Strong gusts and vicious side winds played havoc on the opening stage of the 2016 Tour of the North at Kirkistown race track which was run as a criterium on the motor racing circuit. Banbridge CC battled the elements and made a solid start to the race, with both Gareth McKee and Lindsay Watson infiltrating the main break of the day alongside defending champion Dave Watson of North Down CC as well as fellow pre-race favourites Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) Phillip Lavery (Nantes Atlanique), David Hamilton (North Down CC) & Spirit Bike duo Ed Clements and Jake Hales from England.
It was the Sprit Bikes team that showed their cards early in the race and put on a real display of intent with Clements putting in a mammoth effort to lap the main bunch, winning the stage and claiming the first yellow jersey of the race. He was followed by team mate Hales over a minute adrift in 2nd and Declan Mullholland of ASEA Wheelworx close behind in third.
No official results have yet been released, however Lindsay Watson was the top placed Banbridge CC rider in the top 10, with McKee a few places behind. Matthew Adair crossed the finish line in what was left of a much depleted main bunch with James Curry losing a little ground on the open terrain.
There’s still plenty of racing to do with tomorrow’s 92 mile stage 2 starting in Portaferry at 11am taking in Kirkcubbin, Greyabbey, Newtownards, Donaghadee, Millisle, Ballywaler, Ballyhalbert, Portavogie and Cloughy. They return to Portaferry via the scenic route around Quintin Bay and Shore Road before climbing Windmill Hill and racing through the town square. The stage ends with two loops of an 18-mile circuit through Kircubbin, Rubane and Cloughey which includes the steep Windmill Hill in Portaferry. The finish is on Windmill Hill (approx. 2.30 to 2.45pm).
Many thanks to Paul Hannigan for the excellent photographs below.