|Sunday 9 August 2009|
Dromara Cycling Club held the second of their annual leisure events on Sunday 9 August 2009 but this time, instead of the relatively flat Coastal Tour along Strangford Lough, it was the almost opposite 'Hilly' and Mourne Sportive Leisure Tours around the undulating landscape of south Down. This event has been well established by the club with the most popular event, the Hilly 125 celebrating its 21st year. On offer, as in previous years, was the 'big one' the 169 km Mourne Sportive, not for the faint hearted, and three Hilly distances, the 125 km, 85 km and the Hilly 60. As an addition this year and as part of the club's drive to attract more young cyclists, Dromara CC organised a 'Junior Hilly Tour' in which our up and coming young cyclists were accompanied by senior riders along the Hilly 60 route.
It was an early start on the morning of the event with the Mourne Sportive riders setting off at or before 8 am. The weather that morning was dry with bright blue skies and no sign of rain. This must have been a welcome sight for cyclists across the island of Ireland as the number who turned up for the event exceeded expectations with over 225 taking part on the day. As expected the most popular distance was the 'Hilly 125' with almost the same number of entries as kilometres (115). There was an optional pre-entry for the Hilly events but few had taken up the offer of the lesser fee and chose to make the decision on the day. Only 32 of the 115 had pre-entered. The Hilly events attracted riders from a wide range of ages and abilities including some of our top local riders like Martyn Irvine, David McCann and Paul Healion, a tandem pair Stephen and Graham (Team Madigan), regular leisure riders like Gerry Beggs and Peader McGreevy (Banbridge), as well as first timers and even some on mountain bikes.
The Mourne Sportive, on the other hand, has always been pre-entry only and this year we saw a drop in the number of riders taking part, from 47 last year to 37 this year. As billed, this is potentially the toughest one-day leisure event in Ireland and as such there are only small numbers who wish to take on this gruelling event and fewer still who come back for more the following year. Among the 37 were Alan Bates, Bryce Irvine, Colin Mclaren, Raymond McClean, Thomas Leitch, Paul McGuckin (Banbridge), Kenneth Donnell (Lakeland), Christopher Meenan (Phoenix) and Gavin Magown, James Gilpin and Paul Smyth (Dromara) who had completed the Sportive back in 2008. First back from this year's Sportive run was Joe Barr (Team Merckx - Tuttosport).
The main field of riders left the Dromara Village Football Club around 9:30 with those completing the 'Hilly 125' or 'Hilly 85' heading left at the square and those completing the 'Hilly 60' or 'Junior Hilly Tour' heading straight through the village. The main tea stop was located in Leitrim GAA club grounds with food served in the large marquee that is put up for the club's annual weekend of fund raising concerts. Our thanks again to the GAA committee for the use of their excellent facility. Food this year was donated from Freshways, Muller, Kinder and Coca Cola and our thanks go to those organisations for their support. There were many compliments about the quality of the food. Once riders had rested and refuelled they were able to decide to continue on the distance they started or take the shorter route back to the football club. Given the perfect cycling weather most chose to continue on the same tour they started heading out of the GAA grounds and following the appropriate road markings.
The Sportive riders headed south east towards the Mournes and its infamous climbs. They were rewarded with another tea stop this time at Meelmore Lodge who had laid on a great spread of food for the weary cyclists. In the meantime many of the other riders were returning to the football club where they were given a food voucher for the hot food van and lots of salad. The football club had provided access to their changing facilities as well as the public bar.
All in all a great day out with lots of smiles despite the number of lung and leg busting climbs. Many thanks to all the riders for coming along and supporting the club. We do hope you enjoyed yourselves and hope to see you all again next year.
The club wish to thank:
Dromara Village Football Club
Leitrim GAA club
Club members and supporters who helped on the day:
Dave Kane eating al fresco
Martyn Irvine, David McCann, Paul Healion
Medals for the juniors
Enjoying the hilly for the first time
Well supported by Banbridge CC
Looking forward to the grub
Deepa displays her work