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National CX Championships 2016

Date: Sunday 10 January 2016
Event: Irish National Cyclo-cross Championships 2016
Location: Tollymore Forest Park, County Down
Host club: Dromara CC

Tollymore Forest Park played host to the 2016 Irish National Cyclo-cross Championships which was organised by Dromara Cycling Club on the second weekend in January.  The club had worked hand-in-hand with the local representatives from the Northern Ireland Forestry Service to prepare the course which took in four fields, two of which are used for scout camping during the summer.  The venue had great facilities for car parking, toilets, showers, water taps as well as sign on taking place indoors in the disused café.  The course had been prepared from the Friday night and was open for practice on Saturday afternoon.  This year's championships had no support races which allowed for the race start times to be well spread out permitting practice time between races.  The weather in the lead up to the race had been mixed with dry weather on Friday during the day, wet overnight and into Saturday morning, dry for Saturday afternoon and dry all day Sunday.  The ground in the four fields seemed to dry very quickly after the rain which made for some fast racing.  The double pit had been set up in field 3 according to UCI standards.  Bike washing took place among the trees and was a hub of activity throughout the day. 

The course started at the back of the monument field at the top of the ridge.  Riders headed off across the ridge over the tarmac path and into an S shape curve to enter field 2.  They skirted the edge of field 2 and then dived through the short section of forest into field 3.  They then passed the pit area for the first time before turning 180o on themselves to take in the upper section of field 3 which included two hairpins at the bottom of the slope.  There was a fast run along the boundary fence before entered into field 4.  Field 4 included some 180o turns, a hammer head and an off-camber right hand turn before exiting to return to field 3.  Now in the lower half of field 3 the riders took in a loop, passed the green fencing of the pit area before swinging round and entering the pit area for the second time.  After a 90o turn exit from the pit area the riders gained speed as they went down towards the gate onto the tarmac path.  This path climbed back up towards the scout changing facility with the exit onto a newly cut section at the edge of the forest.  This section had a fallen tree for them to negociate, a muddy run up and then the double plank obstacle.  After remounting their bikes, the riders entered the monument field at the bottom beside the tree line.  They then had a tough climb back up to the top of the ridge where the start/finish lines were located to complete their lap.

There were five championship races at three different start times.  Sign on opened at 9 am with the first riders lining up at 10 am for gridding.  First away were the Junior men with 10 riders in this category.  Starting two minutes later was the Women's race which had attracted 22 competitors and included both junior and senior women.  Two minutes later the Masters M50 category started, with 32 riders rushing off from the line.  The race was set for 5 laps.  In the Junior Men's race David Conroy (Scott Eurocycles.com) had a comfortable lead from the end of the first lap and kept stretching away from the chasers.  There was a good battle between Cameron McIntyre (NRPT) and John Buller (Banbridge CC) with Cameron taking the silver and John the bronze medal.  In the Women's race, Beth McCluskey was well clear of second place Maeve O'Grady (Cycleways CC) with American visitor Maria Larkin ( Chicago Cutting Crew) taking bronze, one step down from last year.  Des Woods (Newry Wheelers) put on a strong display of racing in the Masters M50 category as he took the win, staying away from Peter Buggle and Peter McConville (Newry Wheelers).

The next race gathered up at 12:00 and it was for the Masters M40 category and had 43 riders entered.   Among the riders was 18 time winner of the Elite men's category Robin Seymour (Team Worc) but he was not gridded in the first three rows as he had been riding as a Senior during the season.  He was the pre-race favourite and it wasn't long before he hit the front of the bunch riding alongside last year's winner Jason Henry.  At the end of lap 2 however Robin pulled away from Jason and continued to stretch away from the bunch until he crossed the finish line.  Jason finished second with Brendan Doherty (VC Glendale) third.

The final race of the day was for the Senior Men with the riders lining up for gridding at 2 pm.  The group of 45 riders had to complete 7 laps of the 2.8 km course which was still holding up well except at the 180o turns.  David Montgomery (ChainReaction Cycles) was one of the favourites but had to start on row four as he has done most of his racing outside of the country.  Gareth McKee (Banbridge CC) the Elite Cross-country rider, hasn't raced cyclo-cross this season but managed to get past the riders lined up in front of him to hit the front of the bunch as they passed the finish line for the first time.  Towards the end of lap one David had joined the other hotly tipped favourite, Roger Aiken (Team ASEA) as they completed the first lap together.  These two remained together for the first three laps but on lap four Roger got a gap on David and stretched his lead each lap until the end when he crossed the line over a minute ahead of David.  Glenn Kinning (Kinning Cycles) was another hot favourite but hit bad luck on the start line when the zip broke on his skin suit.  Glenn also had mechanical issues but battled back to finish third overall.  Gareth adapted his cross-country skills, strength and speed over to cyclo-cross to finish fourth.  Christopher McGlinchey (Chain Reaction Cycles) finished fifth with Sean O'Tuathail (Bray Wheelers) sixth, remarkable given that Sean crashed around 150 metres from the start and made his way up from last to sixth. 
Graham Boyd (Xmtb McConvey Cycles) was seventh with James Curry (Banbridge CC) eighth.  The Senior Team prize went to Phoenix CC when Craig Rea, Luke Ireland and Alex Donald crossed the line.

Prize giving ceremonies took place immediately after each race with winners getting a bouquet of flowers from the organisers, medals from the representative from Cycling Ireland and the first place rider getting to wear the national champion jersey.  Hot food was available throughout the day from the food van.

A huge thanks to the volunteers from Dromara Cycling Club as well as friends from Shimna Wheelers and Killinchy CC for putting on the race.

Commissaires:
Paul Watson, Maurice Mayne and Maciej Staroniewicz

Report by Martin Grimley

Technical Guide - here

Results here

Photos/videos
Belgium Project - FlickR - here
Richard Cowan - Facebook - here and here
Sean Rowe - Facebook - here
Toby Watson - Facebook - here and here
Michael Armstrong - FlickR - here
Michael Gordon - Facebook - here
Stephen McNally - FlickR - here