There was a local winner as Banbridge Cycling Club opened the 2016 Irish road racing season with the Travers Engineering Annaclone GP on Saturday.
Always a popular event after a hard winter’s training for the racing cyclist, the 2016 edition continued in that tradition with pre-entry booking filling within two hours of opening.
And it was Banbridge man Roger Aiken who came out on top riding for Asea Wheelworx.
Two races would be contested, the main race catering for A1, A2 and A3 riders and the support race for A4 riders
With the circuit prepared by the army of volunteers and the whistle blown to announce the start, the riders took little time to get up to speed and were close to breaking the circuit record several times, covering the eight mile rolling circuit in just less than 18 minutes.
There was a small handicap given to the A3 and A2 riders but with such high speeds, the strong A1 group had the race pulled together before the halfway stage on the third of six laps.
Leading the charge were Banbridge CC riders Gareth McKee and Sean Downey as well as Roger Aiken of Asea WheelWorx, Dan Stewart of An Post ChainReaction, Paul Wilkinson of West Down Wheelers and Lindsay Watson of Plush MTB.
There were several attempts to break clear of the main field but these were closed down quickly and it would come down to a bunch sprint.
Banbridge CC’s James Curry was the first to open the sprint up and led from a long way out. Unfortunately for the Under 23 rider, he was involved in a collision with one other rider in the gallop for the line and his race would come to a crashing end with sight of the line.
Roger Aiken had no misfortune and once he began his charge for the line, there was little doubt who would be the victor on the day.
He crossed the line with a bike length’s advantage over Phoenix CC’s Craig Rea of Belfast. Last year’s winner of the A4 event, Chris McGlinchey of Chain Reaction Cycles rounded out the podium.
In the A4 event, Banbridge CC were well represented and were in the thick of the action all day.
Mark Stewart and Johnny McRoberts were constantly visible at the front of the 80 strong field and clearly riding strongly. Again there were numerous attempts to break clear, but the large peleton soon clawed them back and it was another bunch sprint.
Relative newcomer to the sport Wayne Garrett of Ards CC showed all others a clean pair of wheels and crossed the line ahead of Barry Tinnelly of Newry Wheelers and Ben Cady of Velo Café Magasin.
Banbridge CC’s Don Travers just missed out on a podium spot in fourth place. Mark Kendall of Banbridge CC also finished strongly in eighth as Brian Hannon was just outside the top ten in 11th place.