell' as the crosswinds played havoc with the bunch and the grovelling started. I had put in a spirt between D'dee and Millisle and suffered for the next 10 mile as a result. Saying the race split to pieces was the understatement of the day as bodies were being despatched out the back at regular 100 metre intervals and it was getting very tough to get any shelter as I was nearly on the beach, never mind in the gutter. The head/cross wind from the right was incredible and I spent the next 5 miles trying to get up through the cavalcade with Ross and Mal from Ards and Ryan Bankhead, just ask the Morrows for the camcorder footage if you wnat some sadistic suffering to scare the kids. Finally back up to the reminants of the bunch, about 20 of us, and we tried to get some work going to bring back the group that was just ahead. Being behind Lennie Kirk was scarey as first he was frothing at the knees, something to do with washing powder in his knee warmers, then he was being blown all over the road with his deep section mavics taking a battering, scary stuff.
As we turned in Portaferry and headed north we still had about a 50 second gap which was very bridge-able as we had a good quality group to work with, but then disaster happened about 4 miles out of Portaferry as we round a right hand corner all I could see was bodies and bikes all over the road. I can just recall hitting a blue bike, possibly Shaun Gray's (sorry buddy) and landing on my head about 5 metres down the road. As I lay there motionless all I could hear was the yells of the other guys, out of 20 of us only 4 escaped the carnage. Anyone who followed the race will tell you of the mayhem of the next 10 minutes as we were seen to by the very helpful first aiders and race followers. Thank you all very much for your help!!! According to Ian Proctors computer we went from 32.9mph to zero in 3 metres, not an attractive thought I'm sure you'll agree. It was a terrible crash, but luckily from what I hear there were no serious injuries although like all bikies we were more concerned about our bikes than our bodies. Unlike other crashes there was no rush to get back on the bikes as we all knew this was serious, but rather we needed to give the first aiders a chance to assess all injuries and take their time.
Thankfully Frankie Campbell helped dust off myself and big Ian, in between looking over the hedges for Bo, he was very lucky to be one of 4 guys to escape unscathed, not to mention the lucky Lennie who was still cursing his luck to have punctured 2 mile before the pile up when he came across the carnage, every grey cloud has a silver lining...
So we proceded up to the break past Bo, Gary Cranston and Ryan Bankhead, now the only ones left from the 'bunch'. The last 20 miles looked savage as the boys avoided the waves crashing over the sea wall at Kircubbin and nebotiated the ins and outs of the coast road giving changeable wind conditions to finally arrive at the finish where the ould fox Evans outwitted them all to win, even though he says he's only 60% fit - can't wait to see him 80% fit, never mind 100...
Thanks again to all involved in helping the guys who crashed and all the marshals and organisers who made a bad day bearable.
I wonder if Brendan McCartan would have been able to give us a report from the big races, or maybe he's too interested in wine and women, I knew I was missing something somewhere. Hope You're having a good holiday 'Zulle' and see you again soon.

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