Report by Neil McAlister
Wednesday 4th May saw the first Banbridge CC Club road race of the 2016 season and the first round of the Gilchrist Cup on the tough Annaclone circuit. The race consisted of 3 laps of the 8 mile circuit on what was another wet and windy night. Thankfully the rain just stopped before the first group of riders set off, but it left the roads wet and greasy. Not ideal when racing on 20 – 25mm wide slick tyres. 27 Banbridge CC riders signed on and 2 guest riders from visiting clubs. It was down to chief handicapper Stephen Curran to split the riders up into groups depending on ability, so the fastest riders would be off last in the scratch group. Stevie had the riders split into 5 groups.
Sara Glover, Paul Anderson and James Buller set off in the first group with a 4 minute advantage on the next group. Scott Henderson, Jon Shepard, Stevie Fitzsimmons, Charlie Glover, Gareth Rogers and Malcolm Jenkins where in the second group. The front groups worked well together and did a brilliant job trying to stay away and avoid being caught by the scratch group, staying clear until the start of the last lap.
With a large group of riders now heading into a head wind up to May’s corner it was going to be interesting to see how it would pan out. Kevin McAlinden was doing a brilliant job trying to get the riders to work together to keep the pace high, but with riders getting tired and the scratch group closing fast everything was together on the final run down to the Diamond. There were 15 riders left at the front of the race after the climb up to May’s Corner and very few wanting to do much work at the front so to save energy for the finale.
Simon Curry was the first to have a dig at it, jumping up the road and raising the pace once again. Perhaps unknowingly setting it up for John Buller to jump up the road, Dan Purdy jumped onto Simon’s wheel as they sped flat out into the Diamond. Neil McAlister got onto Dan’s wheel as they turned left onto Katesbridge Road – little did Neil know that fast man John Buller was tight on his wheel and shot past like a rocket on the exit of the fast corner. Neil got back onto John’s wheel with the help of Joe Penny and wasn’t looking back. With in –form riders including Mark Kendall, Wayne Graham and Johnny McRoberts all leading the chase however, no-one was getting away.
There was a further reduced group entering the last mile to fight it out for the win, with Brian Hannon and Nathan Sturrock in the group both also riding strongly. With the finish line just in sight it was John Buller who kicked again up the final rise to the finish and take the win convincingly. Johnny McRoberts was just a few seconds behind in 2nd place; Johnny in his first season as a Banbridge CC rider is going to be a real asset to the club. Dan Purdy was riding his socks (colour co-ordinated as always, of course) off and finished 3rd. Nathan Sturrock was 4th , just beating Brian Hannon in 5th. Young Scott Henderson produced an amazing ride his first race finishing a great 13th place – well done!
The night turned into a great race with some great results from both new members and old. Thanks as always to Alan Towell and his team of marshals for keeping things running smoothly, Ivor Park and Johnathan Buller for time keeping, and to Toni Hannigan for her excellent photos especially the finish to sort all the placing’s out – never easy with everyone wearing the same colours in a bunch sprint!