NPS Round 1 (2018) Report
The first round of the 2018 Cross-country Mountain Bike National Point Series (NPS) took place on Sunday 29 April at Tollymore Forest Park. Hosted by Dromara Cycling Club this round also doubled up as Round 2 of the Ulster Cross-country (XC) series. The venue has been used on many occasions over the years to host similar events but course designers were still utilising new sections to keep it interesting for the riders. The course also benefitted from a few days of dry weather which made for a more flowing course. Light rain however greeted the host club as they started the set up in the morning. This quickly dried up when sign on opened and the youth races were on.
Kicking off the day’s racing was the Under 6s ‘Fun’ race which was held over one lap of a dedicated circuit. With lots of enthusiastic support from the spectators the 22 young riders (16 boys and 6 girls) on their bicycles or striders set off. It is still undecided if it is the racing or the packet of sweets at the end that motivates this age group!
The Under 8s then lined up next. Their course took in the Under 6s course but then extended further along through the forest before returning to the event field. The boys set off first with the girls starting a few seconds later. Darragh Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) took the win in the boys’ race when he finished ahead of Ryan McKeown (Trail Demons CC) with another Trail Demon, Brodie Hull, taking third. In the girls’ race the Aoifes were back on the podium again with Aoife Craig (VC Glendale) taking the win ahead of Aoife Kellett (Dromara Cycling Club). Anna Morris (Inishowen Wheelers) finished third.
The Under 10s start line was on the main course just below the run up to the finish line gantry. The Under 10s course was longer again than the Under 8s and the riders were given 2 laps to do, based on last year’s results. However, the dry course conditions made this course quite fast and they could easily have had another lap. Curtis McKee (Maryland Wheelers) chalked up another win as he finished a few seconds ahead of the chasing bunch. There was a close finish between the next rides with Elliot Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) second, James Armstrong (Dromara Cycling Club) third, Killian McCoy (Epic / Expert Cycles) fourth and Darragh Ryan (McNally Swords CC) fifth. The girls’ race was more spread out with Cara Suckling (Maryland Wheelers) riding strongly to take the chequered flag, Aisling Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) second and Emer Heverin (Kinning Cycles) third.
The Under 12s were started further back along the course. This time the riders were not told on the start line how many laps they were going to do. This was calculated when they had completed their first lap. The Under 12s course took in the full section of the forest beside the event field. With their speed the riders were given 5 laps to complete. Reuben Maitland (Killinchy Cycling Club) took an impressive win ahead of Oisin May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) with Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) third. As usual Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) was up among the leading boys to finish 3rd overall, first girl. Cara Moffitt (Phoenix CC) had a close race with Aliyah Rafferty (Island Wheelers) to finish second and third respectively.
After a break in racing for podium presentations and course practice, the next races started at noon with 7 categories. Under 14 boys, Under 14 girls, Under 16 boys, Under 16 girls, Senior 2 women, Senior 3 women and Senior 4 men. There was some rain at the start of these races and a cold wind had started to blow across the event field.
The Under 14s and Senior 3 women’s course was a shortened version of the main course cutting out some of the climbing section. This meant that these riders would be back to the event field before the others. The Under 14 rider Luke Murphy (Killarney Cycling Club) was back through the finish well ahead of expectations and went on to finish well over a minute ahead of his nearest rival Scott Roberts (McConvey Cycles) with Travis Harkness (Carn Wheelers) completing the podium. Erin Creighton (XMTB) won the girls’ Under 14s race as she finished ahead of Hannah Mullin (Trail Demons CC) with Keela Smyth (Apollo Cycling Team) third. The Under 16 boys’ race was 3 laps of the main course. Darren Rafferty (Island Wheelers) had a superb race to take the win well clear of second place Dean Harvey (Kinning Cycles) with Ben Wilson (Dromara Cycling Club) third. Caoimhe May (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) took the flag in the Under 16 girls’ race with Darcey Harkness (Carn Wheelers) finishing an impressive second after a nasty fall at one of the tricky sections of the course. Stephanie Roche (Scott Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club) finished third in this category. The Senior 3 women’s category, with the reduced course length as part of the introductory category for women into the sport, was won by Christine Kelly (Feel Good Factor) with Michelle Dunne (Un-Attached Leinster) second and Louise Friel (XMTB) third. The Senior 2 women’s race was held over 2 laps of the main course. Two weeks ago Leah McCarthy (Team Giant Dublin) won the Senior 3 women’s race at the Ulster XC Series. Leah then stepped up to the Senior 2 women’s category and won it as well. Junior rider Amanda Draper (MBCC) finished second with Niamh McGreen (MAD MTB) third. In the Senior 4 men’s race James McVeigh (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) took the win and just behind him was a sprint finish for second place between Matthew Leathem (Trail Demons CC) and Sean McCourt (VC Glendale). Sean attacked on the final hill and was just a tire width short of beating Matthew.
After another break for podium presentations and practice, the final races of the day took place at 2 pm with the Senior 1 men, Senior 1 women, Junior men, Senior 2 men and Senior 3 men lined up. The Senior 1 men had 5 laps to complete, Senior 2 men and Junior men had 4 with the Senior 1 women and Senior 3 men having 3 laps. These races started in overcast and cool conditions but thankfully the sun finally broke out and the latter half of the race was then bathed in spring sunshine.
In his first year of cross-country mountain biking Barry Convery (Newry Wheelers CC) has been able to transfer his fitness from the other cycling disciplines to work on his technical skills and took an impressive win in the Senior 3 men’s race. Vinny Colgan (Park Wheelers) was second with Paddy Daly (Scott Eurocycles.com) making a great comeback this season taking third. In the Senior 2 men’s race Philip Roche (Team WORC) was over a minute ahead of Ronan O’Sullivan (Team Giant Dublin) who had to work hard to stay ahead of Johnny McRoberts (Banbridge CC).
Current national champion Thomas Creighton (McConvey Cycles) has been on the podium at the last two British XC races and had an impressive race on home soil in the Junior men’s category as he set his sights on chasing down the Senior 1 men. Lee Harvey (Kinning Cycles) finished second well clear of third place Nathan Kurensky (Cunga CC). In the Senior 1 women’s race Klaudia Bajolek (Scott Eurocycles.com) took the win ahead of junior rider Niamh McKiverigan (Powerhouse Sport).
In the Senior 1 men’s race, current national champion Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC) has continued his form from last season as he stormed around the 5 laps. David Conroy (Scott Eurocycles.com) was lying second until the final lap when he dropped to fourth. The battle for second was between the McConvey Cycles’ riders Tomasz Michalski and Graham Boyd and it finished in this order. Fifth place went to Brian Steele (Shimna Wheelers Cycling Club) who has also been competing in the British series with Niall Davis (Biking.ie) sixth.
After the races the riders could enjoy the food laid on by the host club and avail of the coffee van. Many thanks to all the hard working volunteers from the host club along with colleagues from other clubs who helped out. Many thanks to the Northern Ireland Forestry Service for the use of the venue, Mech Monkey for mechanical support and Hills Mixtape for the coffee van.
The next round of the Ulster XC series takes place on 20 May at Drumcairne Forest, Stewardstown, County Tyrone on Sunday 20 May hosted by Island Wheelers. (Details on www.ulsterxc.com)
The next round of the NPS is on Sunday 3 June at Slade Valley, County Dublin hosted by IMBRC. (Details on www.irishxcnps.ie)
Commissaires: Maurice Mayne, Gary Sheils and Maciej Staroniewicz
Photos and video by Richard Cowan
Report by Martin Grimley