The Cycling Ireland Open Racing Calendar got under way on Saturday 05 March, with local club Banbridge CC hosting the Travers Engineering Annaclone GP. Traditionally a gruelling test of winter fitness, we had 4 riders representing the club – Gareth and Stevie in the A2 peloton and James and Pete in the A3s. With this being a traditional A1-A3 handicap race, the three groups would come together on the road over the course of the race, to fight it our for top spot. Gareth managed to get himself in a breakaway with Banbridge rider Aaron Parks, however it wasn’t to be in the end. All riders got themselves around the course safely, finishing in the bunch ready to race another day.
Next up was the Killinchy GP on Saturday 12 March. Again, a well loved (or loathed) race in the calendar, with rolling roads and a sharp pull to the finish. While the course had been revised for 2022, it still managed to retain the features of the old course, in particular that infamous finish, which always seems to encourage a late attack. With a separate A3 race, this gave Pete and James a chance to really challenge for points. With Pete feeling not on top form, it was left to James to make it count and that he did with a very credible 7th place. We also had Gareth and Stevie in the tough A1-A2 race.
The races really have been coming thick and fast in March, with the St Patrick’s Day public holiday on Thursday 17 March providing an opportunity for more racing. This one was a little further away, with Starsky CC hosting the St Patrick’s Day Race in Ballyfoyle, Co. Wicklow. Our racing snakes have travelled to several races hosted by Starsky over the last couple of years and have always enjoyed themselves, so the 200 mile round trip did little in the way of putting them off. Again, we had Gareth and Stevie in the A1-A2 Race, with James in the A3 race. Fresh on the back of a solid performance only days before, James showed the consistency we have come to expect from him, with a 5th place finish.
Returning closer to home again, it was the turn of Clann Eireann CC to host the Derrymacash GP. A little different to most races, the setup here is a handicapped A3-A4 race. The course is largely a flat loop around a short course, with one particularly nasty climb, which takes it toll after a few laps. We were pleased to see the return of ‘The Rocket’ who hasn’t raced in a number of years and has been injured and off the bike for almost 6 months. He was joined by Pete and James, who led by example, finishing in 7th and 8th place respectively. Congratulations to Pete on his first points as an A3 rider and to James for finishing ‘in the points’ 3 times in a week!
Rounding off the open racing in March, James travelled across to Moneymore on Saturday 26 March, for the East Tyrone GP. With a handicapped A1-A2-A3 race, it was always going to be a difficult one for James as an A3, but will serve him well in maintaining race sharpness until the next race that suits him better.
Thanks to Sharon McFarland, John Hammer and the Belgian Project for photos.