2021 Race League Reports

BICRL Event 10 – 9 Mile ITT – Rathfriland-Banbridge

Another great evening of weather helped to set the mood for the last event in the 2021 Interclub League. With temperatures in the low 20s, even the headwind wasn’t enough to slow down the fast men. Once again, VCI scraped through with the minimum 8 riders taking to the start line, so every time would count. Of the 8, we had 4 on specialist TT Bikes and 4 on Road Bikes, so a nice even split.

Fastest overall for VCI was James Dane on his TT Bike, with a fantastic time of 21:52, to take 6th overall (5th interclub).

James was followed closely (a difference of only 5secs) by Stephen Hanna. Stevie would often say he’s not a TT rider, but after setting such a fast time on Gordy’s TT bike I think most of us would disagree.

Neil Seffen was 3rd TT Bike for VCI, with a 22:24 with Colin Abernethy in 4th.

In the Road Bike competition, John Davison was fastest for VCI, with a time of 23:38, to take 5th overall.

John was closely followed by William Strain in joint 6th, only 1 second down.

Junior Burns was 3rd road bike for VCI, with a time of 24:33, followed by Geoff Harrison in 4th. A great performance from Geoff in his first Individual Time Trial!

This concludes the Banbridge Interclub Race League for 2021. All that’s left is to thank each and every person who has played a part in making the season a success, either on the bike or off the bike (marshalls, timekeepers, photographers, etc). Overall results certainly haven’t been great for the club this year, but there have been many positives and hopefully this will provide some inspiration and encouragement to dig deep over the winter months and come back back stronger next year.

BICRL Event 09 – 4 Man TTT – Warrenpoint Carriageway

A dull, but dry night saw 17 teams take to the start line for what is always one of the most popular events of the series. Unfortunately, VCI again had low numbers, due to a positive Covid test and subsequent close contacts, which reduced us from 3 teams to 2.

Team 1 consisted of John Davison, Johnny Burns, Gordon Brown and Richie Gamble. They put in a solid performance for a time of 22:53, to take 9th place overall (4th interclub). Not bad for a team with only one open racer, who would openly admit that time trials wouldn’t be his forte.

In Team 2 we had Colin Abernethy, Ivan McConville, Davy Cartmill and Geoff Harrison. This was Geoff’s first attempt at a time trial of any sort, but he hung in right to the end, to help the team to a time of 25:08 – a fantastic time for a first effort!

Unfortunately our efforts weren’t enough to lift us off 3rd place in the interclub competition on the night, which technically awards us the wooden spoon for the series, before the last event. With the last event an Individual TT, personal pride will surely be the motivating factor.

BICRL Event 08 – Hill Climb – Glebe Hill Road

A welcome change from the weather of the last couple of events, the Hill Climb was held under pretty much perfect conditions. The venue was the infamous Glebe Hill Road in Tandragee – a nasty climb, where the gradient constantly changes, topping out well into the high teens.

VCI went in as underdogs yet again, with only 7 riders signed up for the event. Special mention must go to Davy Cartmill, who was clearly in a great deal of pain while out of the saddle after an accident earlier in the year. Undeterred, he pushed on anyway.

Fastest for VCI was James Dane, with a terrific time of 05:33, to take 5th place in the Interclub competition. Stephen Hanna was close behind, on 05:42, while John Davison, William Strain, Johnny Burns and Neil Seffen were just over the 6min mark.

With the low numbers, we had to settle for last place in the Interclub competition yet again. 1st place is now out of reach for the club, but 2nd place could still be achievable, depending on how the last 2 events pan out.

Thanks to Paul Hannigan for the photos.

BICRL Event 07 – Road Race – Tandragee

With the proposed Hill Climb unable to be run as planned, the return to the Tandragee 100 circuit was moved forward by a week. While competitors dreamed of the weather of the previous road race at Tandragee, sadly it was not to be, with heavy rain a feature of the night.

It wasn’t a great night for VCI at all. With only 8 riders signed up to take part, and only 7 on the start line, it was always going to be an uphill battle. With 1 rider in Group 1 and 2 riders in Groups 2, 3 and 4, the black jerseys were simply outnumbered. Certainly in Group 3, where attack after attack seems to be the norm, having only 2 riders to respond to these attacks would take its toll.

Best for VCI on the night was again Peter Elliott, who managed to make the jump onto the scratch group as it passed, to take 7th place overall (5th interclub). Pete had worked extremely hard in Group 3, where he was on his own for half the race, but still managed to find the legs to match the pace of a very strong scratch of Aaron Parks (BCC) and Paul Wilkinson (WDW).

James Dane was the 3rd rider from Group 4 to cross the line, to take 17th overall (14th interclub). Group 4 worked extremely well throughout the race, sharing the workload well and holding a fast pace. However, they were swept up early in the race by the 2 man scratch group and were unable to have any impact on Groups 3 and 2 in front.

Colin Abernethy again showed improvement on previous events, working as part of a very strong group from Group 2, who went on to stay away for the whole race, before eventually slipping back, to finish amongst Group 4. It’s great to see the improvements from earlier in the series.

Another rider deserving of recognition is Gordon Brown. Gordy started in Group 2, ended up dropping back after a few laps and riding in Group 3 for a lap, before dropping back again. I caught up with him towards the end of the 5th lap (with 1 lap left to go). With the rain pelting us and knowing that it wasn’t going to be VCI’s night anyway, I had every intention of pulling over at the end of 5 laps. However, Gordy made it clear he would be completing the full distance, so I hung on for another lap. It takes a certain strength of character to keep pushing on when the chips are down (character that I don’t have) so kudos to Gordy for pushing on and giving me that bit of inspiration to do the same.

Thanks also to Tim and Ian for standing in the rain marshalling and to Alan Weir for the photos.

BICRL Event 06 – Road Race – Annaclone

Returning to the popular Annaclone circuit, we hoped for the weather of previous events, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be, with heavy rain throughout the day. While the sky brightened for the start of the race at 7pm, the black clouds were never far away and nobody managed to get around the 4 laps completely dry. However, it definitely didn’t dampen the spirits.

With some re-shuffling of the groups prior to the start of the event, unfortunately the writing was very much on the wall before anyone lined up on the start line. Given the strength of the riders moved to Group 1 and the extended handicap between the first few groups, there was a general feeling that any breakaway from Group 1 would not be caught. This resulted in a lack of cohesion in some of the other groups, with riders racing against each other, rather than working together.

The scratch group caught Group 4 fairly quickly and swept up Group 3 by the end of Lap 3, to form a mass bunch to complete the last lap. Approaching the finish line, the bunch also mopped up Colin and Gordon, who were all that was left of a completely decimated Group 2, as a result of the re-shuffle. The duo worked extremely well together to hold on for so long and finish in the bunch.

Best for VCI was Peter Elliott in 8th place (4th in the bunch sprint) with James Dane and Stephen Hanna in 10th and 11th. Unfortunately, in the scramble for space leading up to the final sprint, Stevie found himself in the hedge, losing a number of places and rolling across the line with blood dripping down his face. Gordy and Colin were 15th and 17th. Congratulations also to Warren Jardine, who hung on from Group 1 to take 18th. Warren is very much a Sunday Bun Run rider, with no race experience, but has shown great strength and determination throughout this series.

Thanks to Alan Weir for the photos.

BICRL Event 05 – 2-Up Time Trial – Loughbrickland-Rathfriland-Banbridge

After two back-to-back road races, it was time to return to time trialling. The 2-Up discipline is often seen as slightly less daunting, given the opportunity to share the work with someone else, but of course in reality this depends on the pairings. The now familiar course running from Loughbrickland to the outskirts of Rathfriland, before finishing in Banbridge is certainly a test for any rider, with short sharp lumps, longer drags and flat out fast sections – it really has it all. With a number of riders unavailable, VCI failed to put forward 4 pairs of riders, so unfortunately suffered the forfeit of picking up maximum points for the 4th pair.

With some fantastic weather conditions, we again expected some fantastic times. Fastest for VCI was the pair of James Dane and Peter Elliott, with a time of 41mins 58secs – a fantastic result for an A3/A4 team and only 11 seconds off a podium. Neil Seffen and Johnny Burns were in 8th place overall, with a time of 43mins 58secs, with Gordon Brown and Ivan McConville in 11th place.

Yet again, a word of thanks to all those who pulled on the jersey to represent the club and also those who volunteered to marshall. Quite simply, these events wouldn’t happen without people putting themselves forward.

Thanks also to Paul Hannigan for photos.

BICRL Event 04 – Road Race – Tandragee

After a one week break, we were back with a bang and another road race – this time on the Tandragee 100 Circuit. VCI had a great turnout of 12 riders taking part, which certainly helped to take the pressure off and allow for some teamwork in the first four groups. A fantastic evening weather-wise, with temperatures in the high teens and little to no wind ensured a fast race.

Johnny Burns and William Strain set off in Group 2, neither having raced in a number of years. Alongside visitor Mark Saunderson, they formed a 3-man breakaway at the end of the first lap. Some fantastic teamwork amongst the 3 riders ensured that they swept up Group 1 and also managed to avoid being caught by the scratch group making their way through the field. On the approach to the finish, Johnny managed to open a gap on the last climb to take first place, with William close behind. As they were crossing the line, the chasing group led by Aaron Parks was just coming over the brow of the hill to take third place.

Peter Elliott and Stephen Hanna both finished inside the top 10, having set off in Groups 3 and 4.

Overall, VCI took 2nd place in the team event, with Banbridge having sufficient strength in depth to secure 1st place.

BICRL Event 03 – Road Race – Kinallen

Event 03 was the second road race of the series, on the testing Kinallen circuit. VCI welcomed a few new participants to the ranks of the race crew – one of whom was Geoff Harrison, who joined us last year. A regular on our Midweek Social Ride and our Sunday Bun Run, this was Geoff’s first opportunity to ‘pedal in anger’. We asked Geoff for a few words to sum up his first race.

“Kinallen was a tough course for my first race, with a few tough hills to contend with. The course was 5 laps, totalling 30miles. I went out in the front group, with Davy and Warren, both of whom gave me plenty of encouragement. It was tough, but I really enjoyed the experience and would encourage everyone to give it a go.”

With handicaps reduced by a few minutes from the Annaclone Road Race, there was a gap of 15mins from the first group to the scratch group. Aaron Parks of Banbridge CC was first over the line, having rode ride through the field of riders, to win from scratch. Our own James Dane was hot on his heels, to take 2nd place overall on his home circuit, with Neil Seffen and John Davison also at the head of the race.

Geoff on his debut finished comfortably with Warren and other riders from Group 1, while Davy was a few places ahead.

BICRL Event 02 – 17 Mile Individual Time Trial

Event 02 in the series switched the focus from road racing to time trialling, with a gruelling 17 mile course taking in Mays Corner and Cattle Hill. There was much discussion in the days leading up to the event, regarding the benefits of using a road bike or a dedicated TT bike on such a hilly course. In the end, we had an almost 50/50 split, with 3 riders representing the club on TT bikes and 5 on road bikes.

Conditions on the evening couldn’t have been much better, with dry roads and temperatures in the high teens. A south-westerly wind hampered testers on the first section of the course (out the Rathfriland Road, through Annaclone and over Mays Corner) before starting to reap the benefits on the approach to Katesbridge. Any wind was long forgotten about on the climbs of Cattlehill and drag after drag along the Waringsford Road, before turning back into the wind on the Drumneath Road for a fast finish.

Fastest of the VCI men on the night was James Dane, who recorded a fantastic time of 42mins and 49 seconds, which was also the third fastest time overall.

Neil Seffen set the second fastest time for VCI on the night, with a time of 44:11, earning him 7th place overall.

Third fastest for VCI was William Strain, with a time of 46:16 on a road bike – third fastest road bike overall (2nd fastest interclub road bike).

Yet again, all riders dug in and gave 100% for the club, producing some fantastic times.

Thanks to Richie and Tim for marshalling and thanks to Paul Hannigan for photos.

BICRL Event 01 – Road Race – Annaclone

Kicking the season off was a road race on the popular Annaclone circuit.  Starting at the Hawthorn Inn, competitors followed the Glebe Road to ‘Ritchies Corner’ with a sharp left bringing them into Annaclone village.  Through Annaclone, the riders then take on the infamous ‘Mays Corner’ – a testing drag, before a fast descent to ‘The Diamond’.  A fast left turn brought the race onto the rolling Katesbridge Road, with another tight left turn just before entering Katesbridge pointing the competitors back to the Hawthorn Inn.

A warm, muggy evening brought over 50 entrants to the start line, split into 5 racing groups.  The first group was released at 19:00, with Group 2 handicapped by 8 minutes.  Group 3 (mostly A4 racers) was a further 6 minutes behind Group 2 and Group 4 (mostly A3/A2 racers) a further 4 minutes back.  Finally, a small scratch group (mostly A1 riders) was released 1 minute after Group 4. 

Group 1 was immediately split into two seperate groups on the road and Group 2 was split by the second lap.  However, Group 3 worked extremely well right from the word go, cutting their handicap in half by the second lap.  Group 4 maintained the gap over the first 2 laps, before smashing it on the third lap, increasing the gap to the scratch group behind.  By the start of the last lap, Groups 3 and 4 had come together to form a large peloton moving at speeds exceeding the open race on the same circuit.

Tension was rising at the finish lap, as supporters waited to see if the peloton would sweep up the remainder of the Group 1 and 2 riders.  The first glimpse of the group was a black jersey, as Stephen Hanna stormed to a powerful sprint finish to take 1st place, thanks to a lead-out from Neil Seffen.  Several other VCI riders managed to jump onto the lead-out to take 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th place.  Gordy and Ivan both dug deep to finish, helping to secure first place overall for VCI in Event 01.

Well done to all who represented the club, either racing or marshalling and of course a special well done to Stevie for the win!