Banbridge CC’s James Curry claimed his first senior Elite title last weekend when he romped home to win the Ulster MTB Championships in Castlewellan Forest. James is no stranger to winning, with multiple youth, junior and under 23 Provincial and National titles to his name, but this will be the first time he’s had the privilege to call himself an Elite Champion.
When you’re teammates to a multiple and reigning National and Provincial Elite Champion in the form of Gareth McKee, victories in Elite Championships don’t come too easy, however this year young Curry has been snapping at the heels of his training partner and teammate who has dominated the Irish off road scene in recent years.
In Castlewellan it was Curry who applied the pressure from the drop of the flag, ensuring anyone wanting to contend for the title would have to work for it. Initially it was Banbridge’s Lindsay Watson of Plush MTB who was the only other competitor who could match the pace but by the end of the first lap danger man McKee had made his way to the front of the race and joined both Curry and Watson. Graham Boyd of XMTB followed closely behind in 4th, keeping the front runners honest. In the following laps it was Curry who continued to dictate the pace and it was clear he was on form and determined to secure a big result. As the laps counted down it was only teammate McKee who could stay with Curry and the two remained clear until the final lap. Lindsay Watson had the misfortune to puncture, leaving the bronze medal open for Boyd of XMTB.
As Curry & McKee entered the final lap the tables turned and McKee found himself in a position he hasn’t been accustomed to for some time – Curry had attacked and opened a significant advantage. With his first elite title so close James pushed on and the advantage only grew until he was able to enjoy the cheers of a home crowd as he lifted his arms in victory as the Ulster Champion.
In the other races on the day both John Buller and Richard Baird represented Banbridge CC in the Junior men’s race. John got off to a storming start and at the end of the first lap he had a lead of 2 minutes. He continued to extend his lead each lap become a very convincing Ulster Junior Champion. Richard narrowly missed out on a podium position in 4th place.
James Buller and Jack Baird both had a tough battle in the under 16 race with James finishing 3rd and Jack 4th. Johnny McRoberts had a great start in the Master 30’s and led from the start however after a crash left him off the pace a medal was looking unlikely, however he fought on and claimed an excellent 5th place.
Ruth Aiken also had a fantastic race in the Women’s Championships where she finished in 3rd place and stood upon the podium to claim the bronze medal.