Ulster Cycling News

Stormont Gears Up For Tour Of The North

Northern Ireland’s top international cycling event, the P&O Ferries Tour of the North will take to the roads on the 22nd April for the 47th edition of the Northern Ireland Cycling Federation’s Easter classic stage race. Over 100 riders will battle it out for the coveted first leader's Yellow Jersey at 7pm on Good Friday evening over a 1km hill climb in the grounds of Stormont marking the first day of the Tour.

On Saturday riders will then embark on a clockwise loop of the province taking in counties Down, Antrim, Armagh, Tyrone, and Derry. Competitors will stop off at Portadown, Ballymena, Limavady and Carrickfergus over the weekend.

A full field is being led by the Ulster squad which has four previous winners in its line-up. Leading this pack is sure to be 2004, 06 & 08 winner Ryan Connor along with 2009 victor Martyn Irvine from Newtownards. Since winning the event two years ago Irvine has undergone a terrific transformation into a world class Track cyclist, having finished 10th in the recent world championships in Holland and his sights are now firmly on London 2012. His road skills have seemingly not suffered from a winter competing on the indoor Track World Cup series and last weekend witnessed him winning one of Ulster’s toughest events, the John Beggs memorial, in Dromore.

20 teams are on this year’s start list, from across Ireland, Scotland, England, France and Holland. No fewer than three teams are travelling from the Netherlands giving the 2012 event a distinctly Dutch flavour.

With 2010 winner Philip Lavery now a fully fledged professional with the An Post - Sean Kelly squad, there is every possibility that the Tour of the North trophy will have a new name engraved on it after the weekends racing, and with the strong European flavour it could be that the event has its first non-English speaking winner since Belgian Eddy Van den Broecke in 1977.

James Esler, Sales & Marketing Manager, P&O Ferries which is the title sponsor of the event, said: ‘P&O Ferries has a long-standing relationship with the Tour of the North and we are delighted that the sport is now attracting some of the bigger names in road cycling from Great Britain and further afield. As operators of the shortest, fastest and most frequent crossings between Ireland and Scotland and we are pleased to be able to support events that contribute to tourism both in Northern Ireland and Scotland.”

Race Programmes are currently available from various cycle shops around the province and further details can be found on the race web-site www.tourofthenorth.com. Updates are also available via Facebook and Twitter.

Full Stage details are: –

Friday 22nd. Stormont. Individual time trial starting at 7.00pm

Saturday 23rd. Portadown (Meadows Shopping Centre) 11am.
Moy – Coalisland – Stewartstown – Toome – Portglenone – Cullybackey – Galgorm.

Sunday 24th. Limavady. (Leisure Centre) 11am.
4 laps of a 20 mile circuit, finishing with a hill-top finish on Keady Mountain.

Monday 25th. Ballymena (Larne Rd) 11am.
Moorfields – Larne – Whitehead – Carrickfergus – Beltoy – Gleno – Glyn (3 laps)

World Brompton Cycling Champion Liam Curran (Curran Racing – Bangor) will be swapping his folding Brompton bike for a more familiar state of the art racing machine for next weekend’s P&O Irish Ferries 4-day International Stage Race. Pictured at the launch of this years event, Curran discusses the event with Captain Val Plant on the bridge of the P&O Express in Larne.

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