The Banbridge CC team at the 2018 Tour of the North rounded out a hard weekend’s racing with a solid performance on a gruelling day that seen the stage revised due to snow on the higher ground making the pass of Torr Head and Orra unsuitable. The organisers decided to re-use the route from stage 3 and combined with sleet, showers and freezing temperatures it made for a day to remember.
Having just missed the break the day before Gareth McKee was highest placed on GC in 17th and John Buller close behind in 18th. Guest rider Kevin McKinney was also having a solid race and lay just outside the top 20 in 23rd. As a team they satin a solid 6th place overall. As the day wore on many heads dropped but our lads pushed on, with Gareth coming agonisingly close to bridging to the main break of the day with Team Caldwell Cycles Darnell Moore. It wasn’t to be however and he had had to drop back to the chasing bunch. Buller was next to go and infiltrated a chasing group which, while not making it across to the front, stayed away from the bunch to gain time on GC. McKinney and McKee also made additional moves and as the race started to splinter they were also able to gain time on a number of riders and teams.
By the time they crossed the line, behind winner Rupert Graham of Spirit Tifosi who had himself put on an incredible ride to take the overall honours, our lads had ridden themselves up the leader board to 3rd overall and best of the Irish teams on GC. Kevin Mckinney lead them home in 18th place which was enough to move him up to the same place on GC and inside the top 20, while McKee and Buller moved up to 13th and 14th respectively. John Buller had also moved up to 5th young rider in his first year as an under 23. Peter Hughes should also be pleased to have finished in the front half of the field on a day that seen over 40 riders withdraw, including our own Roger Aiken who thought better of it and made home for an early shower. A mention must go to Banbridge man Lindsay Watson, who has ridden in Banbridge CC colours on numerous occasions, and put in a fantastic weekend to finish 4th overall and winner of the King of the Hills competition, highlighting his place as one of the very best in Ireland at present.
Despite the weather and condition the Banbridge CC lads should be very pleased with their performances, which no doubt they will build on for the coming races including the Tour of Ulster which will be based in Banbridge on the May Day holiday weekend.
Thanks must go to Team Manager Neil Teggart who was assisted by Kevin McAlinden and Mark Kendall in the team car. Huge thanks must also go to Stevie O’Hagan and JP O’Hagan Tyres for the supply of the new team car, more details of which will be published in the near future, and of course Cycleology cycle shop in Armagh who supported the team all weekend and provided a support van.
All photos below by Paul Hannigan