Ulster Cycling News

McKee in Dominant Form at Rostrevor

The 2015 Ulster Cross-Country (XC) Mountain Bike Series kicked off on Sunday 8 March at one of Ireland's premier mountain bike trail centres, Kilbroney Park beside the village of Rostrevor in County Down. Host club Dromara Cycling Club has been running XC events here since the trail centre opened in 2013. The event headquarters was based in the caravan park with its many hard stand parking bays and amenity block with showers and toilets. The event had to take place at this time of the year as the caravan park was open to the public on the Monday after the event and would remain open until the start of November. The club wish to thank Newry and Mourne Council for their support of the event as well as Mourne Heritage for their input.

The course took in the wooded section behind the amenity block, the Touring in the Trees area, two main fire road climbs, as well as some technical sections in among the trees. The rider's favourite section was along the boundary wall where there was a challenging rooted section with loops up into the trees. The weather had been dry in the lead up to the event with only light rain at times. The course conditions were dry and despite the amount of climbing and technical riding the top riders were flying around the course as if it was all flat! The issue for the club during the set up days was the high winds which was wrecking havoc with the course marking tape, pedestrian barriers and the council provided gazebos. On Sunday morning, race day, a tree had fallen in the woods behind the amenity block effectively blocking the course. The host club, along with some willing volunteers from other clubs, pitched in to re-route the course around the fallen tree in time for the young riders to begin their practice time.

All race categories started in the Touring in the Trees area with the finish line in the caravan park. First up were the Under 6s who set off along the forest road, dropped into the trees, went over the newly constructed bridge, into the caravan park, around the tarmac road and over the finish line. Apollo CT rider Max Boyd took the win with local rider Brody Cummings (Rostrevor MTB) taking second and Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) third.

The Under 8s started at the bottom of the Touring of the Trees section, did a loop around this area before heading into the trees and then out to the caravan park. They had two laps to complete and, as usual, it was a close battle between Calum Hepburn (Island Wheelers) and Harry Hobbs (VC Glendale) with Calum taking the win and Harry the first runner up position. Conor Murphy (Zero Gravity MTN Bike) book third. In the girls race dominant rider Aliyah Rafferty (Island Wheelers) finished well clear of nearest rivals Beth Campbell (Xmtb McConvey Cycles) and Caitlin Hanna (Apollo CT) who finished second and third respectively.

The Under 10s used the same course as the Under 8s but they had to do four laps. The top 3 boys had a close race but it was Lewis Kennedy (Xmtb McConvey Cycles) who took the win ahead of Adam Rafferty (Island Wheelers) and Oisin Ferrity (Island Wheelers). VC Glendale riders took all three podium places in the girls U10 race with Aine Doherty on the top step, Clodagh Doherty second and Lily Brown third.

The Under 12s had their own course which took in some of the trail centre routes but going in reverse direction. They got to use some of the boundary wall section before returning to the Touring in the Trees area and then into the trees behind the amenity block. Darren Rafferty (Island Wheelers) was first across the line with 10 seconds to spare ahead of Dean Harvey (Xmtb McConvey Cycles) with Scott Roberts (Island Wheelers) third. The girls race was even closer with just three seconds separating Katie Neill (Carn Wheelers) and Lauren Hanna (Apollo CT) with Cara McKee (VC Glendale) third.

At 12 noon the Under 16s set off for two laps of the main course. Starting one minute later were the Senior 4 men who also had to do two laps with a one minute gap to the Under 14s who had two laps of a reduced course (cutting out the second fire road climb). The Senior 3 women then started one minute behind the Under 14s. It was an Xmtb one-two in the Under 14 boys race when Lee Harvey finished ahead of Drew Armstrong. Mark Buller from Banbridge CC finished third. In the U14 girls race Ellie Kelso (East Tyrone Cycling Club) had a comfortable win ahead of Sarah Elder (Carn Wheelers) with Anna Russell (Carn Wheelers) third. Adam Duff (Xmtb McConvey Cycles) and John Buller (Banbridge CC) both finished their two laps under 30 minutes with Adam taking the win from John. Craig McCarthy (Xmtb McConvey Cycles) took third. Niamh Skelly (Carn Wheelers) finished ahead of fellow club member Emma Elder in the U16 girls race. In the Senior 4 mens race Johnny McRoberts (Maryland Wheelers) took the win which moves him up to Senior 3 men for the rest of the season. David Broome (Dromara Cycling Club), a relative newcomer to the sport, finished second with Barry Convery (Newry Wheelers CC) third. Ruth Aiken (Banbridge CC) was the first Senior 3 women to cross the line with Janice Hepburn (Island Wheelers) second. Hilary Henderson (Phoenix CC) came into the caravan park walking her bike after she suffered a puncture at the far end of the course. Husband Wesley Henderson suffered the same fate in the Senior 4 mens race. Bad luck for the Hendersons.

The next race start time was 2 pm with the Senior 1 men doing 5 laps, Senior 1 women 4 laps, Senior 2 men 4 laps, S2 Juniors 4 laps and Senior 3 men 3 laps. They all started with a one minute gap from the Touring in the Trees section. Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC) dominated the Senior 1 mens race with a 30 second gap on the chasers after lap 1 which extended to 3 minutes at the end of the race. He was hotly pursued by Lindsay Watson (PLUSHmtb), Matthew Adair (Xmtb McConvey Cycles) and David Montgomery (ChainReaction Cycles) until David dropped out after lap 3 with a mechanical. Lindsay finished second only 17 seconds ahead of Matthew. In the Senior 1 women's race Leinster rider Beth McCluskey finished almost 5 minutes ahead of Claire Oakley (Xmtb McConvey Cycles). In the Junior race early leader James Curry (Banbridge CC) suffered a mechanical which left Sean Bradley (Carn Wheelers) to take the win ahead of Peter Davison (Dromara Cycling Club). Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale) won the Senior 2 men's race with Mark Harvey (Xmtb McConvey Cycles) second and Don Travers (Banbridge CC) third. In the Senior 3 men's race Noel Collins (Caldwell Cycles Omagh) took the chequered flag ahead of David McKee (Maryland Wheelers) with Scott Maitland (Killinchy CC) taking the final podium place.

Gareth McKee (photo by Richard Cowan)

After the races the riders were able to enjoy the hot soup and rolls, sweet treats, tea and coffee laid on by the club. Many thanks to the hardworking volunteers from Dromara Cycling Club as well as those from outside the club who came along to help run this race. The club wish to thank ChainRection Cycles for their support of the event. The next Ulster round will take place on 12 April at a venue to be confirmed.

Full results here

Steven Lindsay (Google) here
Michael Armstrong (FlickR) here
Richard Cowan (Facebook) here
Eymard Brennan (Facebook) here

Report by Martin Grimley

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