Ulster Cycling News

Ulster Riders at Sainsbury School Games

Last week a squad of 7 Ulster Youth riders made their way to London to take part in the 2012 Sainsburys School Games, where 13 UK regions battled it out for the team title over two days of road competition and one day's racing at the London Olympic Velodrome.
There was drama from the start in the Ulster camp with the 11th hour withdrawal of Mark Downey who had been struck down with a bug in the days leading up to the competition.
With team manager Anthony Mitchell already in England, and Coach Nicola Oldham at the airport with the riders, there was some frantic behind-the-scenes work to arrange our reserve rider to travel over and have him fully accredited to take part in the event.
Thankfully all arrangements were completed and Harry McComb (East Tyrone) stepped up to the mark to complete the Ulster boys quartet along with Declan Mulholland (Clan Eireann), Craig Crawford (TSC Racing) and Matthew Teggart (Banbridge). 

Along with the 3-rider girl's team comprising Hayley Priestley (Lanterne Rouge), ShennaMcKiverigan (Banbridge) and Shannon Buller (Banbridge), the squad were buzzing at the London Excel venue for the Games opening ceremony attended by former Olympians Jonathan Edwards, Tanny Grey-Thompson and Lord Sebastian Coe.
The two-day road competition was based at the Redbridge closed-roads circuit complex on the outskirts of London and took the form of a series of Criteriums; Street Sprints, a Road Race and Team Time Trial. With the Road Race and Team Time Trial familiar to most riders, the `Criterium Eliminator` and `Street Sprints` were new to our riders, but provided some excellent and close fought  racing. 

The 5-minute Criterium heats were suited to the aggressive riding style of Declan Mulholland who progressed through the heats and rounds in to the `A` final, taking an excellent 12th place to get Ulster on the points table, while Matthew Teggart was also well suited to the short sharp style of racing putting two Ulster riders in the top 20. In the similar Girls event Hayley Priestley as our best finisher in 32nd place.
The Road Race on Day 1 should have suited the type of racing our riders experience at home, albeit covering 15 and 25 laps of a short flowing 2.2kilometre circuit. Hayley Priestley and Matthew Teggart ended up the best-placed Ulster riders, each finishing 23rd in their respective events.

Day two saw the Street Sprint events, a novel yet excellent form of competition where riders took part in a series of 250 metre sprint events, culminating in an exciting 4-rider final. In the opening individual seeding time trial Shannon Buller posted an excellent 10th overall, followed by Hayley in 23rd and Shenna in 33rd in the Girls event.

With all riders competing in a further three 4-rider heats, it was evident that the heats would be decided on who was fastest off the line and in to the first corner after 80 metres. This also led to some do-or-die efforts in the final corner with some aggressive, and not always successful, overtaking manoeuvres in an attempt to gain a place in the `A` final.

Despite a fall in one of the qualifying rounds, Shannon came through as Ulster’s best girl finisher in 16th place, whilst in the Boys races we uncovered two stars in the shape of Declan Mulholland and Matthew Teggart. In the opening Time Trial Mulholland posted an excellent 9th fastest, whilst Teggart made the commentator sit up and take notice of the Ulster squad with an excellent 3rd fastest time, giving quiet hope in the Ulster camp that a medal was a distinct possibility.

Pocket Rocket Teggart was almost unbeatable off the line, winning his next heat comfortably keeping him in contention for the`A` final, however one poor start in the Semi saw him miss out on a place in the 4-rider `A` final, instead lining up in the ride-off for 5th-8th, which he duly won to give Ulster an excellent 5th overall, and our best result of the competition. Mulholland ended up 16th, Crawford 26th and McComb 51st in what proved to be a popular form of racing with spectators and competitors alike.
In the final Team Time Trial event, our girls suffered from being a rider down, only having 3 in the squad as opposed to the other Regions with a full 4-girl team but nonetheless ended up ahead of the Southern region, in 12th place. The Boys Team Time Trial was extremely close, with 25 seconds covering all teams over 5km of racing. Ulster ended up 11th on 6minutes 24 seconds, with the event won by the East Midlands on 6.02.

When the points were tallied up after two days of Road Racing, Ulster were 10th in the overall standings, one place behind near-neighbours Scotland, and ahead of the South West, North East and South.
The final days action took place on the London Olympic Velodrome, with a day-long Omnium involving all riders.
The atmosphere was electric in this fantastic facility, with the 6000 seats almost full for the afternoon session.

With the Girls team a rider short, and Boys reserve rider Harry McComb having to take over the events Mark Downey had been entered for, it was always an uphill struggle for the Ulster team, although nonetheless some excellent individual efforts were put in by our riders.

In the opening girls Scratch race, Shannon Buller had a mechanical on the opening lap, but rejoined the race to finish 22nd overall, whilst in the Boys 40 lap event Declan Mulholland was in the thick of the action throughout the race, fading over the closing laps to finish in the main bunch in 20th place, with Harry McComb 23rd. 

The Boys Keirin again saw Matthew Teggart come to the fore, making it through to the A final where he finished an excellent 6th overall.
The Girls Team sprint saw our duo of Shenna McKiverigan and Shanon Buller take 9th overall, whilst the Boys took 10th.
In the final Points event Declan Mulholland showed some aggressive riding, unfortunately crashing at two-thirds distance before remounting to finish in 20th place whilst Hayley Priestley put in an excellent performance to finish 19th in the Girls event.
In the final rankings we were 13th in the Track Omnium, but the lasting memory will be of the superb Olympic Velodrome full of spectators all cheering on future Olympians in a superb racing setting.

Report Anthony Mitchell
Photos Darren Crawford

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