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Cyclists get ready to descend on Annaclone as Irish racing season gets under way this Saturday

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Cyclists get ready to descend on Annaclone as Irish racing season gets under way this Saturday thumbnailBanbridge Cycling Club unveil the new Eddie Sands Memorial Cup ahead of the Travers Engineering Annaclone GP which will be held on Saturday (18 February)

OPENING the Irish road racing season, the Banbridge CC promoted Travers Engineering Annaclone GP will take place this Saturday (18 February).

Two races will be hosted, both of which will start and finish outside the Hawthorne Inn. The main attraction of the day will be the 'A' race catering  for A1, A2 and A3 category riders which starts at 12 noon and will cover 76km. This will be a handicapped affair with the A3 riders receiving a competitive handicap over their A2 and A1 counterparts.

The 'B' race will cater for A4 men and A3 women in a massed start event, starting just after the 'A' race and will cover 51km. Both races are expected to have a full field of 80 riders, with the 'B' race finishing at approx. 1.30pm and the 'A' race finishing shortly after at 2pm.

The route will take the riders from the Ardbrin/Tanvally Rd cross roads to Ritchies Bridge where they take a sharp left onto the B10/Monteith Rd. Once over the long drag at May's Corner they will descend into the Diamond junction where another sharp left will take them to Katesbridge via the Greenhill Rd. At Katesbridge they will enter the final leg of the circuit where they re-join the Ardbrin Rd for the final climb up to the Hawthorn Inn..

Delays for local traffic are to be expected on the circuit between 11.30am and 2.30pm

The event is once again supported and sponsored by Travers Engineering of Rathfriland. Travers Engineering have been a long standing sponsor of the race and have maintained close ties with Banbridge CC for many years.

In the 'B' race riders to watch out for include home riders Peter McBride, Neil McAlister, Wayne Graham and Stephen Fitzsimmons.  VC Iveagh, Team Vision Racing & Dromara all field a team of strong A4 category riders, ensuring the supporters have plenty of local riders to cheer for.

The winner of the 'A' race will have the honour of being the first name etched onto the Eddie Sands Memorial Cup. The memorial cup has been kindly donated by the Sands family following the sad passing of Eddie in 2016. Eddie was one of the co-founders of Banbridge CC in 1944 and remained a dedicated and loyal member of the club until his passing.

There's plenty of competition for the honour too.

Banbridge CC's double Irish MTB champion Gareth McKee of Moneyslane will be one to watch and will be keen to turn in a performance when competing so close to home. Also returning to racing after a quiet year following his retirement from professional racing is Dromore's Sean Downey. Another home man is young Cameron McIntyre of Dromore who begins his under 23 career and will want to show off his new AC Bisontine jersey in style having signed for the French Division 2 team over the winter months.

Competition is very stiff however and those looking at the start list will find it hard to look past the strong Aqua Blue team from Cork.  Their main hope will likely lie with ex-professional and former Italian junior and U23 international Matteo Cigala. Cigala will be backed by one of the strongest teams in the county which also includes 2016 Olympian Bryan Keane.

Another notable name on the start list is that of last years winner and reigning National Cyclo-X Champion Roger Aiken.  Dromore man Aiken has claimed victory on this circuit on numerous occasions and will know the bumps and turns better than most.

The Omagh duo of 2016 Tour of Ulster stage winner Angus Fyfe &  Shay Elliott Memorial winner Marc Potts will find it hard to be satisfied with anything other than another victory while 2016 Ras Mumhan winner Chris McGlinchey will be looking to replicate his 2015 A4 win at this event which saw him break onto the road racing scene.

While it might be a difficult task with such firepower chasing from behind, those who would be happy to see the A3 bunch staying clear include Banbridge CC's A3 riders Johnny McRoberts, Marty Fitzpatrick and Dan Purdy.

Second year junior John Buller would certainly be licking his lips should the A3 bunch stay away and would be a likely candidate for a top finish if his 2016 hit rate is anything to go by. Making his debut into the A3 field will be another junior rider, Charlie Glover. Charlie has shown some strong performances in the club racing scene in 2016 and will hope to transfer that across to the more competitive open racing where he is sure to face a new challenge with the larger bunches.

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