It’s hard to imagine how today’s first stage of the Tour of The North could have went any better for the Banbridge CC team. From the start of the day the Banbridge riders were at the front of field and competing for the jerseys. On the first King of the Hills Cat 2 climb of Shanes Hill, Mark Downey was 3rd and in the mix for the polka dot jersey. He was closely followed by the remainder of the team who were all riding strongly.
In the final 10 miles of the gruelling 65 mile stage Gareth McKee made a brave move and broke free of the bunch with Dutchman Thijs Nijvelct (WTOS-Delft). They opened up a maximum advantage of 20 seconds and as they approached the line McKee managed to overcome his breakaway companion to win the stage and take the first Yellow leaders jersey of the race. Mark Downey would lead home the bunch sprint 6 seconds later to claim 3rd place. Next Banbridge man home was Lindsay Watson in 16th place – enough to give Banbridge CC the leading team on the stage and leading team in GC. James Curry also finished in the same bunch in 35th place after a strong day.
Unfortunately Cameron McIntyre was involved in a crash and had to revert to a spare bike as a result of a snapped frame, however determined not to be beaten on his first Tour of the North fought on to finish the stage in a chasing bunch.
Due to the time bonuses available at the end of the stage McKee holds a 2 second advantage over Dutchman Nijvelct, while Downey is a further 8 seconds adrift in 3rd and the bulk of the main contenders are at 11 seconds in GC.
Tomorrow will see an early start for the riders with short time trial in the morning followed by another tough stage in the afternoon.
1st - McKee, Gareth (Banbridge CC)
3rd – Downey, Mark (Banbridge CC) @10s
16th – Watson, Lindsay (Banbridge CC) @11s
35th – Curry, James (Banbridge CC) @11s
71st – McIntyre, Cameron (Banbridge CC) @14m17s