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History 2015-2016

Date: Friday 11 September 2015
Event: Kinning GP
Location: Orangefield Park, Belfast
Host club: Kinning Cycles

As a pre-season warm up, Glenn Kinning took on the task of organising his club's first cyclo-cross race at his local venue of Orangefield Park in Belfast.  The park hosts a number of football pitches as well as walking areas but, for the cycling fraternity, Orangefield is about the outdoor race track.  Glenn has always had the idea of incorporating the track into a wider race which would bring new people to the venue to have a go at racing on the tarmac surface with the high banks at either end.  To get the event fitted into the busy calendar, a Friday evening was chosen which included laying on a bouncy castle for the small ones and catering vans supplying tea & coffee as well as burgers and chips in a cone.  True Belgium style including our own Dany Blondeel on the microphone.

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Date: Sunday 4 October 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 1
Location: Lurgan Park
Host club: Apollo CT

The 2015 Ulster Cyclo-cross series kicked off at Lurgan Park on Sunday 4 October 2015.  The park was looking fantastic in the bright, warm, autumn sunlight and was busiling with people from early morning.  The hardworking volunteers from Apollo Cycling Team were on site from 7 am setting up the course.  With so much dry weather lately the grass was very dry and very fast.  Definitely not the usual weather for cyclo-cross racing.  This year there had been rumours of lots more cyclo-cross bicycles having been purchased and a general buzz about the event which has been building up over the last few years.  Pre-registration managed to attract over 400 entries with just over 390 turning up on the day.  This would be a record for the Ulster series and bodes well for the rest of the season.

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Date: Sunday 11 October 2015
Event: Phoenix CX Trofee
Location: Lady Dixon Park
Host club: Phoenix CC

The organisers of the Phoenix Cycling Club cyclo-cross event took the decision to step away from the Ulster Cyclo-cross league format this year to try a slightly different approach to their event.  They decided to drop the mountain bike support race for men which allowed them to create a time slot to promote a Women's only cyclo-cross race.  This was heavily promoted and paid off with a record-breaking turnout of 27 cyclo-cross females from across Ireland in addition to 9 mountain bike females.  The Under 16 girls also started along with the women with the Under 14s (boys and girls) starting a minute later.  The decision was well received by the female competitors.

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Date: Sunday 18 October 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 2
Location: Necarne Estate, Irvinestown 
Host club: Lakeland CC

Round 2 of the Ulster Cyclo-cross series took place at a new venue, Necarne Estate in Irvinestown, County Fermanagh.  Host club Lakeland CC, more accustomed to running cross-country mountain bike races, put their event management to good use to design a course in the grounds of the estate in front of the abandoned 16th century castle.  On the castle lawn there was a winding switchback trail which took in the length and width of the grass area.  This area was used by all racers but especially by the youth riders.  The finish line was at the closest point to the castle's front entrance in front of the gathered crowd of spectators.  The senior course set off across the field, through a gate and onto a short tarmac road section.  It then headed up a gravel lane then onto a grass covered steep climb.  After a short, fast descent there was a drop off down the slope for a 180o turn and run back up (bike portage section).  This followed a fast descent onto the tarmac/concrete lane up along the side of the front lawn of the castle.  The course then headed off towards the side of the castle where the horse trotting pen was.  This was the sand obstacle for this round.  Riders exited the pen for another fast concrete section toward the steps.  Another portage section.  In through the bushes then out onto the castle lawn into the switchback section where the spectators could watch the racing battles unfold. The plank obstacles were in full view of the crowd. Registration, changing and catering was at the nearby Bawnacre centre which had ample car park spaces.  The weather was dry and bright with solid ground conditions which made for a very fast race.

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Date: Sunday 25 October 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 3
Location: Windmill Park, Dungannon
Host club: Island Wheelers

Round 3 of the Ulster Cyclo-cross series took place at Windmill Park in Dungannon with Island Wheelers hosting the event there for their third time.  The club have been working closely with the local council to create the course which sees a mixture of grass, tarmac and wooded area.  The weather was dry but cold and, despite the rain on the previous day, the course held up well, just muddy in places.  The course had been altered from previous years where it went out through a gate near the pond and onto a grass hill with off-camber turn.  The course then came back past the pond and turned sharp left into the woods where the club had built some steps into the course which meant a forced dismount and run up.  They had also added in a gap jump to challenge the riders.

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Date: Sunday 1 November 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 4
Location: Seacourt, Larne
Host club: Team Madigan

A sunny November day even provided unseasonable warmth at Seacourt in Larne for Round 5 of the Ulster Cyclo-cross series.  Team Madigan have used this site for the last 4 years which includes an excellent hall, changing and kitchen facilities.  However, due to a mix up by the centre management booking system, the club was unable to gain access to the hall and had to make a last minute decision to have sign on located at the back of the building - in the open-air.  Thankfully the day stayed dry and the volunteers manning the sign on desks were able to carry out their function as they were kept busy with over 300 riders taking part.  The car park filled up very quickly as the convoy of cars arrived from all across the country made easier with the new road now open from Belfast.  The course designers made great use of both grass areas on either side of the centre.  The small grass area was used for the Under 6s and Under 8s, with the rest of the races taking place on the main grass expanse which had two levels and made good use of the steep bank connecting both levels.

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Date: Sunday 8 November 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 5
Location: Ballymacormick Park, Bangor
Host club: North Down CC

North Down CC had first used Ballymacormick Park back in 2012 when they first stepped back into running cyclo-cross races.  After a couple of years at Castle Park the club decided to return to the West Bangor venue but this time with less restrictions on what parts of the park they could use.  The park has three levels with rugby pitches, a gravel outdoor pitch and the old changing rooms which were also used for sign on.  The week leading up to the event had been wet and race day was no different with light rain followed by heavy downpours.  The riders still showed up and just slipped and slided through the mud as they prepared to race in the conditions.  It was the same for everyone but it did challenge the supposedly waterproof clothing of the spectators.

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Date: Sunday 15 November 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 6
Location: Craigavon Watersports Centre
Host club: Dromara CC

Craigavon Watersports Centre has become well known for the cross-country mountain bike race that Apollo CT run there every year but this year the location was added as a site for a cyclo-cross race.  Dromara Cycling Club was offered this site after their usual location of Moira Park became unavailable.  The course took in the main grass slope near the Watersports centre and included two grassy lengths on either side of the narrow canal to form the circuit for the senior course.  The junior course was located as per the cross-country race in its own area completely separate from the senior course.  There was even a short course just for the Under 6s.  The Watersports Centre had facilites for changing, showers, toilets and catering from the café. Sign on took place in the meeting room.  A big thanks to the staff on site and to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for their support.

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Date: Sunday 22 November 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 7
Location: Ormeau Park, Belfast
Host club: Xmtb McConvey Cycles

The sun was shining on Ormeau Park for Round 7 of the Ulster Cyclo-cross Series 2015.  Host club Xmtb McConvey cycles had set up a new course this year with the start/finish area close to back entrance of the park along the Ormeau Road.  The course was a mixture of dry, fast, sections and sticky, muddy sections made worse by storm Barney which had hit in the week leading up to the event.  All races finished along one of the auxiliary tarmac paths.  There were different courses for all of the youth races (Under 6s up to Under 12s). The host club has had a great history of running off-road races at Ormeau Park and, with the support of Belfast City Council, always seem to attract a big crowd of riders and spectators to their events.

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Date: Sunday 29 November 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 8
Location: St. Columb's Park, Derry/Londonderry
Host club: Foyle CC

Round 8 of the Ulster Cyclo-cross series took place at a new venue with a new club.  Foyle CC stepped up to take on this round at St. Columb's Park in Londonderry with headquarters based at the Foyle Arena.  The centre provided some of the best changing facilities and sign on hall in the country.  The racing took place a short distance away taking in the wide grass expanses, tarmac paths and the gravel running track where the start/finish was located.  Entries for this round were less than average partly due to the distance for some of the riders to travel but mostly because of the forecasted storm Clodagh which was due to hit during the weekend.  Those from the club who were setting up on Saturday witnessed a tree falling down in the high winds, thankfully off the course and not damaging persons or property.  Race day was also a challenge for the organisers as they struggled to fix all the broken course tape and anchor down all the gazebos in time for the first races. Riders definitely had to keep warm as the cold, combined with the gusting bitter winds were not ideal preparation for racing.

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Date: Sunday 6 December 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Round 9
Location: Falls Park, Belfast
Host club: VC Glendale

The 9th and final round of the Ulster Cyclo-cross series for 2015 took place at Falls Park in Belfast.  The is the second year that VC Glendale has hosted an event at this venue and they wish to thank Belfast City Council and the park wardens for their assistance.  As per last year, the start/finish line for all race categories was on one of the main tarmac paths.  The youth (Under 6s to Under 12s) course was located in their own separate area with the main course similar to last year taking in the multiple levels of the park.  As per last year the host club had put in a big effort both in the design and banners around the course.  Sign on was in the pavilion which also has shower facilities and a great kitchen.  The weather in the lead up to the event was very wet (storm Desmond was raging the day before) making for some very muddy conditions.  Thankfully race day was dry and bright with little wind, but it was cold.

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Date: Sunday 13 December 2015
Event: Ulster Cyclo-cross Championships
Location: Maghera High School (Former), Maghera
Host club: Carn Wheelers

Carn Wheelers stepped up to host the Ulster Cyclo-cross championships for the fourth year in a row but this time it was at a new venue, the former high school in Maghera.  The site has only recently been taken over by the local council who are looking to develop it.  The riders were able to park on the gravel playing field at the lower end of the site which was where the sign on, catering and start/finish was located for all age categories.  The course was laid out on the different levels of ground between the gravel pitch at the bottom, up to the tarmac basketball court and then further up to where the school buildings once stood.  Now a building site, the course went around the edge of the site and used the grass areas and access road effectively before returning to the start/finish area.  In keeping with the spectator friendly sport of cyclo-cross, almost the whole course could be seen from the car park.  The day of the race was cold with icy patches on the gravel pitch from the previous day's rain.  There has been a lot of rain in the lead up to the event and the grass sections, although initally covered in hard frost, soon broke down into tough muddy sections.  Bike carrying/pushing became more prolific as the day went on.

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