Banbridge Cycling Club’s Roger Aiken is gearing up for his attempt at a fifth national title next month.
The experienced rider is preparing to race in the National Cyclo Cross Championships on Sunday 10th January and is bidding for a third success in four seasons.
Should he come out on top, it would be a fourth Banbridge winner in a row, as former Banbridge Academy student David Montgomery took top prize last year.
He took full advantage of Aiken’s decision not to take part in order to concentrate on road racing and the absence of 18 times champion Robin Seymour.
This year, though, those two are all set to renew their rivalry and Aiken knows he will have his work cut out to take top spot.
“My form’s improving all the time but I don’t know if I’ll have the conditions I had two years ago at Lady Dixon,” he told the Belgian project’s Danny Blondeel. “I still expect to be able to fight for a podium finish anyway.”
Aiken and Seymour enjoyed an epic battle in the 2013 championships in Dundalk. The pair were neck and neck until the last one and a half laps, when Aiken began to edge in front, where he managed to stay until the end.
The year before, Seymour came on top as Aiken suffered mechanical issues but Aiken would go on to win again in 2014.
This time out, Aiken isn’t expecting a two horse race with his old foe, the 44 year-old who Roger has a good nickname for.
“He’s Peter Pan, I think. You can never write him off,” he laughed.
“David Montgomery is racing at a high level in Belgium and then there’s Glenn Kinning, (Christopher) McGlinchey and a couple of guys from the south as well.”
Aiken prepared for the Championships in the best possible manner. He came out top in round nine of the Ulster Cyclo-Cross Series - the Race of the Falling Leaves in Falls Park - to lead the standings.
And as if that wasn’t good enough, he even bagged first spot in the Ulster Cyclo Cross Championships hosted by Carn Wheelers a week later.
After his victory at Falls Park, he was keen to thank his support team when speaking to Danny Blondeel: “It went well. I got into an early lead in the first lap and stayed there until the finish. There were no problems. I had a good team in the pit who gave me a clean bike every lap. That was a big help so thanks to Liam McKiverigan for that.”
James Curry last year took the junior title and will be racing this season in the senior category.
We will have more build-up to the Irish Cyclo-Cross Championships leading up to the event on Sunday 10th January.