Following a successful return to the International Tour of the North in 2015 Banbridge CC will once again take on the top teams in Ireland along with visitors from the UK over the Easter weekend. The 2015 edition was a very successful one for the club, winning the first stage with Gareth McKee taking the leader’s yellow jersey while Mark Downey would also claim the Under 23 White jersey, which he would go on to win. The club will have a hard time replicating that success but are hungry to give it a go and if recent form is anything to go by they are well prepared. Leading the team will be Gareth McKee, the previous race leader who along with teammate Lindsay Watson left their mark on the recent Wallace Caldwell where they took on the cream of Irish domestic cycling and drove the main break of the day. Watson, a member of neighbouring off road club Plush MTB will once again be a guest rider on the Banbridge CC team. Matthew Adair will also line up for the team following a convincing win at the St Patricks Day race in Derrymacash and will look forward to the opportunity of taking on the International competition. James Curry, the final member of the team, is once again showing good form following a nasty crash at the season opening Annaclone GP where he fell heavily while leading out the sprint for victory in eth final closing meters of the race.
The Ards and North Down Borough Council are main sponsors of the four day five stage event which takes place during the Easter weekend (Friday 25th-Monday 28th March), and so the prestigious race will take place in Portaferry and the Ards and North Down area.
Last year’s King of the Hills and overall runner up Ronan McLaughlin is back in a strong Carn Wheelers squad. Other notable entries include Fraser Duncan (Asea Wheelworx) who won three road stages in 2014 and Derek Finnegan (Keevan CC) who won the final stage in Carrickfergus back in 2011. Jake Hales (Spirit Bikes Racing Team) from England has been among the front runners in recent years while up and coming riders such as Craig Rea (Phoenix CC) and Foyle CC’s Ryan Reilly should feature in the top placings.
A total of 100 riders will compete with teams from Ireland, North and South, Scotland, England and Holland. Racing begins on Friday night (25th March 5:30pm) with a race in Kirkistown Motor Racing Circuit.
Stage 2 on Saturday starts and finishes in Portaferry (11am start). The race will include 3 ascents of Windmill hill and cover a total of 92 miles.
Sunday has a short 5 mile time trial finishing on the mountain road climb and stage 4 is a road race from Portaferry to Newtownards, into the Castlereagh Hills and then on to Donaghadee for the finish after completing 66 miles.
The final stage on Easter Monday starts in Bangor in Bangor Rugby Club at 11am. The race goes to Comber where it takes in four laps of a hilly circuit in the Killinchy area and then finishes with a tough climb up Bradshaw’s Brae and the Holywood Road towards Craigantlet after 78 miles racing. Total distance of the five stages is 270 miles.
If last year’s event is anything to go by the Banbridge CC team will give supporters plenty to cheer for over the 4 days racing.