The first club road race of the season was on the Annaclone circuit; starting at Loy’s pub, travelling toward Richie’s Bridge and turning onto the Rathfriland Rd. The hill exiting Annaclone provides a platform to test the climbing legs before turning left at Mays Corner and return back to the start/finish line via Katesbridge. 28 riders signed on with Stevie Curran splitting us into 6 handicapped groups for the 3 lap race. The weather was kind, the only thing was a strong head back to the finish. Leslie Creighton and Mark Buller were off first with a 3 minute gap on Charlie Glover, Pete McBride and Johnny Lyons. I was off in the third group with Marty Fitzpatrick, Mark Kendal, Chris Burns and Johnny McRoberts (visitor). Next off were Brian Hannon, Dave Lavery, Jon Shepherd, Paul McGuckin, John Buller and Brian Curran. Getting into the faster groups were Joe Penny, Nathan Sturrock, Kevin Wilson, Kevin McAlinden and Andy Beattie. Finally the scratch group including all the young guns chasing us down; Cam McIntyre, James Curry, Roger Aiken, Gareth McKee, Gary Crory (visitor) & Cathal Clarke (visitor).
After the first lap positions hadn’t changed but the times between the groups were coming down fast. On the 2nd lap the first 3 groups came together on the fast run into Katesbridge. With the combined horsepower we were hoping we could stay clear of the rest of the field. On the last lap the scratch group closed in, having caught all the groups but ours. May’s Corner was going to present an attacking opportunity; Johnny, Mark and Charlie put the hammer down going up Mays Corner, leaving the rest behind one by one. By this stage there was nothing left in the legs and knowing we had to turn into a head wind towards the finish line was always in the back of your mind. The 3 leaders had a gap which wasn’t going to be closed now, and all of a sudden the scratch had caught us in the final 500 yards with the ever quick Brian Hannon pulling them along. We got into the finishing straight and the 3 leaders had to fight it out for glory, it was down to the minor placing for the rest of us. With Cameron, John, Joe, Nathan, Gareth and James looking at each other to see who was going to lead the spirt out for 4th place.
It was Johnny McRoberts (visitor) first over the line with Mark Kendal 2nd , the first Banbridge CC rider home on his road race debut, and the impressive young Charlie Glover with an impressive 3rd place - he will be one to watch for the future.
Once again big thanks to Stevie Curran, Ivor Park and Johnathan Buller for time keeping and to Alan Towell and his team of marshals keeping us safe, without which we wouldn't be racing. Also thanks to Paul Hannigan and Paul Anderson for the pictures this week. Paul wasn't going to let Toni show him up this week again with her photography skills!
Full results to follow.