Banbridge, and Banbridge Cycling Club in particular, have a long history of producing and facilitating World Class athletes. Banbridge CC have had 10 individual cyclists occupying no less than 18 places at the Commonwealth Games and 2 at the Olympic games. While Banbridge CC members have also attended 4 Olympic Games and 2 Commonwealths in official capacities, including Coaching Staff, Team Managers, Mechanics and Race Referees (Commissaire). It’s a history that is set to continue.
The Olympic Games is set to commence this weekend in Tokyo, following a year’s delay due to the global COVID pandemic. Among Team Ireland, Banbridge CC will once again be represented.
A family sporting fairy tale that has been closely watched by many is that of the Downey’s from Dromore. Seamus began the legacy in ’82, attending the Brisbane Commonwealth Games, which he followed up on by attending the ’84 Olympics in Los Angeles and the ’86 Commonwealths in Edinburgh. Sean Downey had success at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, returning home with a Bronze Medal. Sean returned to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 in Glasgow. Following in his father’s and elder brother’s footsteps, Mark Downey participated at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games where he came agonisingly close to replicating Sean’s medal, finishing in 4th place and only inches off the podium.
As he has on a regular occurrence, Mark will once again don the famous green Irish national jersey, but this time it will be to fulfil a lifetime dream of representing his country at the Olympic Games. Partnered by long standing team mate Felix English, Mark will participate in the Madison Track event; a discipline where the pair are former ranked World #1 and have become established names. Upon his official selection in June Mark commented “It’s amazing – it’s something I dreamt about as a kid and have been working towards my whole lifetime,” he said, adding “I’m really looking forward to presenting the best version of myself in the national colours come August, on the biggest stage in the world.”
Another well known name synonymous with Banbridge CC and Irish national cycling teams is that of Tommy Evans. Having been a consistent performer for both club and country on the bike, Tommy has become a hugely successful cycling and triathlon coach and advisor to many of Irelands top athletes; attending the 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and the 2016 Rio Olympics in support of Team Ireland.
Tommy has also made the trip to Tokyo for the Games as the Road Race Team Manager, managing one of Ireland’s most promising teams with a mixture of youth and experience, and real potential. Speaking ahead of the Games Tommy commented, “We have one of our strongest teams ever assembled with a real opportunity to perform on terrain that we know suits our team”, while adding “Nicolas (Roche), Dan (Martin) and Eddie (Dunbar) have all produced fantastic results this season, showing we can compete with the best in the world.”
Mention must also be made to Banbridge Triathlete, regular member and training colleague to many Banbridge CC cyclists, and yet another product of Tommy’s coaching experience, Russell White. Russell travels to the Games to compete in the Men’s Triathlon on 27th July, and has his sights set on leaving his mark; “I think it’s an achievement in itself to get there but you never want to go to make up numbers.”
“The main focus is to try and get that highest Irish male finish in an Olympics.”
The members of Banbridge CC look forward to cheering on all those representing Team Ireland at the Tokyo Games, but we might just reserve our loudest cheers for those on two wheels and who call Banbridge home. Wishing you all the very best of Irish Luck lads!