2019 Race League Reports

BICRL Event Ten – Team Time Trial – Warrenpoint Carriageway

Keeping the format similar to 2018, this seasons Banbridge Inter Club Race League was closed out again with a 4-Up Team Time Trial, on the Warrenpoint Carriageway.  With a lot less promotion than last year, the event this year saw 15 teams take part, with guest teams from both Dromore CC and Dromara CC. Conditions were just about perfect, with bright sunshine, a slight head/crosswind on the 5 miles towards Newry and a slight cross/tailwind for the 5 miles back to the finish.  This is a non-aero event, with riders given only a road bike option.  With teams juggling lineups right up to the last minute,  the order was sorted, placing some of the expected stronger teams towards the later releases, whilst at the same time trying to vary between clubs.  3 Individuals were then permitted to use the opportunity for training in full aero.

The first team was released shortly after 7pm, with one minute intervals seperating the teams.  Looking at the line-ups on the start line, it was evident that it would be very close at the sharp end.  Hammer down time and it was quickly into their stride for all.  Holding very little back, teams moved through their changeovers fairly evenly, the pace was quickly up, but how long could it be sustained, with the big engines in each team pulling harder and longer to hold the momentum?  As each team made their way back, recording a time on the third rider, it proved to be extremely tight at the top.  With a winning time of 21.23 over the16km, visiting club Dromore CC clocked an average speed of 44.89kmph.  Second home and first series team were VC Iveagh Team 1 (Mark Johnston, William Strain, Neil Seffen and John Davison) a mere 6 seconds down on Dromore, with an average speed of 44.69kmph.  Third home and with an even more reduced gap were Banbridge CC Team 2, averaging 44.62kmph.  Overall the standard was very high and some great times were posted (no doubt many also posted individual PBs).  With the 2 best teams for each club going towards overall club placings, Banbridge CC once again proved their depth and talent to take a hard earned event win.


BICRL Event Nine – Road Race – Annaclone Circuit

In contrast to last week, event nine saw much better conditions, which was reflected in a strong field of 67 riders signing on – 59 of whom remained in the race until the finish.  A warm evening, with a light breeze made for a very fast race – matching (and even bettering) A4 and A3 race pace for the respective riders.  By the last lap, basically all the groups had merged into one, leading to a larger than usual bunch finish.

Yet again it was Aaron Parks of Banbridge CC who came out on top, with Mark Johnston the highest placed VCI rider in 5th place, with John Davison inches behind him.  Special mention must also be given to Connor McAlorum of TVR, who finished in 3rd place, in his first Inter Club Road Race as an A3 rider!


BICRL Event Eight – Road Race – Kinallen Circuit

Event 8 in the 2019 BICRL was a Road Race on the 8.4km circuit of Kinallen.  With a fairly horrible forecast, after several days of great sunshine, it was very clear before the start that this could turn out nasty.  However, given the likely poor weather there was still enough commitment and interest for 59 riders to sign on for a piece of the action.  Our thanks to those visiting from Portadown CC, Apollo CT, Dromore CC, Dromara CC and West Down Wheelers.

With 6 laps and the race set to go full distance no matter the weather, groups set off with around 10 mins between the first and last group.  Strong riding in each group kept things in good shape for the larger part of the race, with the inevitable catches being made in the closing lap or so. Conditions were horrible, although not cold, drizzle and fine rain was a fairly constant companion, broken several times with heavy downpours. This made things even more testing on this tough course, with reduced visibility, potential slips on every turn, added weight from excess water and the mental strength to stay out there.  Of the 59 starters, 47 completed the 6 laps.

Most of the catches took place on laps 4 and 5, taking a fairly strong field towards the final lap.  Riders were dropping off constantly as the race moved towards the finish and up and over the final climbs.  A bunch sprint was building and came to pass with two of our youngest riders challenging for honours.  In the end it was Christopher Neil of Banbridge CC who took the win, ahead of Frank Finley of Cornserstone CC – both showing great potential and future promise!  BCC on a roll, took the points as top club, with VCI 2nd, TVR not far behind in 3rd and CCC 4th, having been missing a few riders.  Top finishers for VCI were Mark Jonhston (5th) and John Davison (7th).


BICRL Event Seven – Hill Climb – Spelga Dam

Event 7 had for some time been on many a mind, arguably for some to avoid, but for others a chance to sort out the local climbing pecking order.  In planning, it was to be a sharp test of climbing prowess on one of our local iconic climbs and in this seasons series, it was chosen to be a 1.72mile climb to “The Dam.”

Tonight on the “Col de Spelga” conditions were superb for the short but challenging climb along this well travelled and widely known old adversary. Sunshine, 20 degrees and a slight tail wind was all in store for the 49 riders who signed on at the Kinahalla Outdoor Centre. The distance from here to the car park at the dam was 1.72 miles, with 666ft of elevation – the worst of which is in and around the bends half way into the climb, before a stinging 9 to 11% ascent from the bends to the finish.  Most will agree its all about a good tempo and not going too deep and into the red.  Fastest on the night was Visitor Lee Harvey of VC Glendale wuth a super time of 8min 46 secs.  Second fastest and in a rich vein of form was Paul Wilkinson of WDW.  Third Fastest on the night was Thomas Niblock of Cornerston CC, who was our first placed series rider.

With yet another solid performance, the merits of the night lie very firmly at the feet of Banbrigde CC, however it is well worth acknowledging the growth within Cornerstone CC, with this their best placed club performance to date.  As host club, CCC put on a very neat and tidy event with the road performance on a par with their organisation.  Taking 1st, 2nd and 5th place, CCC came home second overall, to take a well deserved 3 club points.  TVR rolled in 3rd on the night with best club rider Gary Gilliham.  VCI evidently had a bad night and suffered their lowest team placing of the season, with top club club rider William Strain finishing 13th, closely followed by Neil Seffen in 14th and John Davison in 17th.  Banbridge CC are now flourishing, with 3 event wins on the trot!  It will be difficult to top this run on current form.


BICRL Event Six – Road Race – Tandragee 100 Circuit

Event 6 in this years series, was a road race just a few kilometres outside Tandragree, on the familiarly known Tandragee 100 motorcycle circuit – however in the interests of health and safety (keeping all left turns) our rotations were counter-clockwise, as opposed to the more familiar clockwise lap used by the motorbikes.  A mixed sky, which included many dark clouds, ensured there were a few showers around, although this did not deter 63 starters. There were a number of local visiting riders in the mix, which always helps to keep group sizes healthy and the competition within reach for all abilities.  6 laps over rolling terrain awaited the competitors.

With the groups released – the first shortly after 7pm – it wasstraight down to business. Banbridge CC were odds-on favourite; once again displaying great depth in rider commitment and ability.  TVR always lurking and ready to capitalise on weakness, took advantage of what appeared a depleted VC Iveagh turnout, taking 2nd club place on the night, on the back of a strong performance from their talisman Davey McKnight.  Cornerstone CC, although performing better than the result might suggest, paid a heavy forfeit with 2 riders missing.

Top Rider on the night and doing the damage was Aaron Parks of BCC, who along with McKnight, rode through the entire field to demonstrate some great form – massive well done!  James Dane of VCI took 2nd, on the back of a good performance at the weekend in the Tommy Givan Memorial Race.  Third on the night was Gavin Clarke (BCC) – another rider back to some great form.  As ever, the craic and banter was there for all to see. 


BICRL Event Five – 15.5mile Individual Time Trial – Rathfriland Road/Castlewellan Road

Tonight’s Individual Time Trial saw conditions a little grim, but certainly bearable, as 53 riders lined out to represent their clubs. 15.5 miles of undulating wet roads formed tonight’s test, with the event full-aero.  There was a mix of both Road Bikes and TT Bikes amongst the starters, but evidently Time Trials will always favour the specialist machinery.  That said, there’s a saying “You can’t keep a good man down” and there were those there tonight to prove it, with a number of those on Road Bikes highly placed. Individually, the night belonged to Mark Johnston (VCI) who run out the winner, making this 2 out of 2.  Mark posted the fastest time of 36.49 and was just over 30 secs faster than second placed John Buller (BCC) who takes the prize for first Road Bike home, with Emily Roberts (TVR) first female home.  Random placing prize was drawn prior to the event starting (22) John Ervine of Cornerstone CC.

Despite VC Iveagh recording the fastest time, Banbridge CC took the club points with a combined score of 60.  VCI, keeping the pressure on, were 2nd with 100 points.  TVR and CCC were split by just 3 points on 222 and 225 respectively.  Now half way into the series, VCI hold a 2 point lead on BCC with TVR 3rd and CCC 4th.


BICRL Event Four – Criterium – Banbridge Town Centre

Event 4 was a particularly tricky and ambitious project, which had many complications. Each club fielded 8 riders to make a field of 32. As ever, racing was hard fought right from the start, in this opportunity to compete in the closed circuit scenario widely known as a Criterium.

Conditions on the night were damp, which caused several to hold back a little. Combining the elements of both a criterium and a track styled elimination race was an audacious concept and one that proved a real test to manage on the night, given the mix of rider adrenaline, noise levels etc. This said, the race was well received by spectators and with a huge entertainment factor, all participants seemed to enjoy the race buzz. The goal for us was to eliminate the last 2 riders in the field pretty much each lap until only 4 remained to fight it out. After the allotted time of 30 minutes or so a winner emerged as Johnny Kyle of VCI.


BICRL Event Three – 2-Up Time Trial – Lissize Loop

Event 3 on the Lissize Loop was a full-on affair with another great turn out of 61 riders. Originally planned as a 17 mile mid distance test, the event was shortened by the series committee to 12 miles and a finish in Annaclone, owing to community respect and a safety concern further along the route.  On the night weather conditions were great for racing – 16c, a cool breeze and nice dry roads. The event starts beside the lake at Loughbrickland, heads along the rolling hills on its way towards Rathfriland, before turning on to the Lissize Rd and heading back towards Banbridge via Annaclone.  Plenty of ‘little’ kicker hills and a fast finish running down from Mays Corner gave all a sturdy test.

For 2 weeks now “the Bear” as BCC has novelly become known, has been poked and prodded by VCI taking the first 2 event wins. Event 3 saw the Bear back from its slumber.

With the best 4 pairs to count for each club it was going to be tight, with little likely or expected to separate the top honours. With the chips down and all in, it was VCI who took top pairing with yet another strong performance from rising talent John Davidson (A3), who powered his way to the top with William Strain (A4).  Just 22 seconds covered the top 7 teams which shows just how close it was and how little can make the difference. Just a few poor gear changes or changeovers within the pairs could have made the difference.  Only 8 seconds back were second placed pairing on the night, Peter McBride and James McMahon of BCC, who had 2 seconds over Stevie Fitzsimmons and Mark Stewart (also BCC) and they had just 3 seconds over Mark Johnston and Neil Seffen of VCI – incredibly tight!

There were great performances right across the timing boards – Emily Roberts (TVR) was first lady home and young Frank Finley of CCC (last weeks race winner) coming home within the CCC top 4. There were stories too of punctures and riding flat to the finish and of touched wheels and sadly a crash involving BCC rider Brian Hannon – an example of just how committed our riders are and the narrow edge we all ride on.  Banbridge CC took the honours for Event 3, with a combined team score of 19, VCI second on 25, TVR third on 55 and CCC just pipped to fourth on a team score of 56.


BICRL Event Two – Road Race – Annaclone Circuit

Most are aware of the phrase “Don’t poke the Bear” but that is exactly what VCI did in Event 1 – in Event 2, they went one stage further to give the Bear a bloody nose!

With the continuing good weather and favourable conditions, 73 riders started Event 2 on the familiarly testing Annaclone Race Circuit. 4 Laps, with a combined distance of just over 31 miles awaited the field, which was split into 6 groups. 21 minutes was the spread of handicaps, with all clubs well represented and spread fairly evenly amongst the groups. Group 1 left at 7pm with a 7 minutes advantage over Group 2, who had 6 mins on Group 3, with Groups 4, 5 and 6 at +4mins.

As always, frantic pace and tempo was driven by adrenaline and a hard desire to perform for your club. The first laps saw some shake out although for 3 laps positions largely held station, with only those dropping from their respective groups being caught.  Lap 4 brought several groups together (group 2 and 3) to contest the higher placings. Ahead, 3 riders from group 1 stayed away with young Frank Finley (CCC) displaying a strong performance underscored by some climbing prowess, broke off the front on the final pass at Mays Corner, around 4 miles from the finish – a plucky move!  Jeremy Lyness and Jonathan Dundas, both in their first Road Race in VCI colours, gave chase but had to settle with 2nd and 3rd respectively.

With the points all tallied up, it was VCI who again took the club points, punctuating their threat signalled in Event 1.  TVR further added to BCC’s misery, with a very creditable 2nd place overall – David White, Aiden McGinley and Mark Williamson leading home. Looking at the positions, it appears that a strong mid section paid off for both clubs. VCI now leads the competition going into Event 3.

BICRL Event One – 9mile Individual Time Trial – Rathfriland to Banbridge

The first event was an Individual Time Trial, commonly referred to as a “Race of Truth” held on a cold, damp evening, with an unseasonably cool temperature of just 6c and a northerly headwind of around 12mph. The start was fast – dropping down out of Rathfriland on Dromore St and on to the undulating 9 mile run to Banbridge via Annaclonne. Seen by some as a wicked test of nerve, 50mph+ was hit by the bravest on the testy and immediate descent. One by one, fifty riders started at one minute intervals. As a sporting event, this had the appearance of a staged and well managed withdrawal to a hopefully warmer and drier Banbridge.  

The absence of handicaps meant the event would be ‘man o man’ with the measurements of performance in this event on actual/real times. To balance the event a little and cater for those with or without the advantages of a specific Time Trial bike, the event was split into 2 categories: Aero and non-Aero. The best 8 finishing positions for each club across both disciplines would then count towards the clubs total and thus club finishing position.

Positions checked, it was the start that VCI had been aiming for! A win and a slight tilt to the BCC crown with first blood to VCI. This will no doubt tease out greater focus and firepower from BCC, whilst serving as a reminder that this series could prove to be a serious test and far from a foregone conclusion.  Our individual winners were:

  • First in the Aero category (and fastest on the night) Mark Johnston (VCI)
  • First in the non-Aero: Aaron Parkes (BCC) with William Strain (VCI) in second.
  • Fastest female: Emily Robert’s (TVR)