‘If Carlsberg did Irish Championships’ This was the quote of the weekend and that pretty much sums up the whole event. Even with the thrills, spills, knocks and bangs of racing there was not one person went home without a smile on their face.
When something needs done it must be done 100% is the philosophy taken by the organisers of the biggest event on the Irish downhill calendar. Chain Reaction Cycles club, the Newry & Mourne District Council and First tracks MTB teamed up to deliver what is arguably the best downhill race this country has seen to date. 200 riders and copious amounts of spectators took to the slopes of Slievebane in Rostrevor during the weekend of the 19/20th July and boy they did not disappoint. With all the talk in the pits about a challenging track, riders were keen to get practicing on Saturday morning. Steve Bell and Deejay O’Hare went into ‘rider down’ overdrive as riders tried to pick their way down the fresh loamy steep turns. By lunch time most people got to grips with things, lines got dialled in and the pace was getting faster.
On Sunday morning riders made the most of the 2hr practice window to put the finishing touches on their runs. At 11am sharp the race kicked things off with the seeding runs, this is always a good gauge for how much riders need to push for the final run. Tension was mounting in Rostrevor Forest as riders made their way to the top for a 2pm start. As the first riders dropped in the noise of the Nukeproof cowbells could be heard rattling through the valleys encouraging riders to push things right to the limit! Riders that purchased day licences and riders with full licences competed in the open race while riders with a full Irish licence had the opportunity for a placing in the Irish National Downhill Championships.
Open Irish Championships:
The young guns in the juvenile category were going at it with local ripper Ben Clerkin missing out on a podium spot by one position. All the practice before the event paid off for Joseph O’Boyle in 3rd place. While Liam Wolfe snapped at the heels of Ronan Gahan in first position.
Run times in the youth race would have placed the winner Jack Crowley in 6th place in elites. This shows us the depth of talent we have here on our island. Fresh back from his BDS campaign Conor Bate crashed his way into 2nd place with a big off on the last jump. Another impressive result was Alistair Baron in 3rd on a borrowed bike at his first downhill race, great skills so watch this space. In 4th place and certainly worth a mention was Jack Devlin. Tipped to be a star of the future Jack fell out with a tree during a massive crash on Saturday and was lucky even to be riding a bike.
With a category full of rockstars the super vets blasted their way down the track with times that would put many a young fellow to shame. Joe Bergin set the early pace with Derek Cowan in 4th. The top 3 consisted of Tony Marshal, Brendan McEneaney and Brian McCluskey at the top of the box.
The men with all the experience in the veteran category have had many a battle over the years through different categories. Being super competitive nothing beats a mid life crisis more than the bragging rights of winning the biggest race of the year. Stephen Davidson got there early on Friday for a track walk and all his efforts got rewarded with a 3rd place. Chatty man and fastest qualifier Joe Ward ended up with 2nd while the ever slimming racing snake Ian McIntyre put a stormer together for the win.
One of the closest fought battles for a podium position was in the sport category with only 4.5secs separating the top 3 positions. It was anybodys race but Martin Mullan left with the bronze medal. Dublin man Sean Glynn knocked 15secs of his seeding run time for silver. The gold medal was awarded to a hard working Victor Bell. These boys have all earned the right to move up categories next year.
The senior category has always got a bunch of lads that spend more time building sand castles on Cranfield beach so next year the elite field should grow an inch or two!! The top 11 riders all sneaked under the 3 minute mark but with some crashing during final runs the top 3 looked like this. Back on form after a nasty knee injury Kyle Nelson scored a podium spot. Kevin Coughlan put 2 consistent runs together for a 2nd place. Top step went to the Newry’s newest recruit Laurence Farrington.
The ladies had some serious racing going on over the weekend with nerves getting the better of some riders. It was a steep learning curve on a steep track but there is nothing like a good race to gain some experience. Rosella Pellegrino crashed hard on the top section but soon got up and going again. Rostrevor local Chloe Cumming racked up some big crashes during practice and seeding but got it together for the final and put down a smooth run for 4th. Enduro specialist Orla McClean kept it tidy for 3rd. Sacha Bickerstaff had some big crashes over the weekend that would have stopped many a good rider. A steady run got her a silver medal. Tara O’Boyle had a great weekend, she looked fast and confident every step of the way and got rewarded with a well deserved gold medal. Something tells me there will be some close racing with this lot in the future. Keep having fun girls!!
The ‘getting on a bit’ but ‘still acting the young fella’ lads in the Masters category love putting on a show. These lads do not hang about and competing in the biggest category a sketchy run could quickly drop you down the ranks. A fully loaded field that would have made up a typical elite category not so long ago this is how the top 3 panned out. Relatively new to downhill with a background in moto x and enduro Ian Coates styled it up with a 3rd place. Dave Egan has a wealth of experience and always applies the pressure whether its enduro or downhill, this time a silver medal was hanging around his neck for all his efforts. Top of the box and a very tired Glyn O’Brien was as equally pumped with a gold medal as he was to see everyone leave after the event with a huge smile!
An unusually small junior field did not hold these lads back from embarrassing most of the elite riders. Made of rubber and coming out of the gate guns blazing is just how these lads roll!! Brian Mackin just pipped Dan Priestley into 3rd place. Matthew McGlinchey bounced his short travel machine down the hill into 2nd. The biggest winning margin of the weekend by 21.352 seconds!! was Jacob Dickson. In the thick of his World Cup campaign he was always going to be the man to beat especially with a goal to be fastest rider of the weekend. He didnt quite achieve this but there is plenty more to come from the “Ginga Rippa”!!
The fastest lads in the country always hang it out and are never happy unless they are winning. This always makes for exciting racing and great spectating. If you were standing anywhere on the track or at Hecklers Rock the tension in the air made the ground shake. Rider after rider stormed through with a glimmer of hope in their eyes but there is always just one winner. The rest of the guys just have to go back to the drawing board and dream up some excuse! In 5th place Jack Sparrow’s stunt double Seanan O’Riordan impressed all the ladies on his way to 5th. British mini bike champ, enduro extraordinaire and i-phone stopwatch silver medallist James McFerran won practice and landed himself with a 4th place overall. Slick pilot Stephen McCormack threatened the fastest time of the day after 2 consistent fast runs and rode away with a bronze medal. Fastest qualifier and all around nice guy Christopher McGlinchey pulled the fun bus in from a very busy season to stamp some authority on the biggest race of the year but came away with a silver medal. After a shaky start to his weekend Colin Ross put it all together when it counted. Under a lot of pressure he recorded the fastest time of the weekend and won the Irish Downhill National jersey. You could tell from the relief and smile on his face he wanted this one and rode like it was ‘All or Nothing!’
A huge thanks to all our sponsors, without you we could not have done it. Chain Reaction Cycles, Nukeproof, FirstTracksMTB.com, Think Studio, Acti-snack, Muc off, East Coast Adventure, Amphibia, Erdinger, Fit Chef…Cheers guys!! Also hats off to everyone who helped with making an event that will go down in history for gravity racing in Ireland. Newry & Mourne District Council, Chain Reaction Cycles club, FirstTracksMTB.com, Mountainbike N.I., St John’s ambulance, Cycling Ireland, the trail grafters (way to many too mention but what a job!!), all the marshals (we keep going back to the same guys each time because they do a heck of a job!) Kev Ryan, Peter Hughes and a special mention to the one armed bandit Cato McCann for all her hard work in the lead up to/ during and after the event!!
To see the full Irish National Downhill Championships results visit http://crcidms.com/?p=732
||1st Ronan Gahan – Gravity BC
||2nd Liam Wolfe – Gravity BC
||3rd Joseph O’Boyle – Team Moco
||1st Jack Crowley – 021 racing
||2nd Conor Bate – Team Moco
||3rd Jack Devlin – Team Moco
||1st Ian McIntyre – Chain Reaction Cycles
||2nd Joe Ward – Potato Bred
||3rd Stephen Davidson – Plush MTB
||1st Sacha Bickerstaff – Vitus Factory Racing
||1st Tara O’Boyle – Team Moco
||1st Glyn O’Brien – FirstTracksMTB.com Nukeproof
||2nd Dave Egan -
||3rd Ian Coates – Cycle Inn
||1st Jacob Dickson
||2nd Matthew McGlinchey
||3rd Brian Macklin
||1st Colin Ross – Vitus Factory Racing
||2nd Christopher McGlinchey – Chain Reaction Cycles
||3rd Stephen McCormack – Gravity BC
Check out Flexo Media’s Page Facebook.com/FlexoMedia.ie and Dermott Sweeney Photos on Facebook and keep your eyes on crcidms.com for all the info on the next round in Bree, Co. Wexford on Aug 16th & 17th.